Executive Recruiting for Dummies Podcast
Peter Clayton: Welcome to TotalPicture Radio. I’m your host, Peter Clayton. Today’s career strategy channel podcast, featuring David Perry is brought to you by Jobs and Pods, a powerful social media recruiting tool where real employers talk about their jobs and how to get them. Jobs and Pods job casts provide job advertising, employment branding, and employee recognition, all on one platform. Visit jobsandpods.com and check out our job cast with Ryan Gordon, advertising director at Chronicle Media, in Augusta, Georgia. Now, here’s our show.
Peter Clayton: My guest today, David Perry has probably been on this show more than anyone. Why? He’s a prolific writer, including Gorilla Marketing for Job Hunters, three different editions, Hiring Greatness, and his latest book, Executive Recruiting for Dummies. David loves to share his knowledge, experiences, and help job seekers and recruiters up their game and win. Welcome to a career strategies channel podcast on TotalPicture radio. I’m your host, Peter Clayton.
Peter Clayton: David has told me that Executive Recruiters for Dummies is his last book. Why? David practises his craft, executive Recruiter, as managing partner of Perry-Martel. He has completed more than 1,100 searches on five continents, negotiating over 300 million in salaries. His near perfect success rate is 300% better than the industry average. One reason why the Wall Street Journal dubbed him the rogue recruiter. Another reason has to do with a food cart caper he used to find a purple squirrel. Ask him. All of these books and all of this writing have taken time away from what he loves to do most, the hunt, the challenge, find the perfect fit to fill a senior executive role that could make, or break a company.
Peter Clayton: I’m not the only one impressed with David. Check out all of the resource links on David’s show page, including George Bradt’s article in Forbes, How to Turn Millennial Dummies into Experts, Rayanne Thorn’s article, Expert Guidance for the Huffington Post, Bill Vick’s video with David, and Recruit Like a Shark, ZoomInfo webinar. David, welcome back to TotalPicture radio. It’s always great to have you on the show.
David Perry: Thanks for inviting me, Peter.
Peter Clayton: As I mentioned in the open, this is your last book. You have been a prolific writer for a number of years. Why have you decided that this is the last one?
David Perry: I’ve got some new initiatives like turning the material in Executive Recruiting for Dummies and the Hiring Greatness material into college level courses with a special series of courses just for HR. I’m going to execute on the Put America Back to Work initiative that we started several years ago so Mark and I can do our part to right size the economy. I’m quick to point out to politicians that creating jobs is great, however, putting the right people into those jobs is the real measure of success and the only one that will get the economy stabilised, so that’s what I’m going to do.
Peter Clayton: That sounds fantastic. You told me that this is the most difficult, challenging book you’ve ever written, meaning the Dummies books, so can you elaborate on that for us?
David Perry: Yeah. I mean the Rubics Cube is on the cover for a reason Peter, there are a lot of moving pieces that all have to be executed precisely and at the exact right time. Writing with that level of exactness required so people can use the book and execute correctly themselves was exhausting. After nearly 1,100 projects, Mark and I do this stuff in our sleep. Creating it and putting it to paper, it was very difficult because we couldn’t afford to allow anyone to make a mistake on our behalf.
Peter Clayton: Interesting. Who’s the audience beyond the obvious?
David Perry: Well actually everyone who’s involved with executive level hires from the search committee, to HR and recruiting, and especially the hiring managers. These are the rules that lead to success, this is the process that anyone can use to guarantee they recruit the right leadership. Everybody should be on the same, literally, should be singing from the same choir book and this is it.
Peter Clayton: I totally agree with you. I specifically hope that hiring managers will pick up and read this book.
David Perry: It’ll make their jobs easier. It’ll make their lives much simpler. Honestly, whether they choose to do the search themselves or whether they hire an outside recruiter like myself, or Mark, or anybody else, having a guide that says, “This is what is supposed to happen start to finish,” so that they can track that progress and help where they need to. I think it’s going to be invaluable for everyone.
