When you want to win an NBA championship, are you more likely to try to recruit LeBron from the Miami Heat or search Akron, Ohio high schools for potential Rookies of the Year? This is the kind of question that HR executives must answer and then deliver on in order to function at their best. A BCG study tells us that recruiting has the highest business impact of any HR function.
John Sullivan, a recognized authority on human resources topics, explains that this fact can be difficult to discuss due to corporate politics. As a result, the business impact of recruiting that the BCG study reveals has been muted in most corporations. While the lack of attention to recruiting impact may be true in a broader sense, the management consulting field does a much better job of tracking and understanding how recruiting affects their businesses.
Most of my clients track interview-to-hire and time-to-hire statistics. They certainly calculate the margins generated by their billable hires, and many understand the hidden costs of hiring. Despite these strengths, management consulting firms can still learn about HR resource allocation from John’s article.
Spoiler alert: the Lebron reference isn’t mine!
I am a bit nervous about posting this and revealing the weaknesses of a friend. So I won’t name names, but do want to share an example of a surprisingly poor description of a management consulting role with a well-respected, global consulting firm. I offer my suggestions for improvement at the end:
Management Consulting Director – Strategy & Transformation (Healthcare)
• Lead key business development activities in the Healthcare industry related to Strategy & Transformation initiatives including targeting key C- level clients, proposing services and closing opportunities
• Drive C-Level growth strategy creation, market development identification and transformation execution
• Oversee highly skilled client and consulting firm’s work teams throughout the project lifecycle by leveraging our approaches and frameworks and helping to ensure timely execution of project deliverables
• Establish client value propositions that tie financial metrics (CFO focus areas) and clinical quality performance measures
• Participate in continual development and publication of thought leadership and service offerings
• Assist partners with practice administration including resource allocation, career development of staff, and other people management decisions
• Eight+ years of management consulting experience in the Healthcare industry providing Strategy & Transformation related advice and services to clients, including strategy planning/deployment, finance and risk management, operations transformation, systems integration and program development
• Bachelor s degree in finance, engineering, operations analysis, medical trachnology or a related field from an accredited college/university; MBA preferred
• Demonstrated ability to assess, improve, and execute post merger integration services across strategy, finance and operations in the Healthcare industry
• Demonstrated knowledge and experience with quality of care and cost of care strategies with payers or providers
• Knowledge of healthcare reform preferable
• Demonstrated experience developing relationships with senior clients in a professional services environment
• Excellent written and verbal communication, facilitation, and presentation skills
• Ability to travel at a significant level
Here is how I would fix this:
1. Start with a description of the consulting firm and all of the great selling points and awards that they have won. At their scale and level of success, they probably have a long list.
2. Follow with a description of the practice, including it’s current stage of growth and overall vision.
3. Make the career case by linking the vision to the growth path for the new hire. Optional: Give an indication of the rewards for success while describing the career case.
4. Describe the context of the responsibilities, not just list them. There is clearly a drive to grow this management consulting group, but what does the platform look like and what are some of the ideas that the practices leaders have for using it to grow the business. If this role depends strictly on the new hires connections, then it must be stated even though such a position won’t be as attractive. Beyond the primary responsibility of selling management consulting engagements, what is the context of the other responsibilities. A paragraph about the job would provide a lot more information to a potential candidate than a generic list.
5. The qualifications hint at the vision for the position. Through the qualifications section, I understand that the role focuses on post merger integration within the health insurance industry. The opportunity is driven by the Affordable Care Act and engagements are not specific functionally, and so I gather that they will be driven by the Director’s individual sales. Knowing about a specific initial project would be very helpful.
6. I would end with an appealing description of the growth potential afforded by the company.
Interested in more info about launching an effective search? Download our free 5 step guide to recruiting.
A few weeks ago, I sat in a meeting with a prospect who was interviewing a few firms to help him hire a team of management consultants. I asked the hiring manager what would make a candidate want to join his firm, and he was surprised to hear a question that no other recruiter had asked him. I was taken aback by his statement because it is hard to imagine conducting an effective search without being able to describe the career case to a potential hire. While this situation represents an extreme case, many consulting firms do not consider how they appear from a candidate’s perspective.
The career case connects the overall direction of the organization to the reason for hiring and subsequently to the growth path for the position. When you take the time to consider and clearly state what your firm has to offer, you will stand apart from consulting firms that concern themselves primarily with their own needs. In addition, you can use this information to screen candidates more effectively. If a candidate’s aspirations do not fit the career case, then no amount of skill or experience can create a good fit. Understanding this element will also help you predict whether or not a candidate will accept an offer, and if he will remain with you after the initial excitement of joining your company wears off.
