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Recruiting World-Class Managers

Recruiting World-Class Managers

Successful RecruitingOriginally published on January 11, 2013 in the Philadelphia Business Journal.

My firm recently worked with a consumer packaged goods client to recruit and hire a world-class factory manager for a manufacturing facility in New England. This person is on his way to making dramatic improvements in this operation. I believe his strategies will be adopted across the company, saving tens of millions of dollars. If recruiting one or more such leaders for your company is a priority, here are some lessons learned about hiring such an A-player executive.

Key outside hires make your whole team better. Good companies promote from within. However, my observation is that companies that have not recently hired any leaders from the outside can lack important strategic perspective. The best leaders infuse their longstanding teams with carefully selected outsiders. This combination of old and new often creates better strategy and execution.

In this instance, my client could have promoted a seasoned internal candidate. Most of their other factory managers were promoted from within. But in this instance they would simply have created another hard-to-fill hole in the organization chart. It would have been disruptive. In addition, the senior executive who hired us was excited about injecting some new blood and expertise into his business.

Invest time in marketing your opportunity to A-players. This is a tactical point, but we have seen it often pay off . We create eight- to 10-page profiles for each one of our executive searches. When we speak with a candidate, we send this profile to him or her. I cannot tell you the number of times that A-players who have not returned a recruiter’s call in 10 years call us because of the quality of information in these documents. Executives respond to facts. Put together a document that is so comprehensive, you would likely respond if a search firm sent it to you.

One of our senior recruiters contacted this factory manager. He initially was not interested in speaking to us. But he was willing to let us send him the position profile. When he read the document, he knew this was a unique opportunity. There were several elements that we described in the profile that hit his hot buttons. As a result, the conversation then began in earnest.

Ask and listen before you talk and tell. Before you can provide A-players with compelling career opportunities, you have to understand what success looks like to them. What are motivates them? In what role are they most likely to succeed? What are their long-term goals? What factors are important to family in considering such a move? We have to ask and listen before we talk and tell about our company.

In this example, phone conversations revealed the following scenario. This manager had just gotten a raise. He was so well-regarded within this company that he served as an internal consultant for other factories. Yet he was frustrated and willing to listen about other opportunities. Why?

First, his path for promotion had been thwarted because of a change in corporate policy. He was a top performer, but he felt stuck. Second, he was bored. Because of his past success, his role had become more about maintaining world-class performance than achieving it. Finally, he preferred to live in a cold-weather location. He and his wife were living in the South but thrilled about the prospect of moving to New England. Really.

We offered him an opportunity that was compelling in several ways. Our client needed someone who could have a big impact on performance. That took care of his boredom. If he did well, he would be on a short list for director. That addressed his promotion frustrations. And winter comes in late October and doesn’t end until April at this factory — so instead of baking in the Southern sun, he would be happily freezing in New England!

Get face-to-face. We use every form of video conferencing and electronic data management known to man, but I can tell you this — I do not present a candidate to one of my clients until I have interviewed him or her face to face. More than 80 percent of interpersonal communication is nonverbal. I want to have seen and experienced 100 percent of a candidate before I ask my clients to spend time with them.

I flew to visit this man, and we met in a Starbucks airport lounge for two hours. Our in-person interview confirmed that he was my favorite kind of candidate. He looked good on paper, sounded very good on the phone … and was great in person. He had my support.

If you listen to the best leaders talk about success, you will hear them emphasize the importance of hiring the right people. Following my advice on hiring takes time and focus. It also pays off in attracting and hiring great people. Adding just one such person to your team makes a difference. Adding a handful of these top performers can be transformative.


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