Telling Your Story & Helping You Win

by Ross Fletcher 6/4/24

Storytelling is one of the most important tools we have to help find your next top talent.  Crafting a compelling narrative of your company and its specific needs is a no-brainer in attracting the right caliber of person to help you move forward.  That’s where Herd Freed Hartz excels, and it’s why I’m excited to use my deep storytelling experience to pique the interest of your next great hire.

As a former broadcaster and journalist, I couldn’t begin to count the number of stories I’ve told. My career across TV and radio spanned more than 25 years. In one day alone as a BBC radio presenter, I could go from interviewing the CEO of a major airline to a community volunteer raising funds for their local non-profit.  I’ve always found a real joy in hearing stories from across the spectrum and then shaping them for my target audience – the feeling of not knowing what’s coming next always keeps you sharp.

When building a story, one of the most important aspects of any interaction I have is being a great listener. Understanding people is at the heart of it.  Being well-researched and having a solid list of prepared questions is vital, but often the most revealing information comes from reacting to something you don’t expect. I’m confident that having a natural curiosity helps to flesh out the good stuff.

That’s where my time reporting at the 2012 London Olympics comes to mind. While I had the privilege of interviewing some of the world’s most recognizable athletes, my favorite encounter was with a less well-known 400 meter hurdler from the Dominican Republic called Felix Sanchez.  At the age of 34, he’d just won gold for the second time, and I was prepared to hear him talk about his legacy of success.  But his story quickly took an emotional turn as he explained his failure at the previous Olympics four years ago.  He’d failed to make it out of the qualifiers, having learned that same day the crushing news of the death of his grandmother, who’d been one of his biggest supporters. I knew I had to pivot the nature of my interview, to hear more about his deeply emotional tale – at that point who cared about his stride pattern between hurdles three and seven?

I asked him how proud his grandma would be of his return to the top of the podium.  He explained that since the day she’d died, he’d used her memory as inspiration and that in training and during every race he’d stick a picture of her inside his vest, to feel like she was with him. I asked Felix if I could see the picture.  And sure enough, he gently plucked out a two-by-two inch black and white photo of his grandma, as the eyes of both athlete and interviewer began to moisten.

In every walk of life, from sport to business, the power of great storytelling can never be underestimated. How can I help tell your story? Get in touch:

Building Your Executive Band: Harmonizing Different Eras of Talent

By Scott Rabinowitz, Partner @ Herd Freed Hartz – Executive Search

Imagine Elvis Presley, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, creating a band that includes modern icons like Keith Moon, Sheryl Crow, and Marvin Gaye. This unique blend of talents from different eras and genres in one band provides a powerful metaphor for the art of executive hiring. Check out this video below of Elvis introducing his band – it’s amazing.

The Art of Harmonizing Diverse Talents

In the hypothetical supergroup led by Elvis, each musician brings their distinct style, era, and genre. The challenge and beauty lie in harmonizing these diverse talents into a cohesive and dynamic band. Similarly, in the corporate world, bringing together leaders from different backgrounds, industries, and expertise can lead to a harmonious and innovative executive team.

Understanding Each Member’s Unique Contribution

Elvis’ band would need to balance the rock ‘n’ roll rhythm with Keith Moon’s explosive drumming, Sheryl Crow’s versatile vocals, and Marvin Gaye’s soulful melodies. In a corporate setting, this translates to understanding how a CEO’s visionary leadership can complement a CFO’s analytical prowess, a CMO’s creative strategies, and a COO’s operational efficiency.

Cultural Fit and Era Blending

Just as blending artists from different musical eras requires a deep understanding of their individual cultures and styles, assembling an executive team involves more than just skills. It’s about finding leaders who can blend into your company’s culture and adapt to its evolving narrative.

How We Can Help

At Herd Freed Hartz, we view executive hiring like forming this eclectic band. It’s about more than just finding the industry’s top players; it’s about creating a symphony of skills, experiences, and personalities that resonate with your company’s culture and goals.


