Monday, June 06, 2005

A Trusted Advisor

One thing I'm learning quickly about blogs is that you have to be specific. When you don't it can be easily interpreted in ways that you did not intend it to, hence the reason for this post.

In my post, “Stick a Headhunter in a Two-Thousand Person Call Center," I mention that the best recruiters are consultants. The Canadian Headhunter with Recruiting.com was not overly impressed with this statement. In fact, he down right disagreed with it. I quote:

I wish I was a business consultant but I'm not. I'm not bad at finding people. That's all. And no one pays me 40G's for my services either.

I'm going to post about an interview I had with an executive recruiter who wanted me to do some research for him/her. S/he blabbed so much about how s/he did business consulting. I spent an hour with her and didn't understand a thing she said. And, you know what? If the client needed a business consultant why did she hire me? Personally, I think it's a scam.


I actually really appreciate his candor and his opinion on this matter. If I had read that myself without any further context I probably would have had a similar reaction. I think people throw around the term consultant very loosely. It's as if you call yourself a consultant and you're some corporate superhero. The fact is Mike is right. We should just call ourselves what we are. Michael, the Canadian Headhunter, is a headhunter so he says he finds people. I respect that. So let me explain what I meant by saying that a good recruiter is a consultant.

The head of our People Services team (includes training, HR, internal comm and recruiting) came over from Nike. She headed Nike's Global Organizational Development team. She was very particular on how each and every person on the team interacted with our clients. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. She handed us books like the “Trusted Advisor” and brought in experts in the field to evaluate our current processes and methodology. The tipping point for me was when I saw her quickly gain credibility with our agency leaders. Soon after she was invited to sit on our company's executive advisory board. HR and Recruiting now had a seat within the highest office at our agency. I realized that she was much more than fluff.

So what did I learn from her. When I talk about being a consultant I'm merely referring to the type of relationships we build with our clients, whether they are internal or external. It's a partner versus an order taker. I use the term consultant and trusted advisor interchangably. I believe they are one in the same. A consultant is essentially a trusted advisor. When start out in our careers we tend to do exactly what our clients ask….

Manager: I have five important roles that I need opened and filled immediately

Recruiter: Okay, let me help you get those posted and I'll get started right away.

Manager: I know this doesn't fit within our typical comp structure but we need to make this happen.

Recruiter: Okay, I'll talk to our comp analyst and see if I can make this work.

Manager: I can't believe he asked for more money; that just really turns me off. I want to see other candidates.

Recruiter: Okay, let me see who else I have in the pipeline.


These are exaggerated examples but you get the point. The relationship between the manager and the recruiter above is one of customer and order taker. In my opinion the best recruiters work as trusted advisors, not order takers. When you do this effectively your clients want your opinion before just coming to you and demanding that you help them with something. This is what I would consider a “consultant” or “trusted advisor” approach:

Manager: I have five important roles that I need opened and filled immediately-these are critical. Who do you have in the pipeline?

Recruiter: When we reviewed your business plan you showed two hires for the first quarter. We just hired the account executive and I'm currently working on your Director. I'm assuming these are additions to your original plan. Is this due to increased business?

Manager: Yes and No. We have two people going on sabbatical, we just got another 25K retainer and I have one person on a performance plan that I don't think is going to make it.

Recruiter: When do the sabbatical's begin?

Manager: One leaves next week so I need to hire someone right away. The other doesn't leave until the 20th but I want to get a head start.

Recruiter: Since these two are sabbaticals have you considered using a contractor?

Manager: I have, but I figured since I have some upcoming long-term hiring needs that I could kill two birds with one stone.

Recruiter: Since these two are urgent I would suggest contractors. This way we have some time to find the right people versus just finding a short-term fix. I have a few Waggener Edstrom alumni that are interested in contract work. They left on good terms and I can have them up and running in no time.

Manager: I like that idea. Let me run that by my team and get back to you.

Recruiter: Great. With regard to you 25K revenue increase I'll work with you to get some job reqs posted and routed to finance for approval. In the meantime I will take a look at the pipeline and get back to you right away with a plan to get these filled. I'm going to touch base with Jane (our HR Business Partner) to bring her into the loop on the person on the performance plan. I just want to be sure we think through all implications before binging in external candidates on this one. However, when I bring candidates in to interview for your other roles you can keep in mind that you might need to hire one more.

Manager: Sounds good. Thanks for your help.

This, in essence, is what I mean by consultant. I don't think being a trusted advisor or consultant is some obscure term for a person that sits around and analyzes the business without getting a thing done. I look at a consultant as a person that stops and thinks before reacting, pushes back on our clients when necessary and offers solutions to the problem versus just doing what they are asked. I know this isn't rocket science and most of us do this naturally. I'm surprised, however, by the amount of times I see people jump at a request without stopping and questioning why they are being asked to do it. You owe it to yourself, the client, and the business to think through the problem. You are in fact the expert and your opinion should matter.

So when I throw around terms like consultant loosely I'll stop and think next time. I can't say that I have always acted as a trusted advisor. When I started in recruiting I just wanted to please everybody. I tried to do whatever was asked of me. I was pretty good at getting the work done but not nearly as effective at doing what was best for the business. I still standby my statement:

To me, a good recruiter isn't a headhunter or a “corporate recruiter.” They are professionals who understand the business problem and develop a solution to solve it. The best recruiters, whether on the agency side or corporate side, have this ability. They are business consultants.

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Peteso said...

Hiya Steve Fogarty,
Didnt know searching on the net for call center consultant would bring me here. But hey... reading your post "A Trusted Advisor" was entertaining.
While it may not be exactly related to call center consultant, it was nevertheless a pleasure to have visited your blog. That's the beauty of the internet.. u just dont know what you will find at the next corner.
Steve Fogarty, its been great to visit your blog...do keep blogging and continue to make the web a more interesting place..cheers mate

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