The best search consultants know when to hold um and when to fold um. If your search processes are taking too long, your offers are not accepted, you see too many candidates withdraw from the process or hires leave too soon after joining, then it’s time to re-think your team’s hold-um-or-fold-um strategy. 

My job as an executive search consultant is to significantly reduce the risk of a bad hire. Once you make a bad hire or two and see….and live…the effect on you and your team, your new high priority will be to reduce that risk in the future.

My hold um or fold um strategy.

What separates recruiters is not like the olden days – a special database of people gathered over many years across many recruiters in a firm. What separates great recruiters is knowing the precise balance of gathering enough information to make the go-no-go decision at each step in the process.  Keep exploring the candidate or move on? Hold um or fold um?

When I talk with a potential candidate, I compare that individual’s skills, style, professionalism, potential, communications, etc. with the thousands of candidates I’ve spoken with before. The right recruiter will likely decide what to do next much more quickly than a manager who doesn’t hire that often. The right search consultant knows when to hold um and when to fold um.

I think about a funnel when determining what questions to ask candidates. And it might vary candidate by candidate for the same search. That’s the judgment I bring. I want to order my questions so that the response to each tells me if I need to ask the next question(s).

I provide some information about the role when talking to a potential candidate, but not a lot.  The candidate needs some context to decide if they want to talk further, especially in our full employment economy. Not having shared too much information enables me to listen to responses to open-ended, less-direct question conversation, to see if candidate will unfold experiences and accomplishments that are important for success in the new role.

My job is to save time for hiring teams, candidates and my firm. But I must also spend a great deal of time helping the client make an informed decision. With LinkedIn and other online services, people’s names and experiences are known to most everyone. The sourcing piece is important, but the evaluation of potential candidates from initial contact to the end of the hiring process has become more significant. Or as I think of it, knowing when to hold um and when to fold um.

Tips to help you determine whether to hold um or fold um early on in the recruiting process.

1. Find out if you can create enough opportunity for the candidate to even consider further discussion.

  • In a full employment market where you’ll be talking to professionals who aren’t looking for a new role…

    • Find out what they like most about their role - and especially their boss.

    • Learn where the person wants to take his/her career and highest priorities – fortune ($$), fun, fit, family etc.

2. Ask: “Take me through your background.”

  • Be sure to provide the specific instruction to give you the 10 minute summary.

  • Say, “As you take me through your summary, tell me your mission coming in/why were you hired, a couple of  significant accomplishments in each, then how you found the next role.”  

    • Don’t be as concerned about the exact detail of why a person left each role in the beginning, but be very interested to hear their highlights and get a sense for communication style.

    • Bar none, this test separates great communicators who can stay on point, or who at least have self awareness to reign it back in when they don’t, from those who simply can’t help themselves once they open their mouths to carry on like they’re being paid by the word

3. Ask “What are your questions?”

  • If your role requires intellectual curiosity and critical thinking, the quality of the questions will separate A Players from the rest early on. 

  • The quality questions from candidates who have done even some level of research (and even some who didn’t do research but think well on their feet) will be a real separator between A Players and others. 

  • It’s ok if the first question is “what is the search process?” But generally I do hope to hear questions about the business rather than something quite detailed.

Colosi can help you with finding just the right balance of investing time and saving time to reduce the risk of a bad hire. We do this both as part of our retained process service and hourly consulting offering.