Mr. Rizzo

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

How HR and Paid Search Recruiters Work as a Team

By Dennis Rizzo, President & CEO, Bentley Price Associates, Inc.

The responsibilities of Human Resources are ever-expanding. Rarely does the staffing match the workload, and managers find themselves under constant pressure to meet the demands of their vital role in the organization. No other part of the job is as time-consuming or impactful as the search for - and recruiting of - top managers. As the hospitality industry continues to grow, the pool of available key managers gets smaller, and competition gets fierce. Making things even more difficult is knowing that the best candidates may not even be looking.

Hidden Assets

On the surface, you might think that there is unprecedented transparency in the hospitality industry - that everyone knows who's hiring and every organization knows who's available. Nothing could be farther from the truth. While employers can access and search billions of data points, and job seekers can do likewise, when you are operating at the highest levels, old-school networks and relationships are going to connect the right people, most of the time.

It's easy to find job seekers in the hunt. Finding the talent that isn't necessarily looking is an entirely different matte. In reality, most top-level managers and executives are always looking to move their careers forward, and that's an opportunity for your organization. But how do you find these hidden assets? Relatively speaking, the universe of top management talent - currently looking to make a move, or susceptible to a better offer - is small. And those people are difficult to reach and require a delicate touch to develop an interest in a new situation.

Poaching talent isn't anything new, and in polite company, we don't admit that it is a common practice. But it has always been said, "You can't hire away a happy employee." You just have to find the candidate that is perfect for you, and ready to move on from their current position. Enter the professional recruiter.

Degrees of Separation

There are huge advantages to the buffers that exist when using a search and recruitment specialist. Not the least of which is the ability to pre-qualify candidates without exposing your internal needs. Even a rumor of a search can destabilize your current situation.

The cornerstone of a professional search specialist is confidentiality. In this tightly-connected business, keeping confidences is everything. Over my 40 years in the hospitality industry, I have been able to find C-level executives, create interest in a new position, facilitate difficult negotiations, and close the deal without a single leak. The ability to shield my employer client from unwanted publicity during a high-visibility search is a major benefit - especially when things go south in a negotiation.

Working the Network

HR talks to hundreds of people weekly but remains in a bubble. With all the things on your plate, it's difficult to stay connected to a wide range of sources. For the average position, you can use traditional mainstream job boards, classified listings, and internal notices. Finding a C-level executive, department manager, or someone with specialized skills, requires an entirely different approach.

A typical high-level recruiter will work across as many as 300 contacts for each search; this includes not just ready-to-make-a-move candidates, but "unlisted" potential candidates that may not have a change in mind - until the right offer comes along. The successful placement of a key person will take a lot of time and effort. I recently completed a search for a C-level executive at a major luxury hotel group. From start to finish, it took nine months of almost daily contact. But in the end, everyone was happy with the final deal. It's probably no surprise that the deal fell apart three times before it was successfully completed.

  • Allow for the Unexpected - When your search specialist is getting the job done, you will not see a deluge of resumes. You are not going to be interested in seeing anything but spot-on matches for your requirements. But from time to time, a particular candidate may offer a unique benefit that you had not considered. Finding unexpected choices is part of the process.Sometimes the best person for the job is the least expected - but a star player for the position you have to fill.

  • Points of Negotiation - Making the offer and closing the deal for both employer and candidate can be an arduous journey. Importantly, it's not always about the money. I have dealt with organizations who are incredulous when a candidate refuses an offer. But an in-demand executive is often looking for much more than base salary. Recently, after three months of negotiation, a CEO candidate killed the deal because his middle school child could not bear leaving her friends to move across the nation. I was able to resolve the impasse by suggesting that the hotel group add a simple travel allowance so the candidate could go home on weekends until the school year ended.

A search professional can be a bridge over which a candidate can express concerns in advance and give you an opportunity to resolve those sticking points long before you get down to the endgame. When you are dealing with top candidates for a top position negotiations can be delicate. Employing a search professional as an intermediary can pay huge dividends.

What Does a Bad Hire Cost?

In the C-Suite, a bad hire can send rumbles across an organization - disrupting the executive team, creating confusion, and even affecting profitability. There is no shortage of lessons to be learned from recent failures in the front office. The primary reason for keeping a search in-house is cost. With procurement becoming a major influencer in getting outside help, many HR professionals just want to avoid the entire discussion of outsourcing. Some HR professionals are concerned that their own bosses might question why an outside firm is being hired. But when the stakes are high, focusing on the value of working with a search firm, and filling a critical position quickly, makes perfect sense.

Communicating Your Needs

If we agree that putting a search firm on your team makes sense, then let's discuss what makes for a successful relationship. First and foremost is trust. The leading search firms bank on their extensive insider network to find executives and bring them into the negotiating process. Reaching out to a key executive demands that there be trust in the recruiter to keep all matters confidential and ensure that each negotiating item is accurately relayed. Both the employer and the candidate must be confident that every part of the process is treated confidentially.

Earlier I acknowledged that today's HR departments are typically overwhelmed. To make the best use of your outside recruiter, make sure all of your needs are outlined and understood. Your search firm should fully understand your organization's culture, operations and any key benefits of taking the position. Particularly with C-level executives, there is often a sharp focus on corporate structure, participation in profits through incentives and equity. While the advantage should be with the employer, attracting and signing a high-level executive often changes the balance of a negotiation. The professional recruiter can act as a buffer in what can be tense bargaining.

How to Hire a Headhunter

We live in an age of extreme specialization, even among headhunters. Search firms and recruiters usually have very specific skills in limited area. That's a good thing. For those of us in the hospitality industry, knowing the lay of the land and having an ear to the ground is critical to finding the very best talent at any level. But when it comes to searching for key executives, nothing takes the place of a deep network and strong relationships.

Search and recruitment firms work with employers in one of two ways:

  • Retained Searches - A retained search firm usually provides its services for a specific period of time and the firm gets paid regardless if a candidate is hired. Well-connected retained executive search firms often have longstanding relationships with top talent (the boldfaced names in the industry trades) that rely on the leading recruiters to know they are open to reviewing offers. You will rarely see a C-level candidate on a job board.

  • Contingency Searches - A recruiter gets paid only when they find the right candidate, and that person is hired. The pay-off for the search firm is based on a percentage (typically 20-30 percent) of the hired employee's first-year total cash compensation. Of course, deals vary, but this is the standard in the hospitality industry.

The small handful of professional search firms is defined by longevity and results because they go hand-in-hand. Executive search and recruitment firms survive and thrive based entirely on the goodwill of both employers and candidates.Employers have placed their trust in the search firm, and candidates trust that they will be accurately represented. Balancing the needs of each party and bringing the two together requires great skill and finesse.

In the end, every great job you ever have will come through someone you know and someone who knows you. In the high stakes world of C-level management, that someone is often a recruiter- a valued asset to all concerned.

Dennis P. Rizzo is President and CEO of Bentley Price Associates, Inc. a hospitality-focused executive search firm acknowledged to be a leader in its field. Over four decades, Mr. Rizzo has built his business around an extensive network of international clients and solid relationships at the highest levels, successfully filling thousands of positions, including a large contingent of boldface-name executives. He began his professional career at an early age. After a tour of duty in Vietnam, the former United States Marine received his BA and took his first job at a major Miami hotel, where his talent was quickly recognized. In a very short time, Mr. Rizzo became the youngest person to hold the position of General Manager with the Hyatt Corporation, where he developed his strong administration and operations background. Mr. Rizzo can be contacted at 805-686-1234 or drizzo@bentleyprice.com Extended Bio...

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