The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – My Evolving Perspective on Executive Search

Posted by on Dec 1, 2015 in The LFT Blog | Comments Off on The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – My Evolving Perspective on Executive Search

I’m the new guy. That phrase in a work environment brings several likely downstream effects – last choice for vacation days at holiday time, waiting period for participation in 401k, attendance at the big annual trade show in Detroit versus the one in Orlando, and, you got it, providing the content for this month’s Company newsletter.

I joined LFT earlier this year after working for 25 years mostly as a General Manager in Financial Services. I have witnessed the search industry from three very distinct perspectives – as a hiring manager, as a candidate, and now as a search professional. When I was on the client side, I would have graded the industry as about a C. Some firms were very professional, others kind of shady. Everybody said the same thing about robust capabilities and strong customer service orientation. Fee structure struck me as expensive. Third parties didn’t seem to have much skin in the game. But on a positive side, I am sure anyone reading this article who has ever managed someone would agree that you can’t overstate the amount of time spent and efficiency lost having made a bad hire. If an outside firm could help ensure a good hire, it was almost like taking your medicine, not something you wanted to do, but worth it in the end.

As a candidate who once used search firms to make a career move, I would grade the industry higher, but only slightly, maybe a C+ or B-. These strangers acted as your advocate, which was terrific. If they thought you had a strong chance to fill a current placement being worked, you often felt like royalty. But if there was no immediate potential match, then as far as even being treated with respect, not so much. Too transactional for my tastes, but potentially a useful resource at a time of need.

Now as an executive search industry insider at LFT, I must say I am so far very pleasantly surprised. This Company recognizes the negatives and trade-offs I have listed from my previous experience, and is trying to address them. In the last year our Company recognized the need to essentially reinvent itself. We have a new leadership team, an expanded business development group with more extensive business experience, a cleaned-up candidate database, recruiters structured around specific job categories to develop deeper relevant knowledge and relationships, and a revamped vetting process. The people in the firm are sharp, fun, committed, accountable. We want to get to the point where we are a trusted partner to clients’ management teams. We want to be seen as thought leaders on emerging roles in healthcare and on broader ways to profile superior candidates. We want to establish long standing relationships with talented individuals whether or not they fit current searches, so they can be quickly tapped for opportunities that emerge in the future. Clearly, it is something of a work in progress. Many of these areas are not yet where we eventually want to go. I give us a B, with the trend line heading in the right direction.

I can’t speak for the entire industry, but I understand why a level of discontent exists. Early on I was in a meeting with a hospital’s Vice President of Human Resources who said two things that burned him up about search firms were how frequently people call him saying they saw an opening on the hospital’s website and had the perfect person for the job (without knowing details of the culture and fit) and people calling him saying they have a candidate who didn’t get another search they were working on, but would be perfect for his hospital (not good enough for the competitor, but good enough for him). Unfortunately, this kind of approach can be prevalent in an industry that is crowded, fragmented and where it is difficult to differentiate yourself. But that dynamic is exactly the opportunity that attracted me. When I worked in credit cards, and insurance, we strategized about what a game changer it would be to achieve a position of trust while surrounded by a competitive landscape that most viewed with disdain. It’s somewhat the way we view ourselves at LFT. We can’t promise the perfect candidate or the exact timeline. We will, however, always be honest, transparent, professional, and respectful to both clients and candidates, and we will continuously build stronger and stronger relationships with top talent. Now on the inside, I see how the sausage is made. We are trying to do it the right way.

Jeff Schumacher

Regional Director, Business Development