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Marilyn Machlowitz Headshot

Advantages of Search Firms for Job Seekers and Employers

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So in these days of 9.4% unemployment we're asked why NY employers should still turn to search firms.

Of course, I'm biased, since I run a 12-year old search firm serving NY-based nonprofits. Nor is this to say that 100% of search firm searches are perfect. But I believe there is one reason why search still makes sense:

Making a great hire never has mattered more.

All over this city are great people performing miracles for their organization who wouldn't be there but for a call from a search firm. Many were not what might be considered the obvious choices for the jobs. It is amazing how many even first start spouting off the names of other people the search firm should consider, failing to realize that they are the quarry. Would these folks have answered an ad? Probably not.

When an employer is one of relatively few competing for talent in a down market, it is a buyer's market. Employers do have the chance to tap talent that may not have otherwise been available to them. We also know that the method search firms use (of calling, contacting and cultivating potential candidates) is far more flattering and effective than expecting a senior person to respond to an employer-placed-internet listing that, moreover, he or she might not have seen.

Placing an internet listing saves money, short-term, but has its downsides. Today, it is so easy to respond to every notice by email that there are what I call professional posters. Many applicants will express a passion for a mission. Whether they are fleeing a layoff (or the fear of one) in a nonprofit or in the profit sector, they will express this passion. They may even be convincing and persuasive.

We maintain they are possible flight risks. We and other search firms stay in contact with potential candidates for years, in many cases. We know if this passion is real or recent. (Sadly, we also then know when a candidate has omitted a short-lived job from a resume.)

Accordingly search people usually will know of people who have worked with this candidate and often will have intelligence that exceeds that which will be learned via the customary and cursory reference checks. We also can suss out when the guilt of the organization that let the candidate go is confounding the reference check.

Moreover, a search firm can tap those who may feel it is awkward to approach the employer directly without a filter or intermediary. If their organization collaborates with the hiring organization, the perfect potential candidate may not want to jeopardize that key relationship without the buffer of a search firm. Or when two organizations have board members in common, the search firm can navigate around the fear of awkwardness of the perceived potential breach of confidentiality.

The employer may also be so deeply steeped in his/her organizational culture that he/she may not present critical differentiating aspects of his or her culture to candidates. Search firms, who scan and work with a vast array of organizations, can seize upon the unique aspects of a culture to ensure a more successful cultural fit.

Staffers worried about their own jobs are interviewing candidates whom they may perceive as threats.Sadly, staffers who should be raising money, innovating program and otherwise leading their important nonprofits are reading resumes. The very future of these nonprofits may pay the price for hiring the good but not the great for years to come.

And if the new hire flees (or fails), the search firm offers a 12-month guarantee. But if the employer has conducted the search alone, the employer (and not the search firm) gets to do it all over again.

Machlowitz Consultants, Inc. is a 12-year old board and executive search firm specializes in the iconic (Channel Thirteen, NYU Medical, Juilliard, Museum of Modern Art); the philanthropic ( 15 searches for The Rockefeller Foundation over the past decade); and the eclectic (Executive Directors for Project Sunshine, Urban Pathways, Trickle Up).