Who's Got Your Back?
By Bill Radin
Recruiting is inherently a risky
enterprise. That’s because we rely on others over whom we have
little control. Sure, we can help “guide” or “persuade” candidates
and hiring managers at various stages of the placement process in
the hope that we can positively influence their behavior. But at the
end of the day, most key decisions are out of our hands.
To minimize risk and maximize
efficiency, I’ve found it useful to have a backup plan whenever
possible. That way, if something goes wrong or the unexpected
happens, I can recover quickly and move forward.
However, a backup plan doesn’t
necessarily need to be improvised at the moment of crisis. You can
build safeguards into your system that work like a backup plan, but
without the drama.
For example, let’s suppose you’re
working on a new assignment and you find a qualified candidate. Your
first inclination would be to schedule an interview as soon as
Statistically, the odds of that
person being hired are, at best, 50 percent. More than likely,
you’ll be asked to find a second or third or fourth candidate for
comparison. If that’s the case, you’re forced into a backup plan.
Which means continuing the search and scheduling more interviews
until the position is filled.
Driving Up Your Odds
But if you know at the outset that you’ll need more than one
candidate to cover your search, why not wait until you have at least
one more person who can interview on the same day as the first? That
way, you’ll offer the employer more than a single choice, and—unless
there’s extreme time pressure—drive up your odds of success.
Here are a few more backup
Schedule sendouts in advance. Whenever possible, ask the
employer to pencil in two or three interview times a week or
so after you accept the assignment. That way, you won’t need
to scramble later when the manager’s calendar is already
filled. With a deadline looming, you’ll be more than motivated
to find the people you need.
Look for double-duty candidates. Prioritize searches that call
for candidates who may qualify for more than one position or
company. So, if one hiring manager passes on a particular
candidate, you’ll have other hiring managers eager to
interview your talent.
Keep your candidates warm. It’s not uncommon for a hiring
manager to rule someone out after a quick glance at their
resume or immediately following the first interview. I’ve
learned that it’s always a good idea to ask, “Can we at least
consider the person as a backup before I make a ‘rejection”
call?” If the answer is yes, you’ve bought yourself some time,
hedged your bets and avoided the embarrassment of extending an
olive branch to a candidate after having it ripped from their
Finally, consider the fact that we’ve
enjoyed several successive years of job growth. If history is any
guide, our comfortable cycle of prosperity will come to an end. When
and how is anyone’s guess; but economies rise and fall. It’s just a
part of life.
As someone who thought the good times
would never end (as they did in 2000 and 2008) and suffered the
consequences, I offer this advice: Start thinking about a backup
plan now. Look carefully at your spending, debt, savings and so
forth. And look for other markets, industries and candidate
populations that might offer an alternative to your current focus.
After recovering from each recession
in the past, I assumed my rebuilt fortunes were evidence of a new
normal. I won’t make that mistake again. To the contrary, I’ve
reached the conclusion that I’m only as good as my worst year. And
I’ve adjusted my lifestyle accordingly.
So, enjoy the good times—I hope they
last forever. But remember to watch your back.