Assembling an executive team is akin to creating a band with legends from various eras. It requires a keen understanding of how different talents and backgrounds can harmonize to create something greater than the sum of its parts. At Herd Freed Hartz, we specialize in conducting this complex orchestra of executive hiring, ensuring that each member contributes to a masterpiece of business success.

Pivoting to Virtual Hiring

By Karen Bertiger, Managing Director

Six months ago most organizations would have shunned the idea of a completely virtual hiring process. How can you assess a candidate’s culture fit without sitting across a table from them? How can you onboard a new employee without those essential impromptu hallway conversations and company immersion? At Herd Freed Hartz we have been assisting clients who have had to swiftly adapt to a virtual hiring model because their hiring needs haven’t eased even during a pandemic.

For the first few weeks, many clients put recruiting efforts on hold. But as time wore on and it became clear the pandemic wasn’t going to go away any time soon, companies were forced to create a workable “new normal.” As leaders in the executive search space, it was our responsibility to help our clients navigate a situation that had no precedence.

Fortunately, we were already experts at virtual hiring. Long gone are the days when “headhunters” traveled the globe interviewing candidates; the industry found that by using video conferences we saved our clients both time and money. But that solution evolved over a period of years; we were asking our clients to pivot to a completely unfamiliar – and for some uncomfortable – process on a dime.

Now that we are five months into the pandemic, we are starting to see the results of hires made entirely virtually and decided to check in with both the clients and the candidates to see how it was working out. What we learned was that, for the most part, companies have not only adapted to virtual hiring and onboarding processes but have been pleasantly surprised by the freedom and flexibility they provide. And thanks to some quick pivots by executive and human resources teams, the new employees haven’t missed a beat.

Across the board, companies credited a reliable video conferencing platform, like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, as the most critical tool for the virtual hiring process to be successful. In those first few weeks, most companies hadn’t had a chance to assess and select one for themselves, so as their search partner we hosted a platform for them so they wouldn’t lose time.

Takeaway: Find a reliable video conferencing platform that works for your organization, and be consistent with that platform.

Ron Howell, CEO of Washington Research Foundation, had launched a critical search with us for a Director of Grants right before the pandemic hit. This wasn’t a role that could be put on hold; the predecessor had announced her retirement, and the Washington Research Foundation’s grant awards were critical to entrepreneurs who were solving a wide range of medical and technical challenges, including eradicating diseases like COVID-19.

“I was worried we wouldn’t have enough time to socialize [with the candidates] and really determine EQ skills,” Howell said. “But ‘meeting’ our candidate over video conference multiple times alleviated that concern. In fact, any fears I had about hiring during the pandemic turned out to be unfounded. Herd Freed Hartz was invaluable in helping us figure out alternatives to traditional interviewing. They guided and advised us throughout a process nobody was familiar with and ultimately we couldn’t be happier with our new hire.”
Howell hired the Director without ever having met him in person.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to give virtual hiring a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised to find it’s really not that different, and you can still assess culture fit by leveraging a search firm’s expertise.

“COVID interviews are tricky,” says Lisa Edwards, Superintendent of Verdant Health, who herself was onboarded during the pandemic and is now conducting the hiring for her organization. “Don’t wait for COVID to go away before making hiring decisions but be aware of how priorities have changed for the workforce. Candidates want to know what safety measures are in place. Be prepared to discuss the company’s re-opening plan. What are the steps the company is taking to ensure health safety? Do you have a contact-tracing log? How often are surfaces cleaned, and what deep-cleaning is taking place?”

It’s also important to discuss upfront the company’s policy on working in the office. Is there the option to work 100% virtually? If so, what tools and resources will the company provide? If not, what safety measures are in place? Whether or not a company is open to providing employees with the option to work from home is a key differentiator when it comes to attracting talent right now.

Takeaway: Be prepared to address pandemic-related questions and concerns from candidates and to offer flexible solutions.

