Search Savvy: It’s about momentum

Jan 02, 2013

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 989 Originally published 1/7/2013 Employ these three tactics in your selection process and you’re likely to begin seeing significant improvements in talent acquisition efforts. The American Heritage Dictionary defines momentum as, “The tendency of a moving object to continue moving along a particular path in a line.” In other words, momentum is the constant incremental progression of a thing toward a specific end. What an important concept to foster in our business practices and strategies (as any MBA will tell you)! Unfortunately, we all too often forfeit momentum for analysis. As one professional golfer once said, “This game is all about momentum... and sometimes thinking too much can destroy it.” Boy… if there’s a sphere in which that statement resonates especially, it must be in recruiting. In my 17-plus years of professional recruiting, I can tell you, quite confidently, that good solid talent is lost most commonly – not because the opportunity wasn’t competitive, not because compensation wasn’t competitive, not because of benefits, or location, or bad perks. Good talent is lost primarily because many firms simply do not endeavor to consistently, progressively move the candidate along a particular path of selection. There’s no momentum. So, ultimately the candidate falls away and loses his or her appetite because “the plate has gotten cold,” so to speak. How tragic. But this kind of attrition can be quickly avoided if firms will recognize three major problem areas in their selection process and begin taking steps to rectify them. 1) No one person is driving the bus. In other words, no one person is leading the recruitment and selection effort. There are simply too many cooks in the kitchen. No one person is accountable to a timely and effective hire, and as a result the recruitment effort gets assigned a marginal priority, with no one really contributing diligently. Or conversely, everybody wants a say in the way candidates are ushered through selection. In either case, you end up with a stalled, stagnate, cold search that begins hot but soon fades into a cold distraction at best. My recommendation: Assign one person as the project lead over the search and create time-to-fill expectations that compel the project leader to diligently encourage consistent momentum along a specific “process map.” 2) No one has a map. That is to say, no one has designed a specific protocol by which candidates are introduced to, and ushered through, a selection process. A candidate may conduct a very good initial telephone interview with a principal, for example. But the principal is forced to close the discussion with the candidate with no earthly idea as to what the next-steps are because he has no concept of how that candidate will progress through the selection process. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve circled back with a candidate to ask how a telephone interview went and received back a report that went something like this: “I thought it went very well mutually… but no one could tell me what next steps were, nor when they would begin happening.” Inevitably a week goes by, then two weeks, then three, and out of nowhere the firm is reminded again that they desperately need this engineer they spoke to almost a month ago, but unfortunately he or she has left the table for another table because the plate got cold. Where there is no map, there is no momentum because there is only confusion. My recommendation: Once deciding on a project leader, create a process map and be sure that map is communicated to every stakeholder in the selection process. A generic protocol might look this: 1) phone interview; 2) on-site interview; 3) consensus/decision; 4) verbal offer; 5) formal written offer and start date. Further, at every point in the process, commit to timelines. As an example, every short-list candidate will be interviewed by phone by a stakeholder within 72 hours after being introduced into the selection process. Also, and on-site interview will be coordinated within three weeks of the initial telephone interview. Further, a decision for or against a candidate will be made within one week of the on-site interview, etc. You see? 3) Don’t over-analyze the route. In other words, there’s simply too much scrutiny and chit-chat rather than aggressive recruitment. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be prudence and scrutiny applied to selection, but if you feel pretty confidently about a candidate and haven’t put an offer in front of him or her within two weeks after their interview, your chances of winning that candidate decrease significantly. Again, I’m not against thoughtful decision making, but let’s be frank, the divorce rate in our country, sadly, is better than 50 percent between individuals who, I trust, have spent a far lengthier and more scrupulous period courting one another than your firm will spend courting your next project manager. If a marital union is so easily severed, then we should probably assume that we’re not going to insulate ourselves from the contingencies associated with a lesser union. My recommendation: Determine to identify and select a candidate within 90- to 120 days, and be sure to communicate timelines to candidates. To summarize: 1) get one person to drive the bus; 2) make sure there’s a map, and that everyone on board is familiar with it; and, 3) don’t over analyze the route… or the final destination. Employ these three tactics in your selection process and you’re likely to begin seeing significant improvements in talent acquisition efforts. Jeremy Clarke is the director of executive search consulting with ZweigWhite. Contact him at

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