MRG in Northern Miner: Hiring for key roles

The Northern Miner, Monday, March 31, 2008

Hiring for key roles: 4 pitfalls to avoid
By Andrew Pollard

Special To The Northern Miner

Throughout my experience working as a headhunter at the executive level and helping companies improve their overall hiring processes, I have had a unique laboratory to study the effectiveness — or lack thereof — of those processes used by companies looking to secure top-calibre talent.

There are easily distinguishable characteristics of those companies that are consistently able to select and secure top candidates versus those that spin their wheels and ultimately end up with no one. Overall, many factors often play a role in the derailment of the hiring process, but I have been able to distil these into four key areas.

The following is a compilation of things to avoid when beginning the search for new personnel.

  • Communication breakdowns: The number one frustration I come across from candidates is the lack of communication that takes place after they interview with a client. Though we do our best to keep everyone in the loop, if a candidate writes to the company directly and doesn’t receive a timely response, it is often interpreted as a flat-out rejection. This can put unnecessary roadblocks in the process if the client wishes to invite the candidate back for subsequent interviews.
  • Changing the scope and requirements of the role midway through the search: Re- cently, we took part in a search for a vice-president of exploration for a client company. Initially, the role was to be based out of Vancouver with little time (less than 25% of the total) required in the way of travel. A candidate was identified, put forward and subsequently interviewed, and was very interested in the role based on the company itself and the opportunity to spend more time at home with his family. Eventually an offer was extended, with a new caveat slipped in, a 50% travel requirement. Needless to say, the process was derailed. Had more thought been put into the scope of the role upfront, much time would have been saved for all parties.
  • Failure to execute: The industry we are in could be construed as having one of the tightest employment markets on earth. All too often, I see companies who have been given a “perfect fit” candidate, have expressed an interest in hiring him or her, and then drag their feet when it comes to making an offer. By the time they get around to extending an offer, I have the unfortunate job of telling them that they are too late. Depending on the scenario, candidates may receive offers from multiple companies, and do not have the luxury of holding out for more. Even if they do not have another offer on the table, their enthusiasm noticeably decreases over time. If there is an unavoidable roadblock in the process, let the can- didate know; he or she will appreciate it.
  • No one is perfect: Too often, little things have a way of getting in front of the big picture. Though initial impressions are important, we must be careful not to rely on them excessively. Many times, good candidates are brushed off in the hopes that a perfect candidate will be right around the corner. Unfortunately, the common way I have seen this play out is the position will go unfilled for some time until the company finally lowers their standards, and often times settles for someone less qualified than the original candidate they passed up. The more feedback you can receive on a candidate, the more accurate your representation will be.

At the end of the day, all of these are avoidable. All it takes is a little thought upfront, common courtesy, and a willingness to take action when action is needed. Knowing exactly what it is you want and how you will respond once you have found it can make all the difference when the time comes for a candidate to evaluate an offer. –Andrew Pollard is the president of the Mining Recruitment Group, a boutique executive search firm focused on the unique needs of the mining industry.

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