A $2b Seattle-based company that engaged Herd Freed Hartz on an executive search for a VP of Human Resources was on top of the virtual hiring experience immediately. “We’ve been hiring virtually this whole time,” says Allison [last name redacted for confidentiality], the candidate identified through Herd Freed Hartz who was hired virtually herself, and is now overseeing the virtual hiring process for the company. “The recruiting team has found that working remotely has allowed more flexibility because we’re not scheduling around physical space. We can meet people where they are, which is usually at home. We have a lot more scheduling freedom; we don’t have travel logistics, so we can access people’s time more easily. It’s gone well for us, and the transition has been pretty seamless.”

Takeaway: Virtual hiring can actually be faster and easier!

David Shoultz, now Director of Grants for the Washington Research Foundation, found himself going through multiple interview processes at the start of the pandemic. He brings the perspective of how different companies reacted to events. “WRF managed [the virtual process] much better than others did. The CEO did a great job of moderating the video conferences. Even when I had to give a presentation, it was just as easy, if not easier, to present over video.” In contrast, another company he was speaking with adopted a “wait and see” approach, delaying their search and ultimately taking them out of the running for Shoultz as a prospective employer.

“WRF was the exception to my experiences interviewing during the pandemic,” says Shoultz. “Most companies were really struggling with the technology and the comfort level of hiring and onboarding virtually. I got to see how multiple companies reacted to and coped with uncertainty. It was a very interesting insight I may not have seen in more normal circumstances.”

Takeaway: This is a candidate’s chance to see how the organization handles itself, and treats its employees, under pressure.

We are living through history right now, and history has shown times of strife breed opportunity for creativity and innovation. While there will be an adjustment period as companies pivot to virtual hiring, the results we are seeing have been just as successful as hires made before the pandemic began, with a few fringe benefits to boot.

Virtual Onboarding

by Karen Bertiger, Managing Director

At Herd Freed Hartz our involvement doesn’t end when the candidate accepts the position. The successful onboarding of the employee into the organization will have a lasting impact on that employee’s long-term viability. Part of our responsibility is to help our clients set up new hires for success, but how does that work in an entirely, or mostly, virtual world?

We checked in with a few of our clients’ hires to get the candidate’s perspective on their onboarding experience. Allison [last name redacted for confidentiality], who was placed by Herd Freed Hartz with a $2b healthcare corporation in Seattle, was pleased and excited by how smoothly her onboarding experience was at her new company.

The team pivoted quickly by providing each employee and new hire with a “home office.” Allison simply arranged a time to visit the building and remained in her car while the equipment – “even an office chair!” – was loaded into the back. Since those early days of the pandemic’s onset, the team continues to iterate the onboarding process to ensure a seamless transition for new employees.

“New hires meet each other on the Teams platform,” explains Allison, “and we’ve developed online interactive activities providing presentations and tools new employees can use to interact with each other.”

Takeaway: Be prepared to provide tools and resources to new employees to do their job remotely, and rethink how your onboarding process can be translated into the virtual world.

One of the most important aspects of onboarding is introducing the employee to the individuals and teams they’ll need to know. It’s easy for employees to forget about the new person if they aren’t sitting in the next cubicle. An onboarding schedule of virtual “meet-and-greets” is key to ensuring the new employee makes meaningful connections in the first few weeks.

“Everybody was so wonderful,” says Allison. “I was given a schedule of formal meetings as part of my onboarding, but there were also people just reaching out to me, welcoming me and offering assistance.”

Takeaway: Bump up internal communications to ensure everyone is aware of the new hire and create a virtually welcoming environment beyond the more formal introductions.

Lisa Edwards, who was placed by Herd Freed Hartz at Verdant Health at the beginning of the pandemic, had a slightly different onboarding experience because some of her roles required a physical presence in the office. “My onboarding was half virtual, half physical,” she says. “For the pieces that required me to be physically in the office, we limited those too short segments, using social distancing guidelines and masks.”

