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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, July 15, 2013, 5:30 am

When the online recruiting ad just won’t do

How a growing manufacturing company found the right CFO

By Jennifer Laxton

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    Ask Jen: Recruiting Questions & Answers by Jennifer LaxtonHow do you know whether your company needs third-party talent acquisition services when you’re looking to add to your executive team? For many companies, the most likely answer is: when you’ve had difficulty finding the right person. Usually the process has taken far longer than expected. Whether or not a company manages its human resource needs in-house, the one thing you can count on is that finding and attracting top leadership talent takes time and money.

     When I explain how talent acquisition works, I often find myself using the language of romantic relationships. Most of us have some frame of reference for this such as how we met someone special or what makes a relationship work or not work. Finding the right talent is not really all that different. Yes, it is business but, after all, good business does ultimately come down to human relationships.

     I recently helped a growing North Bay company hire its first Financial Officer, after embarking on a lengthy, exhausting search with little success. This company now has a talented professional – let’s call her Karen – as part of its executive team. She is everything they were looking for and far more. But they never would have found her on their own. Karen wasn’t working in the same industry. She wasn’t even looking for a job.

     What happened is that someone within the searching company called to ask me for advice. They had two leading candidates but something just wasn’t clicking with either one. During that phone conversation, Karen came to mind. Because she’s someone I’ve known and worked with before, I knew she would be a great fit. I also knew Karen wasn’t in the job market at the time. Still, I reached out to her anyway and she was willing to listen. And the more she heard about the job, the more her interest was piqued.

     Karen and this company spent the next several weeks “dating”–- getting to know and size each other up. Karen came in as a third, dark-horse candidate late in the game but quickly rose to the top of the list. Since her qualifications and skills met the job requirements mostly closely, the company knew Karen would provide a quick return on their investment in the short term. But they also saw something more. They recognized that her long-term potential was unlimited. She had capabilities to offer that this company didn’t even realize it needed until meeting her.

     This young, highly successful manufacturing company is poised for growth. Yet they lacked good internal systems to facilitate that growth. You might say they have been successful in spite of themselves. They needed someone with knowledge and experience in enterprise resource planning who would understand how to work with the entire organization. Karen’s comprehensive blend of experience and qualifications comes from a 20-year career spanning several different industries. While she didn’t have direct experience in this company’s industry, she does have the highest certification in LEAN manufacturing practices. What Karen brings to the table was the ability to get systems in place to enable the company to grow. Once company leaders recognized this, they decided that if Karen didn’t take the job offer, they would have to go back to the drawing board and start all over again. They knew that without Karen or someone like her, the company’s growth would be stunted.

     And now we get to the point of this story. If you want your company to grow, you have to raise the bar concerning the talent you acquire. You cannot keep doing the same old things and expect different results (a.k.a. the definition of insanity). You have to find and hire people with the talent and expertise above and beyond your company’s present capabilities. You have to invest.

     Placing an ad online is not investing. That’s what this company did and then easily spent hundreds of hours of their top executives’ highly paid time reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates for six months. They flew in several out-of-town candidates, wining and dining them. You can easily eat up $100,000 recruiting and hiring one key executive. And as for the cost of a bad hire, the rule of thumb is 1-1/2 times that person’s annual base salary. This includes potential loss of business or losses due to time spent getting that individual up to speed or other unknown losses such as damage to your company’s reputation.

     When your company needs to make a critical hire, do you really have six months of time and money to spend searching and vetting candidates? Karen proved to be this company’s dream candidate, yet the truth is they would have never found her on their own.

    Jennifer Laxton is the president of ESA Consulting, located in Santa Rosa www.esa.com. ESA is a consulting company providing talent acquisition, workforce planning and career coaching services. You can reach her at 707-525-1010 or jklaxton@esa.com.

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