Peter Clayton: Like you said, you’ve conducted over 1,100 searches, you’ve been in this business for a very long time, so how has recruiting changed over the past few years?
David Perry: Use of technology. Technology has made looking for a job easier for candidates to find the job openings, much easier, and for employers to find people who are looking for new opportunities. However, all this technology has done nothing to increase the quality of hires as reflected in the turnover rate and the fact that we have record rates of dissatisfaction among those who actually have jobs. Employee engagement has never been lower. Faster and easier have not led to better, and technology has not, by itself, increased retention. That’s where the effort is required now and that starts at the top by hiring the very best leaders.
Peter Clayton: Well, continuing on that thought and picking up a bullet point from your publishers marketing materials, “Yes, high performing employees and particular high performing leaders have always been valuable, but these days they’re even more so.” Why do you believe that?
David Perry: Well, today strong leadership is more important than ever. We know that companies with great leaders significantly outperform the competition. Companies need leaders who understand the ever-changing landscape, they can see the future, and who are able to leverage talent in the realisation of that future. At the same time, globalisation, attrition, and just the changing demographics have led to a scarcity of executive level talent, and as a result, the competition for the top executive level talent is fierce. The goal in an executive search isn’t to find the best talent currently looking for work, it’s to find the best talent period.
David Perry: Herein lies the recruiting challenge. The best talent isn’t looking for work, very rarely are they. They already have a good job, sometimes they have a fantastic job. All this to say that the recruiting process has become critical to an organization’s ability to thrive and prosper in today’s hyper-competitive environment just as we’re seeing a major shortage in leaders. If you want to hire the best, the executive search project has got to be focused, your message needs to be crystal clear, and it’s got to be compelling. Today companies need an effective way to find the best, engage their interest, hire them, and ensure they stick around. That’s the key.
Peter Clayton: Right, right. Well, as you know, a lot of people who’ve never been confronted with the task of recruiting don’t really appreciate how difficult this job truly is. Assuming all you need to do is post an ad on a job board somewhere and you’ll be flooded with resumes. Could you please dispel this fantasy for us?
David Perry: Well they would be flooded. But I’ll argue it’s more important to reach the people that count than count the people you reach, so wrong metric. You waste a lot of time with tire kickers and getting into a competitive bid situation with a hot candidate that’s being marketed by a recruiter, it never ends in the employers favour. Perry-Martel’s priority is to acquire a deep understanding of the organisation, where it wants to go and the hurdles it will have to address to get there. That’s the foundation for successful recruiting. There are two steps to this Peter. Understanding the presenting need and understanding the organisation. Can I elaborate a little bit?
Peter Clayton: Oh absolutely, absolutely.
David Perry: Okay, so take understanding the presenting need. What I mean by this is as a hiring manager or as a team, you need to do a couple of things. You need to do a needs analysis, which is a deep … Go get a deep understanding of what needs to be accomplished in the role, and a very crystal clear job description that establishes agreed upon, measurable performance requirements with strong KPI indicators. You have to do a skills gap analysis of the senior team and the direct reports, not just the role. Successful recruiting requires an understanding of exactly where the company is in its evolution from startup to multinational, how fast it’s changing, and what the current and future skills gaps look like. That’s understanding the presenting need.
David Perry: Understanding the organisation, a little different. What I mean by this is you need to do an environmental scan to gather information about the role within the company. You have to do a SWOT analysis assessing the company’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities to be leveraged along with any of the potential threats. You need to form a search committee. You need to choose three to five people to help articulate what you need in a candidate. Establish a timeline, build up a strategy, ensure due diligence is met and hire the best candidate. At the same time, you need to select a chair, someone who’s independent, who understands the needs and the culture of the organisation to serve as a liaison between the search committee and the hiring manager and guide all those discussions.
