When Recruiting the Best Talents, Time Kills All Deals

Written by P. Raj Kumar,
Director, Executive Placements CnetG Asia 

The CEO of Phoenix Oil interviewed a senior executive for a senior leadership position, that will oversee their drilling operations with over 300 engineers spread across 8 countries. The CEO spent about an hour getting to know the senior executive, examining and cross-checking facts and figures, evaluating the senior executive's knowledge of the latest industry news,  network of top executives in competitors, contractors and others in the industry that the senior executives knows.

The senior executive who was initially unassuming and appeared nonchalant, began to talk passionately about his experiences leading multi-billion dollar projects, the successes and failures and other issues he cared about. There was a volley of questions and more questions from the CEO.
The senior executive became more intrigued when the CEO described the width and breadth of the role, the value of the business, short and long-term strategies and the business forecast. At this point, although the compensation package was not discussed, it was very clear that the CEO wanted him on board as soon as he can. The senior executive was then told that he will be contacted for a second discussion with someone within the business. 

What the CEO did not know was that the senior executive is being courted by two other competitors although he knows the senior executive is now on the market. 
The second interview was held but, after two weeks. The senior executive was less interested after the second interview as he felt that the interviewer who is also a senior executive in the organization, appeared not to know what have been discussed in the first interview. Although the interview which was held over a teleconference ended well, the interviewer apparently was not aware about which vacancy that the senior executive is being sought for. The senior executive at this point, could not read the interest of the interviewer although he appeared still interested to take up the challenge. 
However, to ensure that he does not loose other offers, the senior executive begun pursuing more serious discussions with the other suitors.
Internally, the HR team was putting together a compensation plan and were waiting for a go-ahead for an offer. After two weeks, when the second interviewer finally met the management team, a decision to offer was made. The senior executive was contacted for a meeting, to make an offer. Unfortunately, when contacted, the senior executive informed them that he has accepted another offer and will be commencing work in a month's time. The senior executive had to make a career decision fast due to personal circumstances.
This situation is being played out constantly in every organization that is trying hard to balance leading growth and hiring the right leaders to drive the business.
Time Kills All Deals is an age- old mantra in sales. It simply means once an opportunity to sell is identified, all the strategies, processes and decisions have to be aligned towards making the kill, in the shortest time possible. The same expression can also be applied to recruitment.
Based on over 750 vacancies we have managed in the last 13 years, about 87 assignments failed due to too much time spent in the process of recruiting. The factors that contributed to this include lack of direction and clarity in strategy and process, no clear stakeholder, or just because one party or both, drag their feet.
Ways to Increase The Success In Hiring
Appoint someone in the business to be accountable for filling the position.

This can be the Hiring Manager, or the HR Director and the person responsible should drive the entire activity until the on-boarding of the new employee. The person should be responsible to streamline requirements, expectations, interview outcomes and conclusions. The best person for this role should be the Hiring Manager, to whom this position reports to. Among the best practices I have seen with the Companies that I have consulted with make recruitment as one of the KPIs of the Hiring Manager, and not HR.

Increase confidence in hiring decisions.

The employer typically finds reasons why it would fail just so that they have covered all angles and make a sound decision. The candidate tries to convince himself or herself that the move will be exciting but also worries too much what if it fails. You will be able to increase confidence when there is a clear link between what the organization needs and the skills and capabilities the candidate has to offer. You will also be confident in your hiring decision when you know that the candidate's values and belief system is similar to that of your organization and, that the candidate has succeeded in a similar culture and environment in the past.

Increase engagement with candidate.

Employees are now sending out hundreds of emails and text messages daily and talk less to subordinates, colleagues, consultants, vendors and other people outside the organization. Issues or concerns are best discussed on a phone call or a face to face meeting. A real talent will not respond to an email regarding a job offer, almost as immediately as he would respond to a client's email. I spend an average of five and half hours with a candidate, from the first screening to the first interview, negotiation meeting and up to an offer is signed. Following that, I spend up to about another two hours from the date the offer is signed to the date the candidate starts work, discussing about managing counter offers and preparing for a new role.

Achieve alignment with stakeholders.

It is important that there is an alignment among the decision makers on the expectations of the role, reporting line and the budget for this position. To save time haggling and swinging back and forth, what needs to be hired should be discussed and communicated through the process at appropriate intervals. Job descriptions should be reviewed and the requirements fine tuned to meet not just current circumstances but also future needs. All interview discussions should be noted and discussed as a team before the next candidate meeting. The gaps identified should be marked if critical or can be developed. When there are loose ends in this process, the recruitment is risk being delayed. 

Establish candidate's motivation.

Recruitment time could also be saved if the candidate's intrinsic motivation is established at an early stage.  Most hiring managers assess the candidate's interest level, but having interest does not mean the candidate will take up the offer. The candidate will go on to assess how the offer qualify with the five dominant buying motives. If the candidate is pursuing other opportunities, find out how would he make his decision finally.

Be transparent throughout the process. Employers should be aware that a highly successful talent also assesses the organization's as much as he or she is being assessed by the key people in the organization. The candidate usually assesses the consistency in the information shared, decision making process, the speed and manner on how its made and gets to observe the different behaviors and personalities of interviewers they meet. The speed taken and processes involved is a reflection of the effectiveness of the organization, which will also have a bearing on the candidate's success in his or her new role.
The client and candidate should also be aware that there can be more than one contender for the candidate, or for the organization, and as in each race, the best candidate wins!
P. Raj Kumar is a Senior Partner at CnetG Asia, an Executive Recruitment firm with expertise in Energy, Industrial, Pharmaceutical and Consumer Markets and, Banking and Financial Services. Raj Kumar can be contacted at raj@cnetg.com