QUESTION: What is the best way to handle a contingency search where my contact is not the hiring manager, but the head of recruiting? Would I do the job intake with them, or should I insist on speaking with a hiring manager? So far, I am getting this about 50% of the time with my contingency searches. – Katherine  

ANSWER: I do not want to “should” all over you, Katherine, but I did not work job specs from the head of recruiting. I am not saying do not, because I know people can still make money that way. It is just not the business I wanted to build. I did it that way in my early years, and my income and personal health suffered. It is just not a fun existence. Now, I cannot say “do not do that” because I am not sure how skilled you are, and I do not mean this as an insult, on how to address it.  

The easiest way to avoid that is to target companies up to $200 and $250 million in revenue because this is less of an issue. If you are targeting $1 billion-plus corporations this just a huge headwind to overcome no matter how skilled you are. Some companies simply say that having to work with the head of recruiting is their policy. 

That is why I targeted companies between the startup phase and about $200 and $250 million in revenue. For me, my personal sweet spot was zero startup companies to $100 million in revenue. There is just so much less flack with that.  

A technique you can use when talking to the head of recruiting is to direct the conversation by saying this to them:

“I absolutely want to talk to you (because I am not going to start a fight) and get your vision for the opening. After we have that conversation, could you introduce me to whoever is doing the hiring so I can get their personal vision on it? I understand that no one can convey someone else’s personal vision unless it is explicitly written in the job spec”. 

When you talk to the head of recruiting, they are going to know some things about the company, the culture. I am not discounting any of that, but they are not going to know the hiring manager’s personal vision.  

They might say, that they are very close with so and so and what their personal vision is. If this how the conversation is going, I would then ask: 

“Okay, great, so what is that person’s name?”  

When they respond with the hiring manager’s name, ask:  

“Can you please share with me what is Mary’s personal vision for this.”  

In most cases, they will begin to say something like they want somebody with 5+ years in blah, blah, blah. They want somebody with strong written and verbal communication. Basically they are reading you the job spec.  

This is where I will challenge their response by asking what type of person works best with Mary. This is where the head of recruiting begins to break down and may go into go-to strategies and tactics, and not like an essence of the position. At this point, I am going to make the determination that this client is not the right fit for me. I will respectfully say: 

You know, Katherine, as head of recruiting, I am missing something. It sounds like you work with a lot of people that submit resumes. It is just not who I am.  

This where I am going to make the decision whether or not to proceed. All you are asking is to have a conversation with the hiring manager. Will they introduce me to the hiring manager? If not, then you have a decision to make. You have to really ask yourself: How likely am I to fill this position?   

In the cases when communication is diminished due to a gatekeeper decreases the likelihood of you filling it, so then you really just have to do the math on it. Is this something you want to do, or would you rather invest the time finding a better opening?  

But a great question. I really appreciate you submitting it.

Photo by Robert Coelho on Unsplash