It’s now officially been (well over) a year since the executive search market took a serious southern turn (ok it imploded…) for the worst. The market isn’t the only thing that changed dramatically. Oh no. People I know have also changed. The change – it had to come – and we knew it all along. Human behavior appears to have taken the same turn – also on a southern path to perform the limbo and go as low as any (professional) hiring manager should go with their search partner. OK – maybe that’s a stretch.
Let me explain. Some hiring managers (not all) that (in the past) have depended on search partners to fill critical position openings – have taken a different stance in this market. They have created their own reality on the (new) value of search in this market. Some have pushed (and beaten down) their search partners with modified terms and conditions beyond what some may consider to be fair – the term “win-win” seems a bit out of reach. Many recruiters I have spoken to have been (well) amazed at how they are being treated (taken advantage of) by their “partner”. Did I say “partner”? I thought so.
The value equation in search has clearly changed based on supply and demand. Let’s look at this objectively – shall we? Same search, same title, same amount of effort (some might argue more effort) to source, recruit and successfully place a candidate in a new role in today’s market. Many candidates are reluctant to move to greener pastures amid all of the job market uncertainty. The same people who have historically paid market fees all of a sudden want to play “Let’s Make a Deal with the fee structure. I won’t mention names (although I would love to) here – not even titles. Wouldn’t be prudent or smart. I’ve heard some hiring managers and HR professionals are asking for discounts of 25% – 50% in fees. That’s a haircut. My stomach hurts just thinking about it. OUCH!
I do know that the hiring needs of many companies will change as the market recovers and talented employees form long lines and begin to head for the exit doors (and they will). My question is if and how partnerships will resume to the way things were, or have we seen a big shift in the definition of value in search. My bet is that people will make the right decisions and do what they have to do to find great talent. Demands for lower fees will take a backseat to the real value exchange in this business.
So, who will make the first move and return to doing business in search the way it’s been done for decades? My hope is that clients and search professionals will both see this market and human behavior as an anomaly and get back to business. I also hope some re-define the word “partner“…
Some have their doubts, but I happen to be an incurable optimist – and know this too shall pass.
Tim Tolan is a partner at Sanford Rose Associates and specializes in Executive Search in Healthcare IT. He’s a closer, and you really don’t want to call him unless you’re ready to bring out the bazooka to bag some big game. When I started Fistful, I checked four references on Tim – his wife, his kids, his pastor and a client. The references were great, even if it sounded like they were reading from a sheet of paper. I just chalked that up to them being “detail oriented” in their feedback….