David Perry: You don’t get that kind of specificity and detail by just running an ad, because the chances of finding that perfectly qualified candidate that you just spec’d out who’s at the top of their game, who is just this moment logging on to read your well written ad, is folly. You need to develop a plan, know exactly who you’re going to target, exactly who you’re going to go out and talk to, and then execute on it. You’ll save a lot more time, you’ll save a lot more money as well.
Peter Clayton: Well that’s a perfect segue to my next question.
David Perry: Well thank you.
Peter Clayton: Yeah, which is in the introduction to Executive Recruiting for Dummies, you refer to your book as a workbook and offer a number of links to forms, which you just mentioned actually, and additional resources. Can you discuss the approach you recommend for getting the most out of your book?
David Perry: That’s a great question. The answer is the same answer, the similar question I was asked years ago about Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters. Open the book, read it straight through and mark the pages where you find there’s new knowledge that you didn’t know. Then go back and read those specific chapters or sections that will be of an immediate benefit. Understand there are 1,000 moving pieces, like the Rubics Cube, to this and you’ve got to get them all lined up exactly the way they need to be, otherwise, you risk failure. We talked about how difficult it was to write the book, I mean it took eight months, which is two and a half times as long as I normally spend. Lining up those pieces, those blocks exactly the way they need to be, it’s literally A, B, C, right through the book. You can jump in anywhere you’re having a challenge or you want some information, but it’s like a paint-by-numbers. You just go through it the way it’s laid out. Does that help?
Peter Clayton: Yeah. Just to follow up on that for a minute. Take us through some of the steps and what’s required to become a successful executive recruiter.
David Perry: Hmm, good question. I think there are six stages, or things a recruiter needs to understand or address. I’m going to list them in order and then I’ll go back and talk about a couple of them if …
Peter Clayton: Okay.
David Perry: You have to understand, you have to package, you have to sell, you have to assess, you have to buy, and you have to nurture. If I was going to put up six slides, that’s what it would be. Understand, package, sell, assess, buy, and nurture. Understand we talked about, that’s the presenting need. Package, that’s the opportunity, that is going beyond a job description to the position profile to the confidential candidate brief. That’s packaging the opportunity. You don’t go out to the market until you clearly understand what it is you’re looking for and what it is you’re presenting. It takes a tremendous amount of research to do that. Sell, how are you going to find someone who isn’t actively looking and get them to raise their hand and say, “Here I am?” Well, you simultaneously assess their fit.
David Perry: That’s the new recruiting paradigm, and it’s not an easy feat. A clear understanding of each and every prospect is what you need before you make the first call. It sounds impossible but it’s not. To attract the best requires a recruiting campaign that’s custom tailored to each and every prospect. Assessing, well, really at the end of the day when you run a process like this, you’re just qualifying their interest. They have a job, and now you’ve got their attention because you understood, you packaged, and you sold them looking at the opportunity, and now they’ve come back and said, “Yeah, I’m interested.” You’ve qualified their interest, and having already created the excitement and invited them to self-assess their fit with the confidential candidate brief.
David Perry: This last step here, this assessing, before we go into the interview stage, it helps us qualify their willingness to invest effort auditioning for the role. The last step is the buying, which is really the whole interview process. Then the nurturing, what you do after you’ve got somebody onboard because it’s not good enough to hire them, you’ve got to keep them. Lest some guy like me comes along and says, “Hey, here’s a prettier bottle.”
Peter Clayton: I hope the listeners to this are beginning to appreciate and understand the difficulty, the research, the effort, the time, the discipline, the commitment, and the tenacity that it really takes to be a successful executive recruiter. Your book lists ten steps to executive recruiting success, and I’d like to have you elaborate on a few of them David. Let’s start with assemble your team. Is recruiting a team sport?