Recruiters, hiring managers, and other interviewers all must understand and convey the career case to each candidate. A consistent message will impress candidates by transmitting stability and alignment.Hiring managers and other interviewers must understand the career case in order to adjust screening criteria not found in a position description. For example, the candidate with the best interview skills, but who does not fit the career case may not meet your needs as well as a candidate with less impressive interviewing skills, who will be more satisfied with the growth potential that your firm offers.
The answer to the question, “Why would a candidate want to take this position?” may be simple or complex. In the case of a contractor, for example, the response typically focuses on compensation and the nature and length of the project. It may have to do with the prospect of a full-time position or travel considerations, but there does not need to be a strong connection to the business vision. Recruiting an experienced management consultant, by contrast, requires the creation of a tight link between vision and career case in order to help candidates understand the growth path within your firm.
Your ability to clearly articulate the career case will also enhance your company’s employment brand.Your position descriptions, job postings, and discussions about your firm highlight your vision and display compassion for your staff based on your understanding of their needs. Regardless of which stage your search is in, keeping your firm’s career case in mind will help you maintain focus on your needs instead of overreacting to the various hurdles that you may face in your search.
Interested in learning more about the essentials to successfully recruiting management consultants? Download our free 5-step guide:
If you don’t know about Source for Consulting, a leading provider of research about the management consulting market, then be happy you found this post! There is simply no better place to find information on the management consulting field—and no, they are not paying me to say this. A recent webinar sponsored by Source described the immense growth of the US management consulting market over the past two years. It now stands at about $42B, with a growth rate in excess of 5%. This is huge, especially when we consider that the amount of growth in the US market equals the size of the total French consulting market. This means that struggle to recruit management consulting talent will intensify, with the largest pain- point at the mid-levels. If you are interested in more information, check out Fiona Czerniawska’s blog post; to get an even fuller picture, listen to the 30 minute recorded webinar.
Recruiting Essential #1 – 3 critical reasons to consider your business case before hiring a management consultant
When facing a significant increase in client demand or the loss of one or more employees, it is easy for management consulting firms to react by rapidly hiring an experienced consultant. While hiring is the likely solution to the situation, the justification for the hire should not be based solely on gut instinct. Resisting the urge to make a rapid decision in order to review your business plan may seem like overthinking the problem, but it can be very useful for reasons beyond simply justifying the hire.
Smaller management consulting firms do not require long, written business cases. Focus on the financial and organizational benefits and risks to address these 3 critical questions:
- What will the financial impact be under the best and worst circumstances? On the positive side, this would include increased total revenue and profit from the ability to take on imminent projects, as well as the capture of new business in the medium term. Consider your recruiting costs and timeline in the calculations. On the negative side, don’t just consider lost revenues, but also consider lost billable hours and search costs, so that you are fully aware of the risks involved.
- How does the new hire fit with the overall vision for the company? Ad hoc hiring may bring short-term benefits, but those will disappear if the strategic purpose of the hire is lost in the need to satisfy a near-term client demand. Alignment between your search and your vision allows you to answer questions about the requirements of the position, the career path for the new hire, and the fit within the management consulting firm structure.
- How do you communicate the responsibilities, qualifications, and career case for hiring in the most powerful way possible? By creating a business case for your new hire and connecting it to the firm’s vision, your communication with your management team, interview team, recruiters, and candidates will flow much more smoothly than if the hire were based on simply reacting to circumstances.
Learn more about planning and executing a successful search by downloading our free 5-step guide to recruiting management consultants.
I would love to claim credit for this list, but I can’t, it belongs to Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman the Authors of Content Rules. I am republishing it because it’s great fun to see how you measure up. These words have gotten into my vocabulary, but since reading the list I am doing my best to proactively, leverage more impactful words in order to communicate using best practices.
Inspired in part by The Elements of Style by White and Strunk, here are 18 words and phrases we’d like to ban from marketing, sales, corporate communications, business schools, blogs, and boardrooms.
On second thought, let’s just go ahead and ban them from everywhere. Entirely. Forever. You should never feel compelled to use any of the following words in any situation, including in all of the amazing content you are going to create after you’ve read this book. Banning these words is a step toward creating great stuff that sounds human, and speaks to us because it’s written for humans by humans.
This is a terrible word that many people in business and education like toss around to describe things that make an impact. But the word does not appear in most dictionaries and, if it does, it should be banished.