Employees at Verdant have the option of signing up for a time at the office, which allows the company to limit the number of people in the building and perform deep cleaning between and during shifts. WRF has adopted a similar policy, providing employees a choice of some office time, or no office time, and again requiring them to sign up in advance to ensure only a few employees are in the space at a time. The important thing is to ensure employees are not penalized or negatively impacted if they choose to remain entirely virtual.

”There is a layer of unease and uncertainty all of us in the workforce are facing every day,” says Edwards. “There is always the risk of exposure. Everyone is doing their best to maintain professionalism, but with this underlying tension.”

Takeaway: Be prepared to meet each employee where they are most comfortable and do not penalize employees who choose to remain virtual.

In each of these examples, the key differentiator lies with those employers who were able to pivot and adapt quickly, treated employees with compassion, and provided flexibility to their workforce. Those that did were still able to pursue those key hires that kept their businesses moving. And so far, we aren’t seeing any negative impact on either the employer or the new hires who adapted to virtual hiring.

3 Ways Unconscious Bias Impacts Your Job Descriptions

by Karen Bertiger, Managing Director

As recruiters, it is our responsibility to ensure a fair interview and selection process; much of a company culture’s inclusion and diversity starts with recruiting, and we take this very seriously. We are proud that our data shows we are at or above industry standards for diverse placements. But we also understand we are still learning.

The concept of implicit bias, also called unconscious bias, was introduced by Mahzarin Banaji in the late 1990s and the research has been ongoing. Implicit bias refers to attitudes and beliefs that occur outside of our conscious awareness and control.

Some of what you’ll learn about implicit bias will likely be very surprising, which is an important point. We have to start by accepting that we don’t know what we don’t know and that at times this will be an uncomfortable journey.

From a recruiting standpoint, our opportunity to address how unconscious bias affects hiring practices and workforce equality begins as early as the job description. We want to ensure our descriptions are inclusive and will encourage all qualified individuals to engage.

Here are three broad topics to get you started on the learning curve:


Affinity bias is the tendency to gravitate towards people who are like us, but not necessarily the best person for the job. It also has to do with assumptions by association. This Psychology Today article addresses our desire to belong, and how that plays out in the professional arena. For example, one association may be that if candidates have an Ivy League education they must be smarter and better at the job. By including this requirement in your job description you are limiting the performance of your organization, and discouraging the majority of qualified applicants. Avoid specifying things like “Top Tier school” or “top engineering university” – just list the degree the role requires.

Other affinity biases may be towards people who are involved in similar extra-curricular activities as you, such as sports or other personal hobbies. These topics wouldn’t be in a job description, but it’s something to keep in mind when reviewing candidates.

Try to focus on the accomplishments and experience of the candidate you want to attract, rather than peripheral material.


Ageism refers to the assumption that someone can or cannot do a job based on age. We don’t talk about this much, but we’re all aware of it. On LinkedIn professionals truncate their profiles and dates are left off education so assumptions aren’t made about ability. In your job description, it’s best not to limit experience under the qualifications. 5+ years is okay. 5-10 years is not because it implies ageism.

This is a big one to unpack. Research has identified certain descriptors that are perceived as masculine or feminine traits that may unconsciously affect a candidate’s interest in the role or company. It’s been found that gendered wording only impacts women and has little or no effect on men. The Women and Public Policy Program created by Harvard University is just one study that came to this conclusion.

Here is a broad list of these words. Some are pretty obvious while others will be surprising. LinkedIn helps boil this list down to the ones most often used in job descriptions and provides alternatives. I wouldn’t look at this as a list of “no-nos,” but something to be aware of when crafting your job description. Do your best to balance these terms; for help, you can run your job description through the Gender Decoder which identifies terms that may be discouraging to certain applicants.

We hope this introduction will encourage you to learn more. Keeping an open mind is the best way to start creating a more inclusive and equitable culture at your organization.

