A few months ago, I got a call from the CEO of a mid-sized manufacturing concern who needed to recruit a VP Finance. The incumbent had just handed in her notice, was leaving the firm in four weeks, and he was in a bit of a panic to replace her. This CEO wanted to meet with me as soon as possible to pitch on the search so I arranged to meet with him the next morning. I thought the meeting went well. I talked about our recruiting protocols: how we would map out the talent in that particular company’s industry, our interview and selection process, and all the rest. I explained that we should be able to produce a benchmark candidate within three weeks and a full short list within four or five weeks.
Four Weeks or Four Days?
I drove back to my office pretty confident that we’d be getting the assignment, but to my great surprise my prospective client called me two days later saying that he had run into a recruiter who specialized in accounting/finance who’d promised him some candidates right away. As much as the CEO liked my presentation and would like to work with me, I had told him he’d be interviewing in four weeks and this other person promised that he’d be interviewing in a few days.
As much as I empathized with the CEO’s urgency in getting someone in the VP Finance chair right away, in my experience, his desire for an expedient solution had real potential to backfire on him in a couple of different ways.
Playing Long Odds
First of all, it was improbable that the recruiter was going to have the right candidate(s) on hand. Not impossible, but highly unlikely. I’ve got hundreds of resumes of VPs of Finance and CFOs on file here, and none of them happened to fit all the criteria the CEO laid out in out in our initial meeting. I do have some resumes that kind of fit, but I know that if I had done a proper search for this company, we could have come up with some people who would be much better candidates for that position.
Unless the recruiter was very lucky and happened to have the ideal candidate on file, this could play out either of two ways, neither of which is a good result for the client.
Two Sub-Optimal Scenarios
In scenario number one, the client would meet a number of candidates over the course of two or three weeks and decide that none of those candidates was a good enough fit to hire. So now, three weeks later, the CEO would have no viable possibilities, and the recruiter would be out of candidates who could be considered any kind of fit. Of course the recruiter is going to assure the CEO that they’re going to keep working on the search and will have the perfect candidate any day now, but since they’re working on a contingency fee model, the odds of the recruiter spending any more time on this project are pretty remote.
In scenario number two, the CEO would meet a number of candidates in the kind of fit category and although he probably wouldn’t love any of them, one of them may be an okay fit and since he has a million things going on, he may decide that pretty good is good enough.
The Compromise Conundrum
Whoever he happens to hire, I hope this CEO will be happy with his decision a year down the road. But it’s very possible that sometime in the not-too-distant future, he may come to wish that he hadn’t decided to compromise.