From lowest to hire! Vignettes from the trenches

Who sets the hiring pace within an organisation? The hiring manager? HR? CEO? CFO? Board? External stakeholders? Peers? All of ’em?

When one group wants a specific candidate profile, and another group has a different perspective on what is needed, trouble is ‘a brewin’… All the ‘war for talent’ chatter quickly erodes into corporate turf wars when the various stakeholders cannot easily agree on who precisely they want to hire. Logic would dictate–especially for the MNCs–that there are hiring structures in place to ensure a smooth agreement, assessment, and hire. But a structure is only a structure; a hire is fully grounded in emotion, live and highly charged.

Let me give you some examples of what I (and my erstwhile clients) grapple with:

[framed_box]Client A)
One business unit wants to hire someone with strong government relations experience. Another business unit thinks it better instead to find a strong strategic media savvy person who can raise the company’s global profile.

This is for the same Public Affairs job, and I am reminded to “find the best person”. When I ask what exactly are the priorities, mixed messages ricochet, and am told that they “want the best person”. With no consensus, we (mostly I) zigzag, and have a hard time speaking to candidates when I’m not sure how to market it. And their on-going question is whether I have found them more top talent, and why so long??..

[/framed_box] [framed_box]Client B)
I am allowed to communicate only with the global HQ for their senior regional hires. They want to control the hire from overseas, not Asia, especially for senior positions. Hence, when candidates are ultimately presented to the local offices, they are often spurned. The local offices don’t know me, nor the candidates, know how HQ works, and do not like to have candidates foisted on them. As one local office said, “They treat us as if we’re still a colony.” So the search goes on in perpetuity.

[/framed_box] [framed_box]Client C)
They want to hire someone in order to push out the incumbent, and the role has been upgraded so the new hire will have management oversight of the incumbent, who has been there 13 years. Management does not want to get their hands dirty, so are looking for a new hired gun to do it for them. In a market where most people know each other, no one wants the job, and the incumbent has a strong power base. When I query the client on their hiring rationale, I am told to “find us stronger people”. In truth, I have, but it is like the Latin saying, “Ut ameris amabilis esto”–”In order to love, deserve to be.” They can’t hire anyone until they make themselves compelling–and first clean their own house themselves.

[/framed_box] [framed_box]Client D)
After a long protracted search, a hire was made, to everyone’s satisfaction. The candidate did all phone interviews, as the client did not feel it necessary to fly her to their office, and she soon accepted the job, and moved to the new location. Upon her first orientation session, one of the hiring directors looked at her and said to another: “If I knew what she looked like I never would have hired her. She won’t last.” Why?

This company has a “hip”, “young”, “chic” culture, and she was more conservative in dress–not dowdy, just… normal looking. But the impact–and decision–was made immediately, and whilst that hiring director did not have final say, he chipped away, and she left in under a year, saying later what a bad fit it was from the start.


What’s the point of these snapshots? When making a significant hire, EVERYONE internally needs to think through the hiring strategy. Structure a role that has heft and breadth, that is easily understood and “sold” to the right group, and be clear on what are likely cultural fits. Easy, right?

The role of management is to obtain very good talent to grow and develop into outstanding talent. (My italics–it’s my definition anyhow). It is not to look for perfection. When senior management says that they are too busy and out of the office too much to spend time with a new senior hire–big red warning light, as the rest of the organisation will pivot similarly.

Everyone has their job to do in making a hire successful, and make sure the expectations are known and achievable. A job that cannot be filled is a ‘widow maker’, shoddily built, and will turn over again and again-until it disappears.

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