Emotional Intelligence: Recruiting World Class Talent

This week we are excited to introduce again, Mr. Craig Dunlevie, with Korn/Ferry International. Since their inception, clients have trusted Korn/Ferry to help them recruit world class leadership talent. Building on this heritage today, they are a single source for a wide variety of leadership and talent consulting services. From nearly 80 offices in 40 countries, they assist organizations in attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining their people. Services range from executive recruitment to leadership development programs, enterprise learning, succession planning and recruitment outsourcing. More organizations around the world trust Korn/Ferry to manage their talent, a responsibility that they take seriously and work every day to meet with unsurpassed integrity and results.

Craig Dunlevie is a Senior Partner and a top performer in the talent business side of Korn/Ferry. He has over 25 years of insight on the secrets of sourcing top talent for top firms around the world.

He is a regional managing director for the Southeast region at Korn/Ferry International, based in Atlanta. Craig is a core team member and founding leader of the professional and IT Services practice within the firm’s global technology market sector. Mr. Dunlevie focuses on the recruitment of senior level executives in professional services including management consulting, financial advisory services, information technology, supply chain management, customer strategy, data management and mergers and acquisitions strategy and merger integration.

He has done this since joining Korn/Ferry in 1996 and entering the executive search area since 1991. Before entering executive search Craig spent more than a decade in financial services. He was a Regional Manager and influence on the industry. I think what is really important is that he has worked for Chase Manhattan, First National Bank of Atlanta; he was a commercial lending officer in the bank’s national account division in the Western US region. Craig earned a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Southern California where he was elected to membership in Beta Gamma Sigma. He is a business school honors society member. Craig received a bachelors in Economics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, where he is also a member of the external advisory board of the Honors Program.

Dr. Relly Nadler: In what ways have you acted as a coach to support successful win-win placement?

Craig Dunlevie: It’s important to know that we are not a coach in the classic sense, we are not career counselors, we deal with a very high level in our business. We are dealing with senior executives that are obviously on a path to careers that they have already solidified their positions in. I guess I would say I am more of an agent for support. The key way to insure what we do as successful search consultants—wearing the search hat for the moment—is that we really need to keep people on point, we have to have great attention to detail. We have to keep our candidates prepared. We have to make sure that we deliver the client value proposition to our candidates. We have to be able to create differentiated selling messages for our clients to prospective candidates. Keep in mind that most of the candidates that we deal with are gainfully employed, most of them think that they are happily employed. The key is that we come into their lives and we try to create a wedge or value proposition that might get them to take a look at a new opportunity, a new situation.

I think  I have been successful in certain areas with key candidates because we kept them very much prepped in terms of what they need to do to be successful when they go through a process with a prospective company that they are interviewing for. We have to make sure that we have a great knowledge of that company. We need to make sure that we convey that knowledge to our candidates. It’s all about preparation. It’s all about positioning. In effect, we are a facilitator. What I do for a living on the executive search side, is not being a career coach. I can tell you though that some of my greatest relationships are former candidates who have become my best clients, they have become trustworthy relationships that we have developed over 15-20 years in the business. You know you have arrived in this business when you have as much pleasure in watching somebody progress that you have placed than simply taking down and executive search and getting a placement.

We really are trying to position people for a long-term life journey. I think for that, they come back to us and trust us, and in fact, consult with us even if another search firm might be doing a search and they go to another company down the road, they’ll keep coming back to us because they trust us. That is why I like this business.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Craig, can you talk a little bit about some of the assessment tools; I don’t want you to give away anything proprietary, but correct me if I’m wrong, but Korn Ferry has probably one of the largest inventories and repertoires of assessment tools as a recruiting organization, in the world.

Craig Dunlevie: Well, I tell you it may be a mark of my advice in trying to be a good consultant, is never overstep your reach. I’m a officially on the Korn Ferry recruitment side of the business and not on the leadership account consulting side of the business, so I’m not a scientist to the extent that you are Cathy and Relly are. But I would say that we have several different assessment tools we use.