Instead: Try influential or substantial. Powerful is good, too.
This word is the poster child of words that began life as nouns and (perplexingly) find themselves now used as verbs.
Another one of those sorry souls that began as one thing and morphed into something unfortunate: in this case, learning (as in knowledge) has been made plural, and I’m sure it’s plenty upset about it, too. (Play this out: knowledge becomes knowledges, information becomes informations, and things quickly become more of a mess than they already are.)
Instead: Use lesson.
4. Synergy (Also: Synergistic, Synergism, Synergize)
All of these are used when a combined result is thought to be greater than the individual parts. When this happens, everyone wins, so there is no need for a snazzy word to describe it.
Instead: Try cooperation, or help, or joint, or pooled, or combined effort.
People often use this in business to describe things that really aren’t. Unless you just invented an escalator to the moon, don’t use this world to describe it.
6. E-mail blast
Businesses often use this phrase to describe an offer they’ve e-mailed to their subscriber list. The problem is that it suggests a certain disrespect. Are you a spammer? If so, then you’ve blasted. Legitimate businesses mailing a legitimate offer to an opt-in subscriber list? Not so much.
Instead: how about newsletter, e-mail, offer, or subscriber update?
The opposite of reactive. We know that businesses want to seem like they’re cutting-edge and confronting every issue they face even before the issue occurs. But this word just sounds pompous and should not be used, unless perhaps you are in marriage therapy.
Instead: Try depending on the intended meaning, active, anticipate, forestall, or foresee.
8. Drill down
Used to convey when people are getting into the boring little details of a topic. Related to this one is deep-alive, although apparently one happens in soil, the other in a swimming pool or ocean.
Instead: Try in-depth or detailed.
9. 30,000 feet
A high level view of a situation. Reserved for people who don’t have the patience or capacity to drill down or dive deep (or sometimes both). In other words, those with short attention spans or (possibly) your boss.
Sales folks and midlevel managers love these darlings. You shouldn’t. You should kill them.
Instead: Try encourage or provide an incentive.
11. Almost any word that ends in -ize
Including the preceding ones as well as productize, monetize, budgetize, utilize, socialize, and operationalize. The sole exception is optimize, but only in the content of search engines, and only because it’s so ubiquitous.
Instead: Find a word that doesn’t sound like it was first uttered by the robot on Lost in Space.
Businesspeople often use this word to describe a product or service they can’t otherwise explain.
Instead: How about actually explaining exactly what the product or service does and allowing the customers to decide whether it solves their problem?
A dehumanizing word that strips people of any individually and humanity. Online marketers and drug dealers are the only two industries that refer to their customers as user, says Gerry McGovern, author of The Stranger’s Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online (A&C Black, 2010).
Instead: How about people? Customers? Friends? Or how about calling out the specific group of people you want to engage–crafters, movie buffs, dog lovers, swimming pool installers, or what have you?
14. Almost any word rooted in technology but applied to humans
Including: ping to mean follow up, hand width to mean capacity, or offline to mean either not working or outside of this already horribly long meeting.
Instead: Use words that describe what humans do, not machines.
15. Overused words
A whole bunch of words that used to be good, solid words, and now have been overused to the point of meaningless: Robust. Granular. Box (but only when you are outside the —-). Strategic. Space (as it applies to the market you are in.). Traction.
16. Mashed-together words
Another class of words that individually are harmless, but mashed together become horrid: Buy-in. Mission-critical. Dial-in. Best-of-breed. End-to-end. Value-add. Next generation. Face-time. Push-back. Net-net. Win-win. And low-hanging (as it applies to fruit when you aren’t talking about an actual tree or orchard).
17. Silly phrases
There are a zillion of these corporate-speak silly phrases: Run it up the flagpole. Eat your own dog food. out of pocket. When the rubber meets the road. At the end of the day. Peel back the onion. Open the kimono. Open the kimono at the end of the day while you are peeling an onion. But two we find particularly silly are moving forward (as opposed to what? Standing still? Spinning our wheels? Slamming it into reverse?) and touch base (because I’d like you to keep your hands off me. Can we just talk?).
18. Offensive Phrases
Finally, here are two more we dislike: Nazi when applied to business concepts (as in brand Nazi) or drinking the Kool-Aid as applied to accepting ideas or concepts (sometimes without understanding). Since these two phrases are rooted in unfortunate and regrettable events in history, using them seems offensive or (at the very least) in bad taste.
