June 1, 2010

Q&A with Bridgepoint Consulting’s executive recruiting team

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Bridgepoint Consulting provides permanent placement recruiting services for employers seeking finance, accounting, internal audit and information technology professionals. In an effort to better serve the needs of our clients, we have recently enhanced our recruiting capabilities by adding Spencer Epley, a former Big 4 auditor and CPA who recently spent four years with a national Executive Search firm; and by our affiliation with Jay Lucas, a fifteen year executive search veteran and President of True North, a San Antonio based executive search firm.

Recently we caught up with Spencer and Jay to get their take on what’s going on with the executive search business:

Q: The executive search business has gone through a dramatic shift the last 2 years, from the frothy market in 2007 & 2008; to tentative hiring and decision making through this recession. What’s going on today with the executive search market?

Jay: In 2009 most major employers were on a hiring freeze while also reducing headcount to improve the bottom line. Many employers were unwilling to make hiring decisions due to the uncertainty around exactly when we’d hit bottom. Given the rebound in the market and improving Q1 profits we are noticing dramatic improvements in the volume of hiring, as well as the urgency to fill positions. We expect to see a gradual upward trend in hiring throughout the remainder of the year. While fiscal responsibility is still the name of the game, we are seeing an increase in the volume of retained and contingent fee searches.

Spencer: Companies have been augmenting their capacity by bringing on temporary and part time workers for a couple of quarters now. Hiring for key permanent positions has only recently increased.

Q: What’s driving this increased activity? Is the economy really improving this much? We still see a lot of under-employed people in the market?

Jay: The ‘skeletons’ are out of the closet and there is a general sense that we’ve hit the bottom. With improved bottom line due to better fiscal management and dramatic improvements in the stock market, employers and investors are freeing up more capital to shore up their staff and begin driving revenue.The economy will continue to improve, but we are nowhere near nor do I anticipate a return to 2008 hiring volumes. For the under & un-employed, I would encourage them to contact us.

Spencer: I attribute the uptick in the market to the self fulfilling prophecy of the markets. With the stock market having rebounded significantly from its low-point of March 2009, investor confidence is in an upswing, venture capital firms are again facilitating the growth of emerging companies, and larger corporations are opening up their budgets for hiring. People have plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

Q: Lots of people are still looking for jobs. Why does anyone need to hire a recruiter when they can place an ad on Craigslist and get hundreds of responses?

Jay: If you are a job seeker, a recruiter will do a far better job getting your into the appropriate hands for review. Given the high volume of job seekers, it is hard to differentiate yourself from the other applicants. We can definitely help!
As for the employer, there are many reasons to engage a recruiter. Recruiters have specific networks that gain them access to passive job seekers and candidates that won’t likely respond to a job posting. Having access to these resources will afford the employer to hire the very best candidate, not just fill an open position. Additionally, we can more effectively screen for ‘fit’, which is the right blend of culture & competence. If finding the very best talent is the company’s goal, then there is no reason not to hire a recruiter on a contingent fee basis, because there is no fee if we don’t make the placement.

One thing that’s happened the last 2 years is that companies have spent little or no time or money on employee retention. A really high performer may feel the only way to get a raise or a bonus is to change employers. So, in this labor market, the value of a recruiter is the ability to find the absolute best candidate, even if the candidate is gainfully employed and is only a passive job seeker.

Spencer: While companies are excited to hire new people after a long, rough period in the market, they are in general being more selective with the resources they add than in the past. Hence, more and more companies are looking for the closest thing to a “perfect hire” when they bring someone on-board. The more specific the search, the more time, resources, and effort that are needed, and many companies simply do not have the internal capacity to effectively recruit the talent level they are targeting. At the same time, hiring managers are under pressure to get the new resources in place quickly due to the upswing in business. An established Executive Recruiter can add tremendous value by producing the top candidates in the market in a short period of time, and also by creating a smooth and user-friendly process.

Q: What makes the Bridgepoint/TrueNorth recruiting process more effective compared to a hiring manager working this lead on their own?

Jay: When you have worked on more than 1,000 job searches for companies of all types and sizes we have developed a library of contacts and knowledge that better afford us to screen and process candidates quickly, so that the employer can focus on their core business. Simply, we can expedite the process and provide access to more and better qualified candidates.

Spencer: We’ll be completely focused on the search. Also, 100% of our time is focused on networking with Accounting/Finance professionals, as opposed to a hiring manager who still has a ‘regular’ job to do and tries to do the recruiting on the side. Ultimately, we will expedite the process and meet the timeline for a great new hire. The fact that I have previously worked in an Accounting role also helps when working with clients and candidates.

Q: How does the broad array of tools on the web for recruiting / placement firms effect the need for executive search firms?

Jay: There are many tools available to recruiters, including, job boards, social networks, applicant tracking systems, data mining applications, and others. Because executive search recruiters master the use of these tools we can more effectively access, manipulate, and manage the data, which allows us to continually expand our network and respond to client needs in an expeditious manner.

Spencer: We manage this information and our own database on a day-to-day basis. We don’t start by sifting through mounds on unknown data – we start with targeting criteria that meet the need of our clients.

Q: Executive Search fees seem expensive. Why should a company be willing to pay this in today’s market?

Jay: If a company is engaging a recruiter on a contingent fee basis, there is no reason not to hire a recruiter. Making a poor hiring decision is costly. I have heard HR professionals quote the cost of turnover and loss of intellectual capital as more than 1x the annual salary.

Spencer: I’ve always told my clients, “The recruiting fee for a good permanent placement will pay for itself within the first 7-8 months.” Not only will our Executive Search services save you time, resources, and effort during the hiring process, but by hiring the best possible candidate in the market, your company just upgraded it’s resources. You hear this all the time, but Most companies’ most important assets are their people. Making a bad hire can set back a department or even a company for years to come. It’s too risky not to have a professional with expertise in the field helping to facilitate the process.

Q: Any advice you’d like to give candidates who are still looking for a job?

Jay: When it comes to recruiters, make sure they are experienced and heavily connected in your field and/or area of geographic preference. Like anything, do your due diligence, because this is your career you are putting in someone else’s hands. Set some ground rules when working with multiple recruiters. Foremost among ground rules are, don’t allow any recruiter to submit your resume to an employer without first telling about the job, the employer, and the hiring contact. For other tips on conducting an effective jobs search, contact us.

Spencer: First, call us! We love being introduced to people we don’t know in the marketplace, whether we can help you now or sometime down the road. If you have the skills and qualifications that meet our clients’ expectations, we can help you find a new job!

About Bridgepoint Consulting

Bridgepoint Consulting, an Addison Group company,  is a leading management consulting firm that offers a full suite of services and solutions to help companies navigate the complexities of growth and change. We work with the C-Suite—with a focus on finance, risk, and technology leaders—to provide strategic resources and support critical business transitions. Learn more about our services here.

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