Candidate Quality: Seventh of Six Wrong Reasons
This is the seventh and last of a series of posts responding to James Aston’s article in askGrapevineHR about establishing an in-house executive search function. Aston writes that there are six reasons to use search firms rather than institute an internal executive recruiting function. Effectively addressing some of Aston’s points required parsing his arguments--hence we have seven responses to his six arguments.
In Aston’s final argument, he insinuates that third-party recruiters are more trustworthy, have a broader reach, and generate better candidate quality than do in-house recruiters. None of his arguments ring true from my experience having sat on both sides of the search desk (both in-house and within retained executive search).
First, candidate quality. This--rather than cost savings--is the strongest argument for establishing an in-house function. After seven years of executive recruiting for a Fortune 50 company, I conducted a study comparing the hire quality of placements made though our in-house team vs those that entered through some other means, typically search firms. The internal team’s placements showed a 215% increase in high-potential nominations, a 175% increase in diversity and a 570% decrease in executive attrition. Our program was not unique in terms of the hire quality of in-house teams. Most that are lead by former retained executive recruiters all measure improved quality of hire for their placements compared to search firms’.
Regarding reach and trust, Aston writes, “When we meet an ambitious candidate to talk about a possible role, we don’t think about the next fee, but the entire life-time value of that person over their career; as a candidate and/or client. This is never the case for in-house search teams and it influences the way a candidate is managed.” I think what he is trying to argue is that third-party recruiters are more concerned about their candidates careers than they are about fees and that this garners more trust and credibility with candidates.
The argument is absurd. An in-house executive recruiter’s priorities are never compromised by fees and business development activities the way search firms’ might be. Internal recruiters only priorities are placing the right people, producing delighted customers, and providing a superior candidate experience. Further enforcing attention to superior candidate relations is the fact that any placement an in-house recruiter makes becomes an internal advocate or critic of the recruiter and the in-house team. The stakes are much higher for an in-house recruiter than for one third-party. Most candidates recognize that third party recruiters' have conflicting priorities and are wary that this may compromise their relationship.
Not only is there no ulterior motive for in-house recruiters, they are highly focused on building internal bench strength for their company’s succession plans. Because of this, they are at least as likely as search firms, if not more so, to be concerned about their candidates’ long-term career.
Regarding credibility, I offer a single question. Who has more credibility: an internal recruiter who has insiders’ knowledge about a company’s culture, the hiring executive, other stakeholders and the politics that play among them, the position’s roles and responsibilities, and the business challenges, or a third party recruiter who has only an outsider’s perspective?
Finally, on the topic of “reach.” Firm recruiters are not alone in developing a “...wide-ranging, high quality personalised [sic] network....” In-house recruiters do as well. When I entered my role at Lockheed Martin, I retained my network built over my previous eight years inside search firms. Inside Lockheed Martin, I expanded that network and it’s as strong as any firm recruiter's that has equal tenure.
At the end of his article Aston promotes Jo Michael as a recruiter of recruiters (at least that’s what I think he does, the article is rather oblique throughout, especially this section). I offer my own recommendation for a recruiter of recruiters: Donna Karnal Managing Director, Ultimate Solutions Search. Mention my name when you call her.
Next week, I’ll present my perspective on the value and importance of search firms.