Executive candidates continue to write about their frustrations with healthcare organizations that are unwilling or unable to disclose material issues regarding executive or management positions for which they are recruiting.

This is not a random, occasional occurrence.  These continued comments from frustrated executives come at a time when healthcare organizations need to find and retain the best people, not drive them away because the job was not appropriately represented by internal or external recruiters. This is a common reason why executives fail to stay in a position beyond 18 to 24 months.  In fact there are documented cases where the newly employed executive did not stay in the position beyond 180 days.  That is an extremely costly miss-hire.  Other times, the candidate may stay but there is a certain sadness emphasized with a resigned shrug of the shoulders when asked if they were satisfied with the recruiting process.  “Well, I am here now.  I never should have left, but the door has closed on that part of my life.”

Somehow there is this misguided belief that it is perfectly acceptable for organizations to mask negative factors about a job, thinking that their omissions of important information is really OK, and that everything will work out in the end.  An executive begins a new job filled with hope that they can make a positive contribution.  They are attracted to the organization usually because they are painted an attractive picture, and they are wooed mightily in one-on-one meetings with key leaders and at dinners with the CEO or board members.  They want to believe the best about their new employer. They are excited that they are beginning a new career with an honorable organization that is committed to doing the right thing.

It is devastating for the new executive to learn that the part about doing the right thing did not include being transparent about the pros and cons of the organization, the challenges the position would pose, the true scope of responsibility or even the compensation package.

In my conversations with candidates, I have found that this has been and continues to be an across-the-board problem:  both internal and external recruiters engage in these practices.

By way of example, in a recent interview, a Chief Operating Officer complained that a potential employer’s best offer was $45,000 less than what they were told by the recruiter, a partner with one of the largest firms in the executive search industry. That is no insignificant amount. The candidate walked away and the frustrated client was forced to restart the search while the expenses once again began to mount.  “If I had known the truth, I would have never gone through the process,” the former candidate lamented.  In many lower level searches – for managers or directors — this is a very common problem because most candidates, eager to advance in their career, do not know that it is OK to ask for the salary range up front.  Hint:  If the recruiter does not know, tell them to find out and call you back.

On the other side, Chief Executive Officers and Chief Human Resource Officers must demand better of their internal search team or their hired headhunters.

I cannot control what candidates are told by prospective employers, but as a partner in an executive search firm, I can insist that clients be transparent, so I can deliver appropriately qualified candidates a detailed Position Prospectus that outlines the critical information the candidates need to know, such as:

     1.    Selection criteria

    2.    Compensation package with a specific range for the base salary

    3.    Profile of the corporate culture

    4.    Performance expectations

    5.    Hurdles to success

    6.    Project schedule

Making assumptions is never a good idea, and what I am finding is that it is a fool’s errand to believe that all candidates understand how the executive search process works. 

Let me know what you think.  If you would like to learn about a candidate’s recruiting rights, or questions candidates have the right to ask, let me know.  I would be happy to extend this conversation.

© 2011 John Gregory Self

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