What If Corporate Talent Worked the Same as Athletic or Performance Talent… Is It Time to Consider It?

“I’ll have my people call your people.”

From time to time people tell me that their job search is taken care of because they have recruiters working on it.

Oh, if only.

I’d estimate that the odds of your recruiters actually being out there searching for opportunities for you is 1,000:1.

One out of every 1,000 recruiters will take time away from the 3-6 “hot” job requirements assigned to them at any given moment (positions for which clients are impatiently awaiting a small handful of perfect candidates), to proactively search for job requirements they are NOT working on so that they can find an opportunity for which to present you.

You might be thinking, “but if they place me, that’s money in their pocket, so…” So, you think that they are dividing their time between efforts on your behalf, and phone screening, interviewing, referencing, testing and packaging candidates for the jobs they have a chance at closing right in front of them?

You think that they are searching the jobs other recruiters are working on in hopes maybe that recruiter will offer a split fee to share you?

Or maybe they are looking to gain some new clients by dangling a superstar in front of them?

Or maybe out of the goodness of their heart, or even in consideration of their personal brand, they will take time away from income-producing activities while they are on the job to let other people know just how great you are and how much you deserve consideration?

I’m not saying this doesn’t happen, it just happens a lot less than you’d hope – 1/1000 of the time.

If you are relying on recruiters to make sure you know about opportunities as they arise, you are making a very common mistake of assuming recruiters have time to spare. Recruiters are notorious for failing to follow up. Again, this isn’t a truth for all recruiters, but most models restrict recruiters from spending time outside of producing and presenting qualified, competitively-priced candidates.

They can’t meet their metrics and their income goals if they do this. It’s why I started to resent being a recruiter and considered becoming a coach, and it’s why you see many other recruiters also coaching.

But what if corporate talent management operated more like professional sports and entertainment management?

What if whenever you were ready for your next big blockbuster hit, you had people working on it and trying to find you that next big gig (plus the paycheck to match it)?

Let’s rewind a bit, because in entertainment you’d still need an impressive portfolio and headshot. Much like in the corporate arena, you’d need a distinctive résumé and LinkedIn profile. In sports, it’s your buzz, your stats, and a killer highlight reel that get you the attention of recruiters. An agent will make sure you have all of the above, and they may offer that service in house or refer you to a trusted expert. Either way, that’s a charge that you, the talent, incur. They would spin your story as one of a star-in-the-making, and hype up your value for you. They would consult to you on managing your image and the narrative.

Then, an industry talent agent taps their network of industry players to find out who needs what you offer, what challenges there are, who is making the decision and when, how long you’d be needed, and what it pays. They mediate between the producers and casting agents to coordinate auditions or readings, and sell, sell, sell them on hiring you while you work your magic and do what you do best to earn the part. Then, if your performance matches the hype, your agent does all of the compensation, conditions and terms negotiating to make you as happy as possible.

The agent gets paid, takes 10-20% of your contract, and pays you the rest.

Think about 10% of your current income. Have you invested 10% of your income on things that will increase your career success and income, as most financial stability/freedom gurus recommend?

Now think about how much you’d spare of your income if someone actually helped you increase your income. Let’s say you make $100K annually. That would be a $10K per year investment, but what if investing $10K got you a $25K raise that year to take an opportunity that also elevated your career, impact, and influence.

Why isn’t this model used in corporate talent management?

Let me first say that there are firms who operate as agencies. Some will even postpone payment until you land while others will help you hone all of your marketing tools, like your résumé and LinkedIn profile, and then promote you to their “elite” network full of VIPs and corporate executives.  They may or may not require that you sign with them “exclusively,” meaning even if you land an opportunity not developed by them, they still get their fee. It’s the only way it could make sense for agents.

I would think that would decentivize job seekers to own their own campaign, and leaving your fate solely in someone else’s hands still seems dis-empowering. How can you be sure that the best possible opportunities were identified?

Have you used this kind of service? Please share if this worked for you, because I have my doubts.

It’s hard to believe that an executive in need of talent would entertain the solicitation of an agent representing a talent they don’t know. I know some recruiters and account managers do try to get a shot at filling a prominent placement by presenting a “dummy” profile filled with impressive stats. In those cases, the recruiter is expecting to get paid by the company should they hire someone, but an agent gets paid by… well, they still get paid by the company. This is because their fees would be negotiated into the salary just as a recruiter’s fee would be.

It can work, but I have to believe that this works a lot less often than if the talent were to personally approach that same executive, even digitally, and conveyed stories instead of stats that demonstrate how he or she can help the company achieve what they aim to achieve.

Times are changing, however. This is the first “job seekers” market I’ve ever witnessed. Maybe now, while the people have the power, is the right time for this model to become more prevalent.

It’s true that usually someone else’s endorsement can be more powerful and influential than your own. Does it reduce credibility if that someone is incentivized to endorse you?

Hiring managers and executives – What would it take for you to entertain interviewing a candidate that was represented by an agent?

Will this just turn hiring into a process where the best sales pitch gets the job? Wait a second. How different is that from our current reality? The difference is that the hiring manager would be dealing with a professional pitch master. Would professional pitch masters be trusted? Would it matter if the talent is truly great?

If this started working on a more consistent basis, more often than having someone in your network recommend you and more often than an effectively written cover letter targeting that person/job, how long would this model work for? Would it still be a valid practice if the economy shifted the other way?

Please share your thoughts and concerns as an ambitious talent or as a hiring manager/executive.

What are some other pros and cons to this approach and what the obstacles you perceive to it being adopted?

Does this solve other problems?

How could it be structured for the optimal benefit of all parties?

Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a 13-year-old leadership and career development firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play. 

While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. 

Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business  She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where some of her students won the 2018 national competition, were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, and won the 2019 People’s Choice Award. 

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