I recently received a call from a $100mm medical device company wanting me to help them find a new Marketing Director. They told me that they were referred to me by a few executives within their company as “the recruiter of choice.” The first 30 minutes of the call was me asking questions to determine their ideal profile and how they envisioned attracting that caliber of talent to their company. I am quite familiar with their company and in the past have recruited from them for some of my clients. Once I had a solid grasp of the specific experience and talent that was essential for this position the discussion turned to “how we work.”
I described that the way that we work is through what could best be described as a "modified retainer." I explained how in order to do it right, there were a few key elements that had to be there so that we were able to do the kind of high quality work that we are committed to. The person on the other end of the phone shut me down immediately. “Well, we don’t work that way. We only do contingency!” The irony is that this position had been open for several months and the continual stream of candidates brought by contingency recruiters failed to deliver any result other than failure. I could argue that the results were far worse than mere failure. In fact, as they were now back to square one after months of interviews and failed attempts, my question was, “how much money and time have you already spent with nothing to show for it?” Consider all the wasted time & money on airline fares, hotels, and not to mention the loss of productivity of all the employees who were brought in on the many interviews. Now multiply that by the loss of opportunity of those people not at their desks plus the empty desk of the open position. My challenge was unwelcome. He refused to give any meaningful answer, but instead explained it away that at least they got close on a few people. So his measure of success was not in finishing, but in getting close?
This is such a common problem. When a company decides that it is to their advantage to work with recruiters on contingency, they are making a huge, yet avoidable mistake. It is obvious to me that they do not understand the problem nor the solution. Not only are they creating a problem for themselves with regard to the reliability of information about their candidates, they are actually competing with other companies over the people being paraded in front of them by recruiters. Perhaps more importantly, I believe that this company will never see the best of the best people in the industry because recruiters are not willing, nor able to do what is necessary to bring them in on contingency. Contingency doesn't afford the recruiter the ability to find the best, but just the most accessible and available people. This is to say that they are either "Physically Unemployed" or "Emotionally Unemployed". In either case, they have a strong motivation for relief. (See Candidate Motivation)
I refused to work with this company on the grounds that I could not conduct the search properly without being properly engaged with one-third of my fee in advance. When they balked, that told me that they didn’t have a clue about what really goes on in the recruiting world. They must not know that the recruiters will not fully vet or disclose information about the candidates that could possibly derail their candidacy. Why would they? (Contingency recruiters don’t get paid unless they close the deal.) So we parted ways and within days, I received a call from a previous retained client where I placed a VP Sales & Marketing two years ago and a European Sales & Marketing Manager last fall. They just retained me on a Director of Marketing search. They understand the value of conducting a true search for the best talent instead of a search for the most available.
If a company won’t help you, help them; move on and find one that will. Your life will be far better for it!