Many years ago, the most effective way to introduce yourself to a busy professional was to call their office.

Now, phone calls are an interruption and voicemail is a black hole. Many people consider it rude to simply call someone without making some sort of introduction first. Good manners now dictate that communication is asynchronous–the recipient gets to choose when and where they would like to be contacted. I’m finding that even welcome calls, like employers who want to engage my services, usually start first with an email.

Many years ago, an effective way to recruit good people was to call good people and ask who they knew.

Now, all those calls go to voicemail (see “black hole” above). The most effective way to find good people is to identify the online communities where they gather, to carefully identify potential candidates from their “digital footprints” and online profiles, and then to share an authentic, compelling message with rich detail via email or social media.

Candidates can’t be kept in the dark about details, or talked into anything, they simply want to be trusted with the facts and then invited to share the opportunity with whomoever they wish, and when and how they see fit. In this way, friends share opportunities with friends, and good recruiting messages are socialized organically, without expensive cold-calling or advertising.

Pushy sales reps and voicemail cannot do what good messaging, email and social media can.

Many years ago, it would take time and a trip to the library to research an organization. So the search firm would know a great deal more about a job opportunity than the candidate would. The recruiter would always have an information advantage.

Now, candidates can tap into their social media connections to find people in their network familar with an employer, and anyone with an internet connection can be reasonably well-informed within a few hours.

Which brings me to the executive search business model.

Executive search firms need to stop hiring cold-calling sales professionals, and stop paying them steep commissions in an attempt to talk people into jobs. This business model is increasingly out of step with the times.

In the modern world, search firms must be able to:

  • Craft an authentic, compelling message that’s interesting enough to be shared.
  • Find the right people to contact, and get the message out in a respectful and efficient manner.
  • Trust the candidate to decide what is in their own best interest.

In our comparison tests, we’ve found that interesting messages, properly socialized,  significantly outperform cold-calling.

The executive search industry will inevitably adapt to the forces reshaping every other industry, and we welcome the change.