‘I feel the need…the need for speed’ (Tom Cruise, Top Gun 1986)

Whatever artistic merits ‘Top Gun’ may possess, there is little doubt that it remains an iconic 80s movie, with a number of quotable lines, not least the one above. With the ‘greed is good’ business decade well and truly in full swing by 1986 there was little doubt that speed was intoxicating. Everything needed to go faster, to happen quicker, from the time it took your car to accelerate to the length of wait for your burger, it had to be now, now, now!

I was a rookie recruiter in those days, placing qualified accountants in accounting firms, learning that success came from fully understanding the client brief and partnership culture, and growing a network of candidates and contacts that could give you access to a range of talent. Candidates usually came to you through your knowledge of the market, mainly referrals from people who you had helped/advised.

When a client briefed you they would always ask…

Do you know anyone who can do this? Or Can you find us someone who can do this?

Innocent, less complex times maybe, but in specialist permanent recruitment your clients tended to value your knowledge. They expected to wait for the most suitable person and wanted to brief someone who could go out and find them. If there was urgency, they were almost apologetic; as if giving us reduced timeframes would make our task harder. Now, now, now was not something that seemed to apply to crucial pieces of recruitment.

It’s all very different now, of course. Speed is king.

I recently conducted some spontaneous research, speaking to a few recruiters about their markets and what they felt they competed on most. Almost all of them said speed. Attend a recruitment industry get together and you will hear recruiters bemoan the rise of speed over quality.

I asked a few internal recruiters what was most important to them in a recruitment partner, and alongside ‘not wasting my time with irrelevant CVs’ and ‘really understanding what we want’ speed of response also rated highly.


No-one could really say, but like Maverick and Goose in Top Gun, speed was necessary, exhilarating, a sign of strength. It implied you were good.

Hiring managers used to ask ‘Who do you know?’ now they ask ‘Who have you got?’

There seems to be an expectation that we all ‘have’ a number of CVs ready to pull out at a few hours notice. Yet the role that is to be filled may be a key position that will have a large impact on the business. Getting it wrong may be costly and disruptive. Could businesses be failing to make the best hiring decisions through an artificial time restriction?

Many briefs now ask for CVs within 48 or 72 hours…a good recruiter won’t just fling CVs at a client, they will want to conduct a full search, speak to candidates, discuss the role with them, get their authority to submit the CV, candidates may want to think over the role, do some research on the company first…

…if that can’t be done within 48 or 72 hours then some very strong candidates may not get in front of a hiring manager, and those companies may well be ruling out the most suitable person for the role…

I am always interested to know why speed is considered so desirable in a piece of specialist permanent recruitment…if there is a sudden need, then surely the business should look for an interim solution whilst following a proper and thorough process to find the best permanent candidate…so

Third party recruiters…I’d love to know if speed is something you embrace, or if you find it a hindrance…

And internal recruiters…I’d love to know why ‘who have you got’ has replaced ‘who do you know’

Look forward to hearing your thoughts

Views: 142

Comment by Samuel Dergel - CFO2Grow on August 24, 2010 at 7:42pm
We embrace speed.

Our experience shows that for positions that are functional (i.e. more accounting) have a big need for speed. The job needs to get done, and get done now, and the client needs the best person as soon as possible. Speed Rules. Time Kills Deals.

For positions that are strategic (ie CFO positions) speed is less important as finding the best person for the job. We find that clients are more willing to fill an Interim role for a strategic position while they look for the best person for the role.

Samuel Dergel
Senior Partner & Practice Leader - CFO Search
Comment by Russell S. Moon III on August 25, 2010 at 10:33am
(speed AND quality) are not necessarily mutually exclusive, yes it does provide an edge to the assignment and yes it takes time once you find the people to catch up to them to screen them.

Several years ago I worked with a major retailer and their mantra was "Speed kills".

It did then and it does now.

Speed is generated by pure technique, so I think some of the issue is the verbalized need for speed but the oversight by some HM's that the level of skill to generate that speed can frequently exceed the partners current skill level.

Not uncommon, but clearly something that can be addressed.

Great post.

Cheers, R
Comment by Will Branning on August 25, 2010 at 1:25pm
Depends on the type of search I am working on...I am an engineering recruiter. For highly specialized Engineering positions, an overempahasis on speed can result in "poor fits" being submitted just to show that you are working hard on the search.

I prefer to simply advise clients that finding "the right candidate" will take some time but it will also save them time reviewing "poor fit' resumes and interviewing "less than ideal" candidates.

Thanks for your post.

Will Branning
Comment by C. B. Stalling!! on August 26, 2010 at 11:47am
I always tell my clients, another great saying from TOM is Show me the MONEY. If my clients want me to drop everything to go find this person. I want 50% of the fee up front. This tells me if they are looking or buying.



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