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Head-Hunter concerns

#1 Head-Hunter concerns
30/05/2007 08:07

moral dilemma

Worryingly early in the day to attack the forum (I usually wait until my mid morning coffee!) but I would be very curious to hear the opinions of those in the strategy consulting sector on this matter. Feel free to reply if you are a recruiter of course but I want to know the industry's perspective on this - what would you want me to do if you were my client?...

I learned by coincidence that I candidate I know reasonably well looks set to be offered a job by a very good client of mine. He is a bright guy and will doubtless have sailed through the interview process.

I am very worried that my client may be making a terrible mistake. He has a bad reputation amongst some of the client base the client serves, I know that he has left something of a trail of destruction behind him from his most recent assignments. I know that the version of events on his CV from his last assignments is the greatest work of fiction since Oliver Twist. I do not want to be too specific as I may end up revealing who he is. Let's just say that he is a disaster waiting to happen, something I am aware of via a number of different reliable sources. I had the opportunity to make a good fee by placing this guy (with the latest interest rate hike, it is always tempting to take the money and run...) but I just could not bring myself to claim a fee for recommending someone I would not recommend if you follow.

I also know that the client knows what he is doing. He is a brilliant individual and virtually always gets these things right, which is why I am surpised that this has happened - perhaps I was wrong all along? Usually, I would make it pretty clear to the client and present the evidence. This is always difficult as your motives are often questioned in these situations, the impression being that you are just annoyed that you have potentially lost an opportunity. In this instance, it is going to look particularly bad as I suspect that he has found his way in via a "spray and pray" recruiter, who has got lucky with a pot shot. If I object, I am just going to appear jealous and as trying to dismiss some of my competition. The reality is, however, that I ruled him out due to bad industry references and would not represent him because I know too much about him. Now it looks like someone else with fewer scruples or less market knowledge could make a fee by placing him with my client. This is the issue we face, you actually lose money by doing the job properly sometimes.

My options as I see them are these:

A - do nothing. if they wanted my help with this particular hire, they should have asked for it or outsourced their entire recruitment process. They know where I am and what I know, they did not consult me, it is their look out. Also if he joins and inevitably messes things up, the other recruiter is going to get it in the neck for not referencing him properly.

B - bring it up informally in a conversation in some way.... "did you hear about this guy!!!... what a legend he has become..." type of thing

C - explain honestly the situation and present the evidence against this individual, trying desperately not to sound like a bitter recruiter who has lost out on a fee

Basically I read this forum enough to know that, while I have a great relationship with my strategy consulting clients, we are very much looked down on as head-hunters. In my experience they get very uncomfortable when you question their judgement, such is the sense of superiority they have (which by the way is part of the secret to their success and something I admire). They are so used to handing out advice, I find, that they are less comfortable than my other clients when it comes to taking advice. With my end user clients, I would just pick up the phone and tell them not to hire the w@nk@r!". In this instance, I am kind of damned if I do and damned if I don't if you follow. The likelihood is that he will demand obscene amounts of money and mess it up for himself anyway. I would struggle with my conscience if I said nothing but I am not certain that raising the warning flag is the right thing to do either.

So, industry of strategy consultants......

2 questions:

A) what would you do in my situation

B) what would you want me to do if you were my client.

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#2 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
30/05/2007 08:40

Mond your own to moral dilemma (#1)

I don't think it would benefit you personally to mention anything.

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#3 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
30/05/2007 09:39

A Mars A Day... to moral dilemma (#1)

Moral Dilemma, I am a headhunter in the same space as yourself, so hope you won't mind taking another HH point of view...

Simply leave it; I know your dilemma, and have been there myself, but you cannot get involved in this. If the client has made a mistake they will discover this soon enough, and most strat firms are wealthy enough to subsume the odd hiring error, but you run a real risk of damaging your reputation and relationship with your client if they either ignore your concerns, feel aggrieved that you are questioning their judgement, or - even worse - they note your concerns and the guy then turns out fantastic in the role (in which case goodnight credibility).