David Perry: Oh yeah. Well Peter, come on, you’re a football fan. You know that football teams are subdivided into three main groups. First there’s the offence, the role of this group is to score points. Then there’s the defence, which works to prevent the other team from getting any points or scoring. Finally, you have that specialised group on the team, the kicker, the holder, the punter, and a couple other players that have highly specialised roles. Recruiting is no different. Your search team is composed of three groups, the hiring team, the recruiting team, and the support team. Your hiring team helps you interview and assess candidates. It consists of the following types of people off the top of my head. The hiring manager or the ultimate hiring manager, which may or may not be the same thing, the search committee, and the search committee chair. The hiring manager, that’s the person that the new hire is going to report to.
David Perry: The search committee, well that’s a group that’s there to assist the hiring manager in all the phases of the search. Very rarely does anyone at the executive level, and I’d even argue at middle-management level, have the time, especially now, we’re so flat, all organisations are so flat, have the time, let alone the expertise to go through and do all this by themselves. They shouldn’t because generally speaking they won’t be able to be objective enough. That’s what your search committee is for and your search committee chair leads that group. The second part of your team is the recruiting team. Your recruiting team helps you locate, identify, and recruit the candidates. It consists of an internal recruiter, usually a sourcer, and a researcher. We just finished up with SourceCon a little while ago, and sourcing is all about the hunt. The sourcer is responsible for pipeline development and they can engage with the targeted candidate as well, but often times they don’t.
David Perry: The researcher is the person who does all the heavy lifting behind the scenes to give the list of, “Here are the five people that are at the top of their game in pick an industry, and here’s what we know about them,” because they’ve gone, they’ve done all the research, they understand who reports to them, they understand what their accomplishments have been, they understand how the organisation that they’re in is growing now and how it interacts with the marketplace. I mean, that’s real intelligence. The researcher is responsible for gathering that intelligence. Sourcer is responsible for figuring out how they get at this person. The internal recruiter, if they have one, they’re the person that’s responsible initially for going and talking to these people and turning a suspect, somebody that you suspect might be qualified and interested, into a prospect.
David Perry: Not unusual for these three roles to be combined into one and handled by a single person. That’s what happens in a lot of recruiting firms. A lot of recruiters are the recruiter, the sourcer, and the researcher. I mean, back in the day, I can’t believe how long I’ve been in this business, 30 years, I started out as … Actually I think I talk about this in the book, I started out as a researcher and a sourcer before it became an actual term. I made my “bones” on doing turnarounds for search firms that had been hired to do a deal for a company and had gone through their list and come up dry, and there was no one left to call.
David Perry: My job that I originally got hired for, behind the scenes while I was running Perry-Martel, was to take those lists and go and make the people on those lists want to meet the recruiter who was running the project. Some person may do all of these steps now, more and more, especially inside companies, there are three different functions. But in the recruiting industry, they generally are with guys of my seniority, one person, or at least one person that’s done all this so they understand how to manage the project correctly.
Peter Clayton: Right, right. These are specialties as you mentioned. I just returned from SourceCon in Anaheim and I don’t think the general public has any idea what an art and a science sourcing really is. In my book, these people who are expert sourcers are magicians what they’re able to do with Boolean search strings and how they’re able to go out and identify and find these very, very difficult people who are highly specialised I their fields. We’ve talked about this before in other shows we’ve done with you on how you have used your knowledge and experience to go and find, there may be two or three people in the whole world who have the background and experience that you’re looking for.
David Perry: Yeah, they are magicians, there’s no question about it. In fact, we both know the business, so when I say that a lot of these people that were at SourceCon for example, have skills that the NSA, CIA, and FBI would die for, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Peter Clayton: Absolutely.
David Perry: They can take, we call it big data, in that big black hole that we call big data, they can find those threads and follow them in such a way that the data becomes intelligence. The intelligence, once brought into a good recruiting firm, becomes a competitive edge that the recruiter needs to go out and have a conversation, and attract that prospect to the client to have yet another conversation, in an open, honest, and ethical manner.
Peter Clayton: Right.
David Perry: These guys are magic, you’re absolutely correct.
