Why Social Networking Won’t Replace Good Search Consultants

Charley Polachi is founder of Polachi & Co., an executive search firm. I met a prospective client last week to discuss a search they need to fill for an important position. In the course of discussing the job and what they had done to fill it, the CEO told me that he had posted the listing on a social networking site and received over 800 responses!


He went on to tell me that he had to hire two contract recruiters to go through the responses and they still weren’t sure if they had any candidates, which is why he called me. On the ride home I got to thinking about what has happened in the last 20 years…

The Wall Street Journal’s Tuesday edition was the paper for employment advertising. All the big jobs were listed there and the section ran multiple pages with literally hundreds of positions available. Active and passive job seekers scanned the ads over coffee first thing in the morning and then had to decide whether or not to mail their resumes to a listed company address, “No phone calls, please!” or to a blind ad PO box.

Then they waited for a postcard, a letter or phone call to let them know about the status of their application. Sometimes they heard back, more often than not they did not receive any acknowledgement of their interest. And so they waited for the following week’s issue to come out and started the process over again and often got the same result. This happened whether they responded to a CEO ad or something else.

I was busy in 1989 as an executive search consultant helping to fill CEO and C-level jobs for clients ranging from startups to large public companies who were experiencing dramatic growth during the Reagan economic boom. Clients appreciated my Rolodex, the search process and the value adds of in-person interviews, written evaluations, reference audits and compensation negotiations.

The Internet arrived with job boards and company direct postings. Now active and passive job seekers could look daily at opportunities. They could see who was actively hiring, look at resume examples, get tips on interviewing and receive an acknowledgement from the company telling them that their resume would be reviewed and retained for future reference. They did have to wonder if their employers were posting “dummy” jobs to see who was looking or unhappy, and also how private their information actually was. They had to make sure they had the correct “key words” so that the scanning technology would capture them and match them to the jobs.

I was very busy in 1999 as an executive search consultant helping to fill CEO and C- level jobs for clients ranging from dot com startups to large public companies trying to become “e” savvy. Clients appreciated my “proprietary database,” the search process and the value adds of interviews via video, the evaluations delivered by email an hour after the interview took place to anywhere in the world, and the web searches conducted for background information/due diligence. Drafts of offer letters and compensation term sheets now flew around the globe at the click of a mouse.

Social networking and a 10% unemployment rate have changed the landscape for those now seeking a new job. Few ads appear in The Wall Street Journal today and the job boards have gotten very good. Most job seekers should, by now, be internet savvy, if not “power users.” Companies post their openings on their respective corporate websites and they use search engine optimization tools to make sure their openings leap to the top on Google. Linked in, Facebook, Twitter, Plaxo and dozens of other social networking sites offer job listings and are powerful tools used by everyone including search consultants like me to identify prospects.

I am extremely busy in 2009 as an executive search consultant helping to fill CEO and C-level jobs for clients ranging from startups to large public companies trying to reposition, regain momentum or survive these difficult times. I use the internet, search engines, and social networking sites as part of my daily work. I also draw on over 30,000 interviews and experience gained from working with hundreds of clients. I try to apply that knowledge to provide objective counsel and advice as I help clients to focus on selecting someone based on “good fit,” not just because he’s a “good person” or has a “great resume.” I also work hard at identifying new people for every project and then I actually call them, meet them, assess them and recruit them for my clients. Clients like that!

It occurred to me that no matter how the media for job listings and tools for recruiting have evolved, the value adds of an experienced search consultant have remained consistent – to provide objectivity, expertise, guidance and counsel.

Last time I looked no computer, job board, website or social network made phone calls. I don’t think they do interviews either, yet.

Charley Polachi is founder of Polachi & Co., a provider of executive search services to high-tech companies and their investors. He previously was managing partner for the Rt. 128 office of Heidrick & Struggles, which had acquired a search firm that Charley had co-founded called Fenwick Partners.