I got a VOICEMAIL that WASN’T meant for ME!

There’s something about luck.  Luck is fun.  Luck is uncalculated.  Luck gives you an advantage over others.  Luck brings out the best and tinkers with the worst sides of our psyche. 

Sometimes I go to the local casino.  All around me are obnoxious “ding, ding, ding” sounds of those around me suddenly winning millions of dollars.  Or ten.  I digress.  Sometimes, when one of the machines suddenly blasts off it’s foundation, lighting up like a Christmas tree, and making sounds like a middle school marching band on acid, the lucky winner will let out a gleeful “YEAH!”.  Sometimes that lucky winner is me.  And it feels damn good.  Normally, at that point, I cash out and walk out of the place with the strut of a royal prince.  The Duke of MGM or Sir Motor City Casino. 

I was alerted by an acquaintance of 15 years who is an executive with a medium sized technology company that he was recommending me for a careful and tough search being tackled by his company.  Soon, I was in touch with their VP over technology that alerted me that my point of contact would be one of their senior engineers.  He asked if we could have a conference call.  It was scheduled for 1:30PM that day. 

At precisely 1:30PM that day, something really weird happened.  I got three calls at the same time.  I froze.  I wasn’t sure how to handle this.  I didn’t want to press the wrong button.  Don’t get me wrong.  I occasionally hit the wrong button and “dump” calls with people but this time I was especially sensitive about dumping this new client.  Finally, after several seconds, I decided to hit the “Do Not Disturb” and send all three incoming calls directly to voicemail.

A couple minutes later I connected with the client and had a call with the VP (not my friend…the other one) and the Senior Engineer.  This call lasted about 15 minutes as they explained the nature of the search.  The search involved finding candidates somewhat outside my area of expertise yet incorporated some (take my word for it) obscure computer programming that I knew would vastly narrow the field of potential candidates.  I agreed to the search.

After the call, I looked at my voicemail and curiously saw a message from the company’s area code that was three minutes and sixteen seconds.  I clicked on this message and started listening.  Oh my gosh.  HAH!

My lucky day!

Let me break down this nearly impossible search.  I will not be exaggerating for effect.  This company is located 90 miles from the border of the nearest large city.  It is located in the middle of farmland in the heartland of the USA.  Interesting location for a company that works with high-level technology.  Many of the upper management commute to this place which houses their R&D as well as their manufacturing facilities.  The candidate I find will be the only person at the company dealing with a key yet sophisticated niche of technology that the company cannot survive without. 

Because the role involves mostly software activity, they have agreed that the candidate may reside no more than three hours drive from the facility and the candidate must visit them for a couple days at least two times per month.  

Quickly, I was able to tap into some special places recruiters (and others) use to find people and using some keywords that were provided by my contacts, I found fewer than 400 candidates in the entire USA.  These people ranged from entry level to experts with decades of experience.  Four hundred is an easy number to work with though my trepidation for the search was that I know from experience I’d be lucky to actually land a few decent (NOT PERFECT) candidates.

On paper, there’s only one “perfect” candidate and it was the guy who left the company.  I found him pretty quickly.  (OK.  I’ll brag.  I found the guy in six minutes. Hee Hee.)  Please trust me.  There exists no one else on Earth that has experience doing exactly what the company needs done.  The replacement will know how to use the tools and have to apply them to do what needs to be done.

The next stop was HR.  And she was ready, ready, ready.  So interestingly enough, my HR contact who is the manager of their three person HR department resides six time zones from their facility.  She’s been with the company forever and now works remote.  Admittedly, she expressed that she’s “living the dream.”  Well, I guess so!  (This is exactly what half my candidates say they want to do too.)

I know there are those toughies out there who’d be demanding retainer or 30% or even 33% for this, but really I already established my boundaries for the search and I wanted good feedback to my buddy who recommended me.  Plus.  I could really care less about going to the matt over a nearly impossible search.  (I have plenty of other fish to fry for these kinds of fees.  Let’s remember, this search is more of a curiosity plus, maybe, some luck J.)

So I basically told all three of my contacts (HR, the VP, and the engineer) what I was going to do and what I was predicting for results.  I also explained to them that I didn’t feel this search would warrant multiple campaigns (or search cycles)…uh OK…let me fully disclose I basically told them that I would do the search once and be done with it.  I’d quit after that.  HOWEVER, I told them that I would do the very best I could do.  What’s that mean?  Well, I called a couple of my peers that work closely to that space.  I researched some local technology schools that might teach that technology.  I got access to a couple other web-based things I don’t normally use.  What I asked for in return was a minimum of three phone screenings of the closest matching candidates of their choice and they agreed.

I predicted in writing the late afternoon of the first day to them that I was guessing that in one week’s time I could find somewhere around eight to twelve candidates.  The actual number of submitted candidates ended up being nine.  This past Friday, I had a call with the VP and the engineer and I left a lengthy message to the HR contact.  (She may have been having her morning coffee as I was closing my office in Michigan.  Who knows.)

The good news and the not-so-good news.

The good news is that the total amount of time I recruited on this particular “job order” was around five hours.   Not bad.  (Good potential ROI!)

The not-so-good news is that they agreed that three of the nine candidates seemed “OK” and they were contemplating whether or not to have a phone call with any of them. 

(When I was a boy, I watched cowboy movies.  I’ve always loved cowboys.  One of the fascinating things I notice about the really, really toughest of the cowboys was that sometimes when someone would annoy them, they would get a shot of whiskey from the bartender, drink it, and let the annoyance go.  Very cool.  Great strategy!)

They have their candidates.  If they hire one, I’ll get my fee.   They can sit on those candidates for five months for all I care.  They’re not going to find another recruiter to work on this with any diligence.  That would be like finding a recruiter who specializes in finding people who study moon rocks. 

Oh.  One last thing.  Please notice that I never said that I listened to the message.  I’m not even sure if that would be legal. 

But, I do have some instincts and something tells me that my client has the impression that there does exist a plug-and-play, perfect candidate that lives driving distance from their facility that can step in and do what they need done.  I’m just going to chalk that something up to plain old luck!

- Steve

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