We have Decision Styles, viaEdge, Choices Architect; you are probably familiar with Hogan, Perspective, Learning from Experience. We have several different tools that we use. But the bottom line is that we are really trying to use this as a competitive differentiator for our business. You know this business has become extremely scientific. It’s has change so dramatically in the 20 years that I have been in it. Talent; if you really get behind the concept, the talent really has the power to elevate select companies above their competitors.

We have to put more science into this business. When Paul Riley came to Korn Ferry in roughly 2001, I think that he used to kid that the difference between one of our competitors and Korn Ferry might be—we all have the same approach, the same process of delivering a search—but we had to find a way to put the Korn Ferry Good Housekeeping Seal of approval on a candidate. Which means, we had to assess them to the point that we could; assessments are not pass/fail exams, as you know. They simply provide areas that we need to inquire more about so that we can align that with the best in class. Korn Ferry has assessed over a million executives. These are individuals that are highly compensated executives and therefore we have the ability to assess a candidate against the best in class by function, by industry, whether it be a CFO, CMO, a board member, or whatever you may have.

The reality is that is how our business works. What is interesting is that since I have been in the business, assessments have been web enabled into our core search process. When we conduct a search for a company we actually put all of our candidates through an assessment tool, in this case we use what we call Decisions Styles, which is a core assessment tool which really gives us the ability to benchmark that candidate against the best in class in their field, or potentially against the company itself; what they consider to be the best in class within their own company.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: That’s fascinating. I like the idea that you can actually benchmark someone as best in class even within their organization. That’s a powerful assessment tool.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Talking about what we are calling the brain drain with baby boomers retiring and then this new generation coming in, what are you noticing from your sense of recruiting people in emotional intelligence and some of the differences that you are seeing.

Craig Dunlevie: You know it I would say that one of the things that is interesting about our business; I feel that despite the onslaught of a lot of social media tools, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other things that provide easy access to a resource database of potential candidates.

I think the demographics of our business is very strong for the simple reason that we have this baby boom generation which is obviously retiring in great number. Some baby boomers are staying in place longer than they might want given economic considerations. But clearly there is a huge opportunity to replace the baby boom generation through executive search placement, whatever you may call it.

I do think Relly, that you mentioned that the Gen X, Gen Y, whatever, I do believe they have a little bit lower EQ, they may even be less likely to act, and do business building. I do think that you are finding that a number of these second generations which is now coming into a position where they are being recruitable by top tier firms like Korn Ferry, meaning there are at a compensation range or senior level range which makes it helpful  for Korn Ferry to get involved in their lives; or some other firm like ourselves.

I would say that I’m not sure that I have a good handle on what the differentials in the skills are. That I’d leave up to you and Cathy given your backgrounds to analyze that dynamic.

For me as a search guy, it’s awesome challenge to find the search for great talent continues on and is going to be an even bigger challenge for us in the future.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I have a question for you: You’re working with someone and they get selected. What kind of tips would you give them to have a successful placement, especially at a top level? Let’s say in the first 90 days or so, what should they do to make sure that this really works for them in their integration with your organization? Often, I use that metaphor that kind of like if you got a kidney replacement, the body itself wants to repel the kidney. If you’ve got a high level replacement in an organization, there may be a natural tendency to repel that person. What tips would you give that recruits can really make this successful?

Craig Dunlevie: It’s an interesting area of analysis. We call it a return on investment of human capital investment. We are trying to shorten the transition time period of how long it take a new leader, a new hired executive, a new promotee to reach what we call the breakeven point. That’s when they become a real value creator for business as opposed to a valued consumer of the business.

You can think about the impact that it has on the bottom line of a business. If you can take an executive and make him a net contributor, just three or four months earlier, how that really impacts the future profitability of a company.

I would say, just from my experience, the most important thing is get in there and listen. Try to understand the internal politics. Don’t come on too strong. Basically, get networked into the company. That sounds pretty simplistic but I’ve got to tell you, that is the single most important thing. You’ve got pick and choose your time to move into the starting blocks to a certain extent and I think that too many people try to do too much too quickly.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: So my key take away from that is, when you are on a professional search, and you are being recruited, it’s that emotional intelligence piece that is really key to creating a relationship because you don’t want to go in there and oversell something they might not be looking for.

Listen to the complete conversation with Craig Dunlevie, above, without commercials.


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