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Test your knowledge of executive search.

The start of a new year traditionally sees companies across Canada gear up their recruiting activities. With free trade and economic uncertainty, hiring the right person will be more important this year than ever.

Playing a key role in helping employers locate top talent is the executive search industry, but many business people are still unsure of its true benefits (and costs). Executive recruiter Michael Stern of Michael Stern Associates Inc. in Toronto has produced a quiz to test your knowledge of the business - and how you'd fare if a recruiter calls you tomorrow.

1. Executive recruiters take pride in their nickname "headhunters". True or False?

A: Most recruiters would probably prefer to be compared to the Mounties, since they always get their man (or woman). But there's no problem if you say it with a smile.

2. Why do companies hire search firms? Don't they know their own needs best?

A: Many firms are recognizing that searching for top executive talent is too important, difficult or time-consuming to be left to non-professionals. They know their own needs, but they may not know the job market, or how to screen out unqualified candidates. Or they may be reluctant to call employees at the competition. Executive recruiters can tackle projects full-time. They know how to track down candidates and weed out unqualified applicants. They offer a layer of confidentiality to firms that don't want competitors to learn what positions they have open. And professional firms never recruit from client companies.

3. Isn't search expensive?

A: There is no cost at all to the candidate, because the hiring company pays the fee. To the employer, it's an investment. Successful candidates may be handling assets or making decisions worth millions of dollars, so employers don't mind paying a little more to ensure they hire the best. Just think how much it costs to hire the wrong person, in management time, training, ironing out problems, or termination costs.

4. Recruiters feel out potential candidates by calling them and asking if they know of anyone in their field who would be interested in this new position. True or False?

A: Some do it that way. But as respect for their profession grows, recruiters rarely need such subterfuge. There's nothing wrong with a search firm asking about a candidate's interest in a job, and there's nothing wrong with agreeing to talk about it.

5. But aren't I being disloyal to my company if I meet with a recruiter?

A: Top-notch executives are always open to new ideas. Often they agree to talk - even if they are reasonably happy at work because they are curious about what opportunities are out there, or how much their services are valued by someone else. If you're dealing with a professional firm, there's no risk - the recruiter even pays for lunch.

6. What if someone sees me meeting with a recruiter? If word gets back to my office, I'm in trouble.

A: Search consultants take great pains to protect the identities of clients and candidates. While you can visit recruiters in their offices, they also know the most discreet places in town for breakfast, lunch or drinks. If you're still wary, a recruiter will meet you anywhere you'd like. Interviews have taken place in hotel suites, airport lounges between flights, even saunas - whatever sets candidates' minds at ease.

7. What sort of positions are filled through executive search? What salary ranges are involved?

A: Recruiters fill all sorts of positions, from company presidents to hospital administrators, from chemical engineers to forensic accountants. The jobs are usually middle to senior management, with cash compensation ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 or more. Due to the effort that goes into a search, recruiters are rarely hired to fill positions paying less than $50,000.

8. How many interviews are involved in a search? How long does the process take?

A: A search firm will conduct one or more in-depth interviews with a candidate before deciding whether to recommend him or her to the client. A short list of candidates usually takes four to six weeks to compile. Once the candidates are presented for interviews, timing is up to the hiring company. Some decide the same day, most don't.

9. Search firms get paid only after they'v found an acceptable candidate. True or false?

A: That used to be true. Most professional recruiters do not bill this way, however, because it opens up a conflict of interest. When a fee is contingent on a candidate being hired, it's in the recruiter's interest that the client select one of its candidates, qualified or not. Professional recruiters are paid to see that the best candidates are located and presented to the client, and to help the client make the best selection.

10. What if a candidate doesn't work out?

A: Because of the work that goes into a search, bad fits are extremely rare. But if a placement does go bad, a search firm will usually consider its job unfinished, and re-open the case.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Canadian Institute of Management
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stern, Michael
Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Mar 1, 1989
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