Peter Clayton: All right, so we’re going to skip a few steps here and get to your interview short-list. What’s your approach when you get down to let’s say two or three finalists for a position?
David Perry: Well you know, it’s well known that candidates engage coaches to help them fine tune their interview performance. I mean, Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters, case in point. Perry-Martel and readers of this book will be able to provide that kind of coaching advantage to their company or to their clients search committee. The bottom line is, we make it easy for candidates to find out about the opportunity, but we make it challenging for them to win the position. Our assessment interviews are structured, planned in advance, and executed with great rigour. It’s been our experience that a demanding interview process garners the respect of tier one talent. Bear that in mind when we’re talking about the two or three finalists.
David Perry: We use a very structured and gated approach. There’s five stages or gates that a candidate’s going to go through. Remember, anyone that’s going through this process, this can take a couple of months, couple of weeks to a couple of months, but they have a job. Most likely they have a job. The first gate is a face-to-face, we interview candidates face-to-face with two recruiters, one asks the questions, one takes notes, because you can’t do it any other way, and reads body language. Then we do a search chair interview if the candidate passes. We’ll do a candidate interview with the lead recruiter and the search chair and if they pass that, they go on to do a hiring manager interview where they actually talk to the actual hiring manager. You’ve got the lead recruiter, the search chair, and the hiring manager all in the same room. That’s a little bit different from what most search firms do, and I’ll tell you why in just a second.
David Perry: Then you do the search committee interview, and that’s candidate interviews with recruiter, the search committee, but not the hiring manager. We do that so that the search committee isn’t biassed by the feedback from the hiring manager. When you do that, you’re forcing the people on the committee to come to their own decision and rationalise it. Hopefully they all agree. If they don’t, it’s really interesting to watch because they have to get themselves in sync. Perhaps the hiring manager fell in love, because we say that people make up their mind in the first five seconds when they meet somebody and I’ve seen that. We structure questions to get around that, but you see that all the time. Occasionally that does happen, but when you do it this way, the search committee will catch that.
David Perry: Then the last part of the interview process is we ask the candidate, especially VP’s of sales or chief revenue officers, but all executive levels, we get them to make a presentation to the full search committee. It’s a formal presentation outlining their understanding of their role and their first 100 days. This is a progressive five stage interview process and it’s designed to systematically assess and remove candidates from consideration without delay so that we reserve the more sensitive information only for the finalist candidates. Look at a funnel, as candidates are going through the funnel, they already have a job, we’re treating them with complete respect and dignity, and when they don’t meet a gate, we tell them why and they go back to their regular lives.
David Perry: We tell them instantly because this avoids the big black hole syndrome, by providing immediate feedback to everyone and treating them with respect and dignity. You need to treat all candidates, especially executive level, I’ll say that again, and you should treat them just like they were your best customer because if they’re in the industry, they might be a candidate today, or they could be a partner tomorrow. Or they could acquire you.
Peter Clayton: Right, right, which brings up something that I would like you to talk about a little bit. This is the topic that our good friend George Bradt, who wrote an excellent review of the book on Forbes, is his specialty, which is onboarding and how important onboarding is in the executive recruiting role. It’s one thing to get someone to accept a job, but if they’re not the right fit and if the onboarding process hasn’t really been thought through and they leave within the first six months, you’re not going to get your fee.
David Perry: Yeah, and in my case it’s a year. We take that really seriously. Doing the search right the first time is difficult enough, redoing the search, it’s just painful. Retaining top talent’s no small feat. The competition for the best and brightest is fierce, it’s just going to get worse. After all the effort and expense of acquiring a top performer, the last thing you really want as the hiring organisation, to have someone abandon them for another suitor, and that happens. When it comes down to it, the most important thing that the organisation could do to keep suitors at bay, people like me, is to honour all the promises made to the new hire while courting them, even the ones that weren’t documented. With Perry-Martel’s process, our executive recruiting starts during the recruiting interview process by considering three C’s of talent retention, which George talks about as well. Cause, connection, and compensation.