Management consultants love getting recruiter emails! They view them as a measure of their success and emails provide a quick read on the employment market. On the other hand, consultants also get a lot of off-target emails and the best candidates have to make choices.
Did you know that in-demand management consultants typically receive between one and two recruiting emails per week?* That kind of attention requires that you differentiate yourself from the five other companies that are reaching out to your prospects in any given month. Prospective candidates need to make quick decisions about whether to open your mail or hit delete. If you want to increase the chances of being heard, try these suggestions.
First, grab your target’s attention by suggesting a sense of urgency, importance, or surprise in the first two or three words of your email headline. Rather than just describe the role, make your request stand out by drawing out your prospects’ natural curiosity. Here are a few headline starters that I like to use: “Executive Search:” or “Urgent request:” or “Can you help?”
Second, demonstrate your knowledge of your prospect’s experience right away. This will help you stand out from mediocre recruiters who trawl for candidates without knowing much or anything about them. It will also help your targets self-select out of the process without wasting anyone’s time or valuable InMails. Try descriptions like: “Manager Level Pharmaceutical Consultant,” or “Financial Services Practice Leader,” or “Digital Marketing Consultant.” By using descriptions that they relate to immediately, you will establish credibility and increase the chance of having your email opened.
Finally, differentiate yourself by using the clearest, most powerful descriptor of your firm or opening that you can. This is the sales hook that gets your target to want to learn more. As a recruiter, you need to be able to express your value proposition quickly. That means having the ability to describe your strengths right from the start. A few suggestions: “growing media practice,” or “fast-growth, specialty consultancy,” or “award-winning specialty consulting firm,” or “low-travel opportunity,” or “partner-track position.”
Put ‘em all together and what do you get?
Executive search: Manager level pharma consultant for award-winning specialty consulting firm.
Can you help? Low-travel opportunity for digital marketing consultant.
Now ask yourself if you would you open an email like that if it had your background and career goals right in the title? While you might decline the invitation, you are much more likely to have a look at the description in the email using this technique.
Interested in learning more about writing powerful emails? Passive Panda has some great information to get started: passivepanda.com/how-email and passivepanda.com/email. I have no relationship to the site, other than as a satisfied customer.
Interested in a broader discussion of techniques for recruiting management consultants? Our free 5 step guide will help you:
– Make a stronger business case and career case for hiring
– Attract more candidates
– Set the stage for an effective interview process
*The figure of 1-2 recruiter inquiries per week comes from an informal poll that I have been conducting by asking my best candidates how often they receive recruiter calls. Please share your own results so that we can all get an even better idea of what we are facing.
You’ve fallen in love with a great candidate, and it’s time to make an offer. You almost want to skip the reference check because candidates only provide introductions to people who will say good things about them. In addition, management consultants usually have more mentors, bosses, and clients than other business people, so what’s the point? While the likelihood of rejecting a candidate based on a bad reference is quite small, the information you receive from a well-conducted reference check will help a lot as you bring your new hire on board. You will understand strengths and weaknesses sooner, make better assignments, set expectations more clearly, and create parameters for success tailored to the individual. But even if you have a referee who is willing to tell you the truth about your potential hire, she may have significant and very real concerns about disclosing negative information. So how do you get the most valuable information in a positive way that helps you see both strengths and weaknesses? Try this question:
Under what circumstances would you hire this person again?
While this question looks very much like the often-used “Would you hire this person again?” it is quite different. First, it is an open-ended question, requiring a more thoughtful, fuller answer than a yes/no response. It also assumes that the referee would re-hire the candidate; a reasonable assumption given the circumstances. The question gives you the opportunity to sit back, listen, and take notes. It also opens the door for all kinds of follow-up questions regarding the relationship between the two people, projects they worked on together, and the candidate’s leadership skills. As you continue the conversation, you will get a much clearer picture of your candidate’s strengths. You also have the opportunity to uncover weaknesses by disarming your referee and opening a broader discussion. Always refer to “growth areas” instead of weaknesses, which will keep you in a positive place with your referee. You can then draw your own conclusions about how to help your new hire to develop professionally. Also keep in mind that strengths and weaknesses are often interrelated. By discussing a candidate’s strengths, you can infer weaknesses providing additional, useful information. This subtle technique requires critical listening skills and shrewd interpretation. I’ll deal with that topic in a future post, so register for blog updates to stay up-to-date. Interested in a fuller discussion of techniques for hiring management consultants? Register for our free eBook, “The Flycast Guidebook to Hiring Management Consultants.” Register to receive the
Flycast Guide to Recruiting