by Oliver Duke
A common response to my questioning of business leaders around how they typically recruit is often along the lines of "I only recruit people I have worked with previously’ or ‘I will bring someone in who I know from the market". This can be seen as excellent sense due to the avoidance of recruitment advertising costs and recruitment agency finder’s fees. If you have worked with someone previously you will know if they are reliable, dedicated and ultimately if they will likely deliver against the role responsibilities.
I am clearly biased in my view as a recruiter, but I firmly believe that this is a somewhat narrow-minded view when it comes to hiring, for a number of reasons....
Just because Mr X was a very consistent top employee for you when you managed him 5 years ago at a large corporate market-leading player has no bearing on whether he can adapt to working in the highly autonomous, startup environment which you now operate in. Ms Y used to be able to keep all the plates spinning and perform three people’s roles simultaneously when you worked together at that startup 5 years ago, she’ll surely want to work in that environment again, right? In reality, she has had her fill of that and would like to work as part of a larger business with clearer definition of role responsibilities and greater support.
A stranger is just a friend you haven’t yet met. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the best person for your vacancy is someone that you already know. The chances of that are actually quite unlikely. This type of recruiting can also often create a negative view from an internal perspective with subordinate team members often having a suspicious view of ‘cronyism’, particularly if they were interested in the role and the individual in question is less qualified than they are. If you recruit someone you worked with and they don’t work out, you can be sure there will be some sniping from the team about it whether openly or behind closed doors. I have also seen situations where managers leave and migrate whole teams across to their new business. Fine, but what happens if the manager then leaves after 6 months? This is something which could leave the business vulnerable to a whole team quickly following suit.
In my 10+ years as a headhunter I have managed several campaigns where the client has recommended names of former colleagues for our search process. More often than not it transpired that they did not go on to secure the role over headhunt shortlist candidates we proposed. By engaging a headhunter on your search you will gain access to the whole talent pool, not just people you already know, maximising the chance of bringing in new ideas and skills which will generate significant ROI.
So, my advice is, before you utter the words "I only recruit people I have worked with previously’ or ‘I will bring someone in who I know from the market" weigh up the pro's and con's.