David Perry: Right out of the gate this ensures that the newly hired executive is able to contribute quickly and meaningfully while making it near impossible to recruit away. That’s the key. George knows, I’ve talked to him several times, that we have a detailed process that we go through once someone’s onboard, but we also go out and buy the client a copy of the first 100 days. Because sometimes clients are so excited that they’ve hired a rockstar, that they think it’s all over. They don’t understand those first 100 days, everybody is still looking at the role with fresh eyes. Especially the candidate.
David Perry: A vast majority of candidates that I have … What’s the term I would use? Repatriated, there, that’s a good term, repatriated back to their original employer, I got in the first 30 days. The end of the first week, end of the second week, by the end of the second week you’re thinking, “Hmm, did I make the right decision?” By the end of the fourth week you’re going, “Oh my God.” If you don’t have a process in place that addresses that both on the candidates side and a way on the clients side beyond, “How’s he doing?” I’m talking about getting the search chair who signed on to this process, actively involved in doing the follow up and the gentle landing with the candidate right through the first year. We schedule all that kind of stuff. Does that answer that question? It was kind of long-winded.
Peter Clayton: Yeah, no, that’s perfect, and I have one final question for you, which is how would you respond to the following question from the CFO of a mid-size company. “We have a number of competent recruiters in-house and under contract, why would I need to hire an executive recruiter and pay a big fee to find a new CMO?”
David Perry: What would I say? Well, it depends. Investing in a well executed executive search project and have the best ROI a CFO ever sees in their lifetime. I have one posted on my website, you can go take a look at it. I always ask CFO’s in particular if this is a position on which they can afford a mis-hire? If it’s not, and usually companies can’t afford to do a search twice, let alone six times like one famous tech company we all know. I want to know from the CFO, what the real cost of failure is, and it’s usually more than money. Then we talk about specific examples and I’ve got hundreds of them. For example, for talent acquisition costs that were less than a quarter million, so we did multiple hires, we did six or seven hires for this client. They were worst in their business, and they went from worst to first into an acquisition in nine or ten months.
David Perry: For a quarter million dollars that they spent, investors saw a return of 45 million in divestiture proceeds. Now, that’s 180:1 return on investment. If CFO’s could do that every day they would. I have one client, this is an extreme one, but it’s been around with me for decades. I have one client that was stuck, I mean stuck at 400 million in revenue when they hired us to make a critical executive hire, and that was 24 years ago. Now the firm’s at 3.2 billion, billion, and yes the candidate’s still there and was the first candidate ever to receive equity in this family owned business. He’s been an ever increasing part of their success for 24 years. What do I say to a CFO? Good investment, very good investment.
Peter Clayton: There you go. Well David, thank you so much for speaking with us here on TotalPicture Radio again. It’s always a pleasure and if you have any interest in recruiting at all, I highly recommend that you pick up Executive Recruiting for Dummies because you will definitely learn how to do it right. Thank you David, and thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio. You’ll find David’s interview in the career strategies channel of TotalPicture radio. That’s totalpicture.com. While there, sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on all the current topics and awesome guests contributing to this podcast.
Peter Clayton: Today’s show with David Perry was brought to you by Jobs and Pods, it’s a podcast, it’s jobcast, a blog, and a YouTube video all on one platform, where real employers and staffing agencies advertise their jobs and tell you how to get them. If your company is looking for a mobile first employment branding and social recruiting marketing solution where your job posting will have a real voice, talk to me about Jobs and Pods. Mention TPR when you book your first jobcast for a $50 discount. Jobs and Pods invites you to join the conversation on our Facebook page, Facebook.com/realjobcasts, and follow us on Twitter @JobsandPods. This is Peter Clayton, you’ll find me on LinkedIn, Twitter, and TotalPicture Radio’s Facebook group. Have a great week.