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One question that can ‘read anyone’s mind’…

Needing to know now is critical to the flow of business. Here is one question learned early in my ‘headhunting’ career that cuts through time and 100 questions.

When conducting an Executive Search or Selection assignment, my job is to determine whether a candidate is genuinely interested in the opportunity I’ve presented. Everyone’s flattered when a Headhunter casts their lure; it’s tempting to nibble at the bait.

As a Headhunter, though, it’s vital that I swiftly work out whether there is serious interest or whether a candidate is just fishing… for just enough information to angle for a better offer from their current employer.

To elicit the real answer is no easy task. Not getting an answer can set the hiring process back substantially, leading to a missed opportunity for both the employer and the candidate.

When we have to wait in trepidation on an answer, it more than likely turns out to be a “no”. Instinctively we know that the person has already made up their mind, but does not want to offend us with the truth. Or they could be stalling for time as they are pursuing their first preference… you know how it goes. Sometimes candidates come back to the table with a half “yes” and lots of messy provisos, which equate to a “no” in any case.

When an important decision needs to be made, I guarantee this one question will uncover a person’s intention, even if they do not intend to show their hand:

“Please visualise us getting to the end of this hiring process. Providing all the pieces come together – do not give me an answer now,  just what do you guess you will say to me?”

Stop talking and listen, because here comes the answer.

They will say something like, “Well I guess I will say yes, but I just need to think about it (overnight/run it past my family/see what my partner says/etc.).” That’s ok, this is going to be a “yes”.

If they hesitate, then duck and weave with something like, “Look I really don’t know, I can’t even guess, my mind is not clear, have really got to think about it more…” unfortunately it will be a “no”. Move on to whatever your Plan B is, because eventually people come back and confirm that “no”.

So next time you’re asked to guess an answer don’t worry, we are just trying to read your mind.

What methods do you use to uncover people’s thoughts in your world @work, I’d like to know?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Who’s a Career Casanova then?

Sadly the fast and furious route to executive placement can turn out to be like a pick-up bar – full of promise from both parties, though often empty and ultimately unfulfilling. Think Tinder and Good2Go. Urrgh. It gives the illusions of satisfaction but really? Like a three act opera, LinkedIn plays that libertine Don Giovanni, inviting us to freely indulge in sensual pleasures magically solving all recruitment heartaches. Hiring anyone from CEOs to snake charmers, all you need these days is a cloud to float your tablet on, and you have your own virtual recruitment chorus.

Job boards, instant matching and corporate networks; could these inter-party relationships get any more romantic?

Acquiring executive search skills is a long term affair. It takes many years of devotion to the craft of pursuit, a passion for the market, commitment to networking, using the advances in behavioural science and psychology to profile latent and proven talent, and understanding organisational behaviours. Once found (head hunted) that perfect candidate then needs to be seduced into having a conversation about the opportunity and wooed right through to the consummation of the hiring process.

Quick fix hiring just can’t replace the slow burn, the deep enquiry and the working relationship built on strong foundations.

Reputable executive search firms offer a service guarantee, which comes with a realistic expectation that both clients and candidates will be satisfied with the experience. Don’t take my word for it though, I could just be another Career Casanova.

Have you ever fantasised about how easy it should be to find the perfect candidate or been seduced by a head hunter? I’d love to hear about it.

Featured image: Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Taryn Fiebig in Opera Australia’s production of Don Giovanni. Photo by Branco Gaica.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Help, get me out of here!

I had barely sat down at my desk, when the phone rang. “Warwick… help, get me out of here!” I thought I recognised the voice, but waited for his confirmation, “It’s Brendon here. You remember, we spoke six weeks ago when you approached me about a Supply Chain Director role.” I did remember and allowed Brendon to continue. “We met for interview and then you shortlisted me for your client.” Brendon had subsequently withdrawn his application. “I pulled out because my boss painted such a rosy new picture for my future here and convinced me to stay…”

“Now 6 weeks later I’m reaching out to you for help. You were right, all the promises are evaporating and I’m just miserable – I really should have taken your advice. Do you have anything else like the role we spoke about?”

My counter-offer advice to Brendon at the time is well-known amongst our industry and inevitably proves itself right, time and time again… but candidates occasionally elect not to follow it.

Counter-offers most often end badly. Many people who look to move on from an organisation do so for all the right reasons, and sometimes unfortunately stay for all the wrong reasons, with most resigning again within less than 12 months. In some cases, resignations do set the scene for a good honest productive discussion between employees and employers, particularly if there are straightforward issues that can easily be addressed to ensure better working conditions.

When I took Brendon’s call, I was in the middle of processing conversations I’d just had at another valued client meeting. Present were the CEO, the CFO who I placed four years ago (still doing a great job), the new Head of HR and one of his HR Business Partners. With an increasing need to retain high performers, as well as attract better quality hires in a very competitive sector, the company had recently held onto two staff members with counter-offers. They promised improved role functions with commensurate salary increases to avert two vacancies. Early in, the two team members were re-engaged, but only because there was real structural change and intent to provide a better career track.

What should Brendon have done? Without going into detail, Forbes reports career experts generally say you should never accept a counter-offer. You should probably never make one either, but that’s a story for another time. In Brendon’s case the job market has now moved on. I of course I will help him the best I can… and most likely my client, as their counter-offers lose their shine just as quickly.

What is your experience with counter-offers?

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work