Jim Herd interviewed by CNBC on companies poaching Amazon’s talent pool

Jim Herd, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Herd Freed Hartz, was interviewed for this CNBC article about the trend of Amazon losing executives as it becomes a prime target for recruiting talent.

See full CNBC article (published May 17, 2018) by Eugene Kim

Amazon loses another key executive as it becomes a top target for poaching tech talent

  • Jim Freeman, VP of Alexa who oversaw all messaging and communication products, has left in April, adding to the string of recent executive departures at Amazon.
  • More than a dozen executives and senior managers have left Amazon over the past 10 months.
  • Hiring experts say there’s been increased demand to poach from Amazon, while some managers are leaving due to burnout.

….Professional recruiters point to two broader trends for the sudden uptick in the number of managers leaving: burnout after breakneck growth and stronger demand for Amazon executives from other companies.

Jim Herd, managing partner at the Seattle-based executive recruiting firm Herd Freed Hartz, said Amazon could be a tough place to be for a long time, as its work culture tends to be more fast-paced and high-pressure than some of its peers.

“When you go to Amazon, you’re on a treadmill — it’s really non-stop,” Herd said. “It’s not a place for everyone.”

At the same time, thanks to Amazon’s exponential success in recent years, the demand for Amazon executives has grown significantly, Herd said. Now, 9 out of 10 of his clients pick Amazon as their most preferred poaching destination, he said.

And the higher Amazon’s stock goes, the more companies are asking for Amazon executives to come help build a similar culture of growth. It is no coincidence that a lot of the departing executives went on to join later-stage startups, such as Airbnb, WeWork, and Uber, he said.

“In the ’90s everybody wanted Microsoft executives. Now it’s Amazon,” Herd said….

How Job Title Buzzwords Help You Attract Talent

Paul Freed, Managing Partner & Co-Founder of Herd Freed Hartz, was interviewed for a UK article around the trend with companies using new creative buzzwords to attract talent using non-traditional job titles such as “Ninja”, “Rockstar” and “Guru”.

See full UK article (published March 2, 2018)


As a small and emerging business, every hire is integral to your success. Many businesses use buzzwords in the hopes of getting the attention of younger workers. You may be tempted to advertise titles such as ‘IT Guru’ or ‘Development Wizard’ in the hopes of landing an employee who is flexible and can meet unexpected challenges as you continue to grow. These seem like flashy titles, but what do they actually mean? Here’s a snapshot of some buzzwords you may see out there:


Candidates must have expert knowledge in a field and a high level of problem-solving skills. They’ll also be able to pass on knowledge to other workers.


Vast amounts of creativity are needed, likely balanced with a very technically-based skillset and able to bring a unique style to work.


Must be self-motivated, with lots of energy and an ever-positive attitude in the face of problems. Almost certainly target-driven and likely from a sales background.


Storytellers lead PR efforts and coordinates promotion across many different channels. They’re in charge of how a brand communicates its ideas to the public to drive increased sales.


These positions demand workers with extensive knowledge of a niche area of expertise, most likely in the realm of technology (such as a programming language).


Rockstar may be used if a company is looking for a forward-thinking individual in their field of knowledge who can produce out-of-the-box ideas. They’ll likely also be target-driven and will regularly exceed said targets.

(left to right) Paige NeJame from CertaPro Painters, Lily Stoyanov from Transformify, Brad Owens from HR Coaching, Doug Monro from Adzuna and Paul Freed from Herd Freed Hartz. Also contributing: Gene Mal from Static JobsGrowing your workforce is a lot different to promoting your business, so we spoke to recruiters and hiring managers from around the world to learn how these buzzwords can promote your business and land top talent when you’re looking to hire. 

We asked each of our experts about which job titles are successful in attracting candidates, and which will likely turn people away. You can find the results of their scores, including their thoughts on how job titles can help or hinder the ability to recruit talent, below.


