Essay: Groysberg's "Recruitment of a Star

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[. . .] Then finally the potential internal hire, Rina, presents the usual dilemmas associated with such a decision: the message sent to the company that loyalty and hard work are rewarded internally must be weighed against the fact that the II Magazine rankings have never heard of this humble assistant and the socialization process that has already occurred means that Rina may indeed never be able to rise to the level required of her, even if she is given the job now.

The chief weakness in the interview and selection process here is the necessity of using the intermediary headhunting firm. Conner has no choice but to do this, however it demonstrates a lot of the flaws within such a system as well. To an outside observer it seems like Gerald Baum is gaming the hiring system -- he is ranked at eleventh, but seems to spend more of his career bouncing from position to position rather than concentrating on a way to improve his own work. In other words, Gerald seems to have the same position with the headhunter Conner uses that Seth has with a different headhunter: he is actively job-seeking and doing so through a recruitment firm as an intermediary. The difficulty here means that Seth is not even presented as a candidate by the headhunter that Conner employs -- instead, he is brought to Conner by a rival headhunter. In other words, the headhunting firm pretends to be providing Conner with a service, but they are also in their own way engaged in sales. Gerald Baum is a product that they are selling, and which they have deliberately overvalued (from Conner's perspective). But the headhunting firm that Conner has hired has, in some sense, skewed his results: because Seth is signed with a rival headhunting firm, presumably, he does not make the shortlist presented to Conner by the headhunter despite outranking in the II Magazine ratings two of the three candidates on that shortlist.

It should be clear at this position, I hope, that I believe that Seth is the right candidate. There could be reasons for hiring David, but David's price tag would be exceptionally high and the length of his future is clearly limited. If Conner wishes to have the elder statesman of semiconductor analysts on his payroll for the near long-term, he can probably have him: but this seems like overkill to try to cover for the upcoming PowerChip deal when we have been reassured that the semiconductor field is one that fluctuates wildly regardless. Gerald is clearly a mistake: he represents a sales opportunity for the headhunter, not a legitimate candidate for Peter's replacement. Mrs. Meetha is a viable candidate in terms of analysis, but it seems like her personal issues and idiosyncrasies would undercut the sales aspect of the job, which we have been told is substantially important. So this leaves Seth. If the headhunters were removed from the equation of recruiting star employees -- and it's worth noting that headhunters exist solely to deal with situations that involve star employees, or the equivalent -- then Seth would clearly be the first and obvious candidate. He is looking for a firm that can make him a star -- and his rankings are so close to those of the departing Peter, it seems like he has actual star power. It is a perversity of the system that the headhunting firm Conner employs should have brought him Gerald (who clearly signed with them) rather than Seth (who signed with a rival agency) but that should make Conner's decision easy. From Conner's perspective it is worth recalling that headhunters are not merely engaged in providing a service, but also making sales. When the rival headhunter comes in with a specifically targeted offer (i.e., Seth), that is where Conner should buy.

References

Groysberg, B; Balog, S; Haimson, J. (2007).. Recruitment of a star. Harvard Business School Case 407-036. Cambridge: Harvard… [END OF PREVIEW]

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