If they are a close client you will be on hand to help them correct the hiring mistake, but they need to discover this themselves.

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#4 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
30/05/2007 09:46

The Senior Vice President to moral dilemma (#1)

My advice: Keep it zipped. You will do yourself no favours by intervening. You really don't want to get dragged into this situation, it's a lose-lose scenario. Answer yourself this: what have you got to gain from intervening? I suspect the answer is "nothing but a potential bucket of grief".

Being honest - do you have a personal grudge against this guy? One the one hand you're saying "he is a bright guy and will doubtless have sailed through the interview process" but you're also saying that he is a "disaster waiting to happen" etc. Now, the two aren't mutually exclusive, I agree - but I'm having real difficulty trying to imagine what such a character would actually be like in person. Bright people don't usually much things up THAT badly....

Live and let live. Think of this one as 'the jerk that got away'.

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#5 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
30/05/2007 10:24

Moral Dilemma to The Senior Vice President (#4)

Thank you very much for the feedback. I do appreciate it. I take the point SVP makes. Actually I quite like the guy on a personal level but am sitting on 2 emails from high profile clients which would have to be seen to be believed. I also know he has lied a lot (everyone does a little) on his CV.

On balance, I am sure you guys are right. With consulting there is always the chance that he will have to work so many hours he will not have time to cause trouble.

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#6 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
31/05/2007 17:49

Kim to Moral Dilemma (#5)

I too am a head-hunter and really sympathise with your situation.

I've been in a very similar situation and decided to keep quiet.

Mars a day summarises everything really well...

...If the client has made a mistake they will discover this soon enough and are likely to be able to recover. However you do run a real risk of damaging your relationship with your client if they either ignore your concerns. Clients don't like being told what to do, and hate their judgement being questioned. Also if you turn out to be right their egos may get damaged.

Also what if you are wrong...thats goodbye to any credibility you have won from previous successes.

As selfish as this sounds ...look after yourself and leave others to follow their own minds. You have no reason to get involved and a fair bit to lose if you do.


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#7 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
12/06/2007 14:39

Junior Vice President to Kim (#6)

I noted this thread with interest as I was trying to understand some of the hiring trends in the sector. As a potential client to some of those who post as recruiters, it worries me that there is a fear of making honest recommendations. Have we become so aloof as an industry that we refuse to listen to those who want to help us? The advice given to Moral Dilemma is probably right but it is a sad day when a seemingly capable service provider has to work in such a straight jacketed way. We must surely encourage those we work with to air their views and provide evidence to support any concerns they have - otherwise surely it is us as strategy consultants who are damaging our credibility

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#8 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 10:11

Mars A Day to Junior Vice President (#7)

JVP your comments will certainly strike a chord with recruiters of whichever persuasion; different hiring organisations take brutal honesty and advice in different ways, so I think the case highlighted by moral dilemma was unusual, hence the post to get some advice.

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#9 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 14:12

Junior Vice President to Mars A Day (#8)

.... Come on Mars a Day. I am a recruiter. I was only taking the p!ss. As if a strategy consultant would write that!!!

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#10 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 14:39

Mars A Day to Junior Vice President (#9)

Well I have had conversations with strat clients where they have bemoaned the apparent lack of raw feedback from recruiters. But you have caught me at a distracted moment so I guess you're the man JVP!

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#11 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 15:53

Junior Vice President to Mars A Day (#10)

Thought the pseudonym would give it away. Glad you took it that way. I was just having a laugh!!

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#12 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 16:10

Mars A Day to Junior Vice President (#11)

It was a good one JVP! Had a laugh and kicked myself (by the way, some of the banks actually use the title JVP).

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#13 RE: Head-Hunter concerns
13/06/2007 16:28

Theme Tune to Mars A Day (#12)

# A mars a day helps you work, rest and play!

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