GM: They want to stand out, plus this is a way to emphasise that they want the best of the best. They don’t want just a Big Data Analyst. They want an Expert Big Data Analyst. Big Data Guru is the next logical progression. ‘Guru’ implies another level of expertise – someone who can teach experts.

BO: The initial use of creative and unusual job titles was to appeal to those job seekers that felt like they couldn’t stand to do their same, boring job over and over again. A new and innovative title made them feel like this new potential company was taking a fresh approach to what they do and was a more attractive employer.

DM: An increasingly competitive environment for recruiters means top talent is often highly sought after. Hiring managers are facing more pressure than ever to make every available role “the one” and help their positions stand out as special.  


PN: Companies may be able to attract a younger employee with these titles.

BO: Initially, I think the shift to more creative job titles led to an increase in motivated applicants for organisations that were willing to think outside of the box with their roles. That doesn’t always mean that the applicants were the right fit, but they certainly had a spike in interest.

PF: It shows off your culture. People work for people, not companies, so showing your sense of humour and culture is good and can add personality to often boring, HR-driven job descriptions. You don’t want to come across as saying “Here are 25 soul-sucking tasks you can do, but you don’t know why. Interested?” Talking like a real person is helpful, but you need to get them to find your opening first.  


LS: In some cases, the creative titles may be confusing or even misleading. What if the ‘overlord’ is actually there to support all team members and has no voice at all?

PF: You will attract fewer candidates. In fly fishing, you want to “match the hatch”. This means you want to make your fly on the hook look like something the fish are looking for. Candidates do not type ‘Coding Ninja’ into or sort by that. This is a huge disadvantage. Why would you intentionally lose candidates in an effort to look cool?

PN: When I advertise for a position, my first objective is to be as clear as I can be in the ad.  This means I remove all company jargon and boil the position down to the nuts and bolts of what they’ll be doing. By not sugar coating the position, I tend to get fewer, but better candidates who understand what it takes to do the job. By using an unusual title for the position, I might get more resumes, but fewer qualified candidates.  


DM: ‘Genius’, ‘expert’ and ‘rockstar’ come up more often than you’d think. We don’t see as many ‘overlords’ as we used to, though. Must be a competitive space.

GM: I’ve seen ‘evangelists’, ‘gurus’, ‘jedis’, ‘ninjas’, ‘warriors’, ‘soldiers’ and ‘knights’ for ordinary software development roles.

PF: ‘Product evangelist’ – someone promoting a new product or industry. ‘Sales hunter’ – a term used for salespeople who get new logos and clients. ‘Sales farmer’ – a term used for salespeople who keep current clients happy.  


PN: There are two main problems: candidates seem immature or young, or the company they worked for looks unestablished. Often a recruiter will have no idea what that title means, so the candidate is passed over for an interview.

GM: As a job seeker, your safe bet is to avoid them on your resume. They can always write a professional-looking title, i.e. DevOps ‘Engineer’ instead of ‘Ninja’. It’s like going to an interview in professional attire even though your interviewer can wear jeans and sneakers.

BO: When someone that has an unusual job title searches for a new position, they are often faced with the need to explain their past positions in more depth than candidates with traditional titles. Employers often have less trust of potential employees with vague job titles.  


LS: There will be more creative titles in the tech industry, for sure. ‘Cryptocoin Mining Guru’, ‘Bitcoin Trading Wizard’ etc. are likely to come to life.

BO: I think that unusual job titles only have a place internally at organisations that want to promote their culture. However, external job titles and job ads should focus on being much more straightforward and traditional, or else you risk missing your ideal candidate. In 5-10 years, I would hope that employers could create job titles that wouldn’t set their team members up for a headache when they leave their organisation. Think about how you’re affecting their careers.

