June 19, 2018

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Who's Got Your Back?

Recruiting is inherently a risky enterprise. That’s because we rely on others over whom we have little control. Sure, we can help “guide” or “persuade” candidates and hiring managers at various stages of the placement process in the hope that we can positively influence their behavior. But at the end of the day, most key decisions are out of our hands.

To minimize risk and maximize efficiency, I’ve found it useful to have a backup plan whenever possible. That way, if something goes wrong or the unexpected happens, I can recover quickly and move forward.

However, a backup plan doesn’t necessarily need to be improvised at the moment of crisis. You can build safeguards into your system that work like a backup plan, but without the drama.

For example, let’s suppose you’re working on a new assignment and you find a qualified candidate. Your first inclination would be to schedule an interview as soon as possible.

Statistically, the odds of that person being hired are, at best, 50 percent. More than likely, you’ll be asked to find a second or third or fourth candidate for comparison. If that’s the case, you’re forced into a backup plan. Which means continuing the search and scheduling more interviews until the position is filled.

Driving Up Your Odds

But if you know at the outset that you’ll need more than one candidate to cover your search, why not wait until you have at least one more person who can interview on the same day as the first? That way, you’ll offer the employer more than a single choice, and—unless there’s extreme time pressure—drive up your odds of success.

Here are a few more backup strategies:

1. Schedule sendouts in advance. Whenever possible, ask the employer to pencil in two or three interview times a week or so after you accept the assignment. That way, you won’t need to scramble later when the manager’s calendar is already filled. With a deadline looming, you’ll be more than motivated to find the people you need.

2. Look for double-duty candidates. Prioritize searches that call for candidates who may qualify for more than one position or company. So, if one hiring manager passes on a particular candidate, you’ll have other hiring managers eager to interview your talent.

3. Keep your candidates warm. It’s not uncommon for a hiring manager to rule someone out after a quick glance at their resume or immediately following the first interview. I’ve learned that it’s always a good idea to ask, “Can we at least consider the person as a backup before I make a ‘rejection” call?” If the answer is yes, you’ve bought yourself some time, hedged your bets and avoided the embarrassment of extending an olive branch to a candidate after having it ripped from their hands.

Finally, consider the fact that we’ve enjoyed several successive years of job growth. If history is any guide, our comfortable cycle of prosperity will come to an end. When and how is anyone’s guess; but economies rise and fall. It’s just a part of life.

As someone who thought the good times would never end (as they did in 2000 and 2008) and suffered the consequences, I offer this advice: Start thinking about a backup plan now. Look carefully at your spending, debt, savings and so forth. And look for other markets, industries and candidate populations that might offer an alternative to your current focus.

After recovering from each recession in the past, I assumed my rebuilt fortunes were evidence of a new normal. I won’t make that mistake again. To the contrary, I’ve reached the conclusion that I’m only as good as my worst year. And I’ve adjusted my lifestyle accordingly.

So, enjoy the good times—I hope they last forever. But remember to watch your back.

Bill Radin