By Sharon L. Florentine (The Ladders.com)
Name: Kathleen Steffey
Company: Naviga Business Services, Tampa, Florida
Years as a Recruiter: 15
“It used to be an employers’ choice out there,” said recruiter Kathleen Steffey. “Clients had the upper hand and could take their time making sure they found perfect candidates, whether that meant keeping candidates ‘on hold’ for weeks or asking them to return for more and more interviews.”
That’s no longer the case. Candidates are finding they don’t have to tolerate employers’ “bad behavior” and often have a few opportunities from which to choose, said Steffey, president of Naviga Business Services, a Tampa, Fla., executive-search firm that specializes in recruiting nationally for sales and marketing professionals. Some employers find it a hard pill to swallow.
It leaves executive recruiters in the unenviable position of pressuring clients to take their advice, which could alienate them from customers, or risk losing the candidate and the commission altogether.
“If a client’s not pulling the trigger on delivering an offer, or they’re keeping a candidate on hold for too long, that person is now able to jet out of there and find something else — they’re not as starved for opportunities as they once were,” she said. “And that’s a trend we find ourselves coaching our clients on.”
Doing so, of course, requires finesse and the ability to walk the fine line between being consultative and being pushy. Steffey instructs Naviga’s recruiters to err on the side of “consultative” and simply present clients with as much information as possible, allowing them to draw their own conclusions.
“First, I really stress that my recruiters find out from the candidate the exact level of interest in that particular company and position; to ask thorough questions to gauge what they’ll do if they get another offer,” she said. This vetting process helps Naviga recruiters find out if candidates would be willing to give a company a few extra days if it could mean getting an offer, “and that helps us — and helps our clients — to understand where their interest lies and where best to expend energy.”
“If we’re in the process of presenting candidates, the client may express particular interest in one person,” she said. “Over the past year or so, they’ve been able to say, ‘We need to interview a number of other people as well,’ and that’s not necessarily the best approach today.
“We make sure they know if the candidate has a number of other interviews scheduled and that they could very well accept an offer from another company.”
By presenting as much information as possible not just about the candidate but about that person’s prospects and other competing offers, Steffey said clients quickly understand that the market has changed and that “if they don’t make their move, they might end up missing out on a great hire.”