July 17, 2018

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When to Trust Your Gut

You'd think that after 25 years, a recruiter would be well served by following his instincts.

But increasingly, I've found that intuition can be an unreliable predictor, and that conventional wisdom carries no guarantee.

For example, I was recently approached by a company to fill a high level position. As it turns out, the search had so many needles to thread, only a tailor would find it appealing.

For starters, the salary was low. The location was awkward. And the position was for a confidential replacement, which meant I had to tippy-toe around the market, careful to avoid contact with any company or candidate who might alert the incumbent. And to make the search even trickier, the position reported to a corporate placeholder, so anyone interviewing for the job wouldn't know who his or her boss would be, assuming they even took the job.

Sizing up the situation, my gut screamed at me to run, run, run away, and fast.

And yet, I accepted the assignment. Despite my misgivings, I didn't absolutely KNOW for certain I couldn't fill the job. So, I threw myself into the search.

Collision or Collusion?

I spent a lot of time and energy the first couple of weeks with my old pals LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Google and Zoom. Still fuming over my apparent lack of judgment, my gut colluded with my brain to second-guess my decision.

As the search bogged down and I became desperate to find talent, I actually started cycling through the various stages of grief, such as denial ("I didn't REALLY agree to this, did I?") and bargaining ("If I live through this, I'll NEVER try to find a confidential replacement again!").

Finally, I found my first candidate. He was technically qualified, but was already earning close to what the company was willing to pay. My head told me to disqualify him, but my gut had a different interpretation. So I set up an interview with the company and crossed my fingers.

As it turns out, they liked the candidate. So much, in fact, that they offered him -- and he accepted -- a higher level position than the one he interviewed for. So, score it one for the brain and one for the gut.

Will I ever accept a convoluted search again, in which my gut says no, but my head says go? Probably. Or will a good gut feeling override objective reasoning and result in a train wreck? You can pretty much count on it.

Experience is a great teacher, but it can also limit our choices and ultimately, our performance. That's why rookies with no preconceptions can sometimes pull rabbits out of a hat the veterans have long since concluded was empty. And why reason and emotion have a funny way of complementing each other, even as they fight for bragging rights.

- Bill Radin

Bill Radin is one of the most popular and highly regarded trainers in the recruiting industry, and has trained many of the largest independent and franchised recruiting organizations, including Management Recruiters, Dunhill, Sanford Rose, Snelling and Fortune Personnel. His speaking engagements include the NAPS national conference, the annual Kennedy Conference, and dozens of state association meetings and network conventions, including Top Echelon and The Radin Report is published monthly.