DM: Pressure is on organisations to push the boundaries more than ever, to stand out for candidates and attract top talent to work with you. With the increase in creative language, we may well be seeing yet more unusual titles joining the fold, from ‘pirates’ to ‘wranglers’, as well as social media developments pushing in words like ‘influencer’. We may even see words like ‘programmer’ or ‘scientist’ make the leap out of the world of STEM and into the marketing mainstream. ‘Brand Scientist’, anyone?

Understanding Retained Search

With a more stable economy, a generational change in business leadership, and increased competition for highly experienced executives, relying on finding your next executive hire through traditional means like colleague referral or networking won’t necessarily find you the right fit, or fill your role quickly. And as the Northwest becomes a magnet for more technology, consumer, biotech and healthcare businesses, even the most reputable, profitable and successful companies will need to boost their competitiveness to attract top executive talent.

Working with an executive search partner can bring significant benefits not just to your immediate hiring need but also to the ongoing health of your organization. Many companies dismiss this option either because they fear the cost might be prohibitive, or they don’t understand the longer-term value of this particular service. However, partnering with an executive search firm on a key, critical hire for your organization will not only be beneficial in the short term (finding the right fit) but can actually save you a considerable amount of time and money in the long run.

Some key contributing factors to today’s competitive market at the executive level include:
* The Conference Board, in a recent study, reported that the average tenure of S&P 500 company CEOs was 9 years in 2014.

* Temple University pinpointed “the optimal tenure length” for a CEO at 4.8 years, compared with the average at big corporations of 9-10 years.

* Nearly half of new CEOs don’t make it past 18 months, according to the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC).

* CIO tenure is under five years; according to CIO Executive Coach Larry Bonfante in CIO Insight magazine.

* And a recent CMO longevity study reported in the Wall Street Journal found the average tenure for CMOs fell to 44 months in 2015, down from 48 months in 2014.

In this tight market, companies are considering approaches to hiring that are new to them. Where in the past contingent search or a “friends and family” approach may have worked, many companies are now requiring the boost to executive hiring that retained search can provide.

While repeat customers of retained search (like venture capital and private equity backed companies) are advocates of the results and the process, other companies are unfamiliar with this approach to executive hiring. We’ve found – in talking to board members, executives and HR professionals – that there are some misunderstandings about the role of retained executive search.

Myth #1 – Executive Search is Expensive

The costs of replacing an executive can be exorbitant, and not always from a cash perspective. Especially when nearly half of new CEOs don’t make it past 18 months.

In fact, 53% of failed hires ended up failing because “the hire’s personality was not suited to the role or company,” according to the 2016 McQuaig Global Talent Recruitment Survey of nearly 450 HR professionals from around the globe.

In a world where leadership is critical to business success, the costs of a mismatch in personality, leadership style culture or even geography can, and likely will, lead to underperformance, and can have a ripple effect on the morale of the organization as a whole. By ensuring a rigorous screening process, in the long run you’ll save your company significant pain and cost by finding the right fit, the first time. In addition, most search firms will guarantee their placement for six months to a year, mitigating your risk and costs.

Retained, executive search professionals spend the majority of their time doing research – matching personalities, culture, and business acumen with business leaders, board members, partners and their prospective executives. And we screen your candidates for the role, the company and the area – in the case of relocation.

We do so to maximize fit, and minimize disruptions to the business as new leaders are assimilated into new organizations. We work together to ensure everyone establishes long-term successful relationships throughout their careers.

When you engage with a retained search firm you should expect the following return:

  1. Intense and exclusive attention to your business, culture, leadership team and fit. The best retained search firms don’t take on too many searches so they can truly be the driver, mentor and strategist for the entire time it takes to fill your role.Executive search partners are advisors on both sides of a successful placement, holding hands with each party and guiding them down the proverbial aisle. Both the candidate and the organization are entering into true partnerships – almost a marriage – with leadership teams, company cultures, even geographical lifestyles. It is the search firm’s responsibility to find the right match for you in every respect.
  2. It takes time and commitment to develop a deep understanding of a leadership role, successfully identify the relationships any candidate will need to cultivate, and ensure that out-of-state candidates would be comfortable with relocation to the Pacific Northwest.As candidates go through the process, the questions they ask and the emotions they need to go through in order to make their decisions can be very tricky. Your executive search partner will ensure candidates and clients are comfortable and all questions and concerns are addressed in order to move them through the process as efficiently and effectively as possible.
  3. A highly experienced retained search partner will control and manage the entire process for your team. At Herd Freed Hartz, for example, our executive search professionals have held leadership roles in the corporate world. We understand our clients’ perspectives because we’ve been on their side, sitting in their seats.
  4. The most successful candidates for your company will be currently employed. They will not be found on job boards, nor will they be thinking about making a career change. Through competent and strategic research and preparation, in conjunction with years of professional experience, the successful retained search executive can convince even the best of the best to consider new, often competitive opportunities.

There’s an art to telling your compelling story in the marketplace in a way that will convince happy executives to consider a move. Combining the best of “old school” search and “new school” search, your retained search partner should be able to deliver great candidates through personal relationships augmented with software based research that can speed results from first touch to final offer and acceptance.

Myth #2 – The Executive Search Fee Model is Inflexible

Retained, executive search firms charge for their connections, their research, candidate vetting, their handholding and their deep understanding of your personality, company culture and even the indescribable needs of your organization and the role you’re filling.

An executive search partner focuses solely on offering the most value for the business during the search, reducing stress on both parties, so that by the time the first highly-qualified candidate is considered, the client and candidate are prepared equally to understand the probability of landing a successful offer.

Most retained search firms offer fixed, time-based payment terms. At Herd Freed Hartz, we are flexible in our payment arrangements. And there’s an agreement up front as to payment milestones. Each milestone is connected to our client’s satisfaction.

We measure our results in a “Time to Candidate” metric– which is our average number of days from search kickoff to when the candidate who was presented to actually got the job (which is what we all care most about). Today, our average Time to Candidate is 37 days.

In other words, we’re happy when our clients are happy. And that can happen pretty quickly – even with a rigorous qualification process.

Myth 3 – You Don’t Need to Understand the Market When You Have an Internal Candidate

Benchmarking your internal candidates against a highly qualified pool of external candidates can protect both your company and your employees from risk.

Legally, every candidate should flow through the same process as you consider new roles. An executive search partner will ensure your internal candidate will be fully vetted for the right background, skills, fit and compensation; and provide comparison to to a selection of external candidates so you are able to make an informed decision.

Bringing an executive into your company and culture is a big decision, and the right executive search firm will allow you to focus on a carefully selected short list of highly qualified individuals that are right for your organization. Hiring a search firm may not be the right decision in every case, but by debunking some of these myths we hope that the idea of engaging with a retained search partner is something well worth exploring when it comes to your key executive hires.

About Herd Freed Hartz

Herd Freed Hartz is the premier executive search firm in the Northwest, with offices in Portland and Seattle. At Herd Freed Hartz, we listen to understand your story. We do a deep dive on your business, the role you’re trying to fill, and help identify the key outcomes to target the ideal candidate. And we’ve successful placed executives in more than 150 businesses around the Northwest – from Zillow to Starbucks to REI to Les Schwab Tires.

We know you can’t find a cultural fit through keyword research. We know how to look beyond the resume to find the right candidates for your business. And we take responsibility to represent your brand extremely well in the marketplace. We help you stand out from your competition, to attract the best prospective candidates, and ensure a great candidate experience throughout the time you connect with them.

We can quickly deliver executive talent to help you win. And as our team delivers great results to your business, we want to earn the right to be your long-term, trusted recruiting partner.

We get the Northwest. We get the importance of personality and cultural fit on both sides of the aisle.

We’d like to help you build a great executive team.

Connect with us – in Portland – 503-535-0713 or Seattle – 206-525-9700.

Create an Excellent Candidate Experience

By Karen Bertