Who's To Blame When An Executive Placement Goes Wrong?

3 minutes, 36 seconds reading time

Those who know me well are well aware I have a soap box ready to whip out at the slightest chance to vent about the things that I am trying to change within the recruitment industry. I am like a man possessed at times, but it all comes from my desire to see our industry return to its core purpose – helping organizations succeed through their people.

This week my soapbox came out and I actually had to kick myself a little as I was once also a culprit of a recruitment industry favourite… that it is never the recruiters fault when a placement falls off (industry jargon for the person not working out within guarantee)! The common blame game goes something like this… agency blames the line manager because they can’t control what happens once the person starts and they gave them a great candidate. HR blames the agency because they provided someone who wasn’t a fit or didn’t do appropriate screening, the line manager blames HR and the agency for giving them someone who wasn’t right for them! So who really is to blame?

What is staggering is that somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 7 new hires fail within their probation period (depending on your data source). Now consider that most jobs attract 50-70 applicants, go through 1 or 2 layers of screening at least by the agency, go through 2 rounds of Interviews with the hiring company and then get referenced before they are even presented with an offer. Surely then everyone has gone through the trouble of finding the best candidate and it should work? In theory yes, in practice no, mainly because there are variables that are not being addressed.

Hiring is like a mathematical equation where you have multiple variables that need to be solved in order to get the right. However, if there is not commitment from all sides to those variables, then the equation cannot be solved efficiently and it is far harder to find the right answer, often done through a case of trial and error! How many of you feel some roles are solved only through a trial and error approach (any Sales Directors reading this)?

An executive recruitment agency needs to commit to finding the best candidate, not just sending the best resume. People are not defined by a piece of paper, yet so many recruiters and hiring managers focus far too much on that piece of paper. HR needs to look at the reality of the team for which they are hiring and be prepared to discussions both the opportunity and challenges faced by the new candidate. The line manager needs to be self aware of their weaknesses on the onboarding and people management side and ensure they understand how the new hire thinks and behaves.

When someone starts a new job, there is this hope and belief that the new person will automatically succeed. Yet, there are many unknowns (variables) at play that need to be addressed. Too often both sides leave it to chance or put it all on the new candidate to make the new job a success. There was a shared commitment up to the point of hire that then needs to transfer to the post placement experience.

Back to my original question around who is to blame, it is no-one and everyone. Hiring is not black and white or a blame game, it is complex and needs to be actively managed from search through onboarding to continuing development.   Those who significantly contributed to the original hiring process need to be stakeholders in the success of the new employee with a steady transition of the overall responsibility to the line manager. That means open communication, a platform for safely raising concerns and the setting of clear milestones for success. It is my belief that is takes 6-12 months for that transition to happen, which is why we stand by our work for a year and provide all our clients with access to coaches, HR consultants and psychologists as part of our placement fee.   We are accountable to our clients and do what is needed to ensure the variables are properly managed.

How about your organizations, are you doing enough to manage the variables both leading up to and after you bring someone new into your team?

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