To understand what it means to be a transformational candidate in a search, you first need to appreciate the difference between transformational recruiters versus the vast majority which are transactional.
Transactional recruiters are those who are wedded to the recruitment industry business model that is at least 50 years old. Most in that category, which includes some of the biggest names in the business, stick with that model — they are content to “dance with who brung ya,” to paraphrase legendary University of Texas football coach Darrell Royal — because they are not being pushed by clients to do things any differently. A client engages them to conduct a search. They do, presenting three, four or five candidates and when the client selects one, the recruiters step back until the next time they are called. The transaction is complete. They offer the perfunctory industry standard one-year placement guarantee which, in reality, is no guarantee at all given the fact that the overwhelming majority of candidates last at least 18 to 24 months.
Firms that practice transformational recruiting do not limit their focus to each transaction. They are committed to the long-term success of their clients, providing a portfolio of value-added services, some the clients pay for and some they do not. They are not in the limited business of finding qualified candidates, they are in the business of helping the clients succeed by meeting current and future talent/leadership needs in a way that will ensure their long-term success. From a comprehensive onboarding solution that is priced into the professional search fee, to offering a placement guarantee of 36 months covering tenure and performance, these firms focus on accountability and fostering a long-term relationship with their client partners. Along the way they add in features such as building a cultural and leadership profile with a screening process that includes rigorous vetting. They know the strengths and weaknesses of their clients and they are always searching for ways to bolster those weaknesses with top talent, even when there is no specific assignment.
As you can see, there is a big difference. So, what differentiates a transformational candidate from one who is purely transactional?
Transactional candidates are those individuals who are qualified, who performed satisfactorily in the screening interview and present well. They are typically not well prepared regarding the client’s history, their cultural profile or even their operating/market challenges. They may be very accomplished and exceedingly confident, so confident that they do not feel the need to do much in terms of preparation for the interviews. They frequently talk more about the history of their various jobs, perhaps even their scope of responsibility, and less about quantifiable, relevant accomplishments. They come to the table hoping they get the job, providing it is a good position.
Transformational candidates are those individuals who, either from the recruiter, their own robust research, or both, come to the table with a depth and breadth of knowledge about the hiring organization, from their culture to current operational and market challenges. They have looked in detail at the potential employer’s website, they have done extensive web research and talked to their own contacts who may have direct knowledge about market and internal challenges. They construct a resume that addresses the needs outlined in the job posting, or they send a revised version on which they have the necessary information, and provide evidence that they can deliver relevant value.
When they arrive at the table, they are confident, focused and prepared, ready to connect the dots between the client’s needs and their experience and successes in similar situations. They are unafraid to sell themselves in a professional, factually-based manner. They come to the table knowing they can do a great job because they have done great homework. True transformational candidates know they want the job before they ever finish the interview process.
When asked by an old-school recruiter why a competing firm that employs a transformation approach would provide services that clients are not asking for, their reply almost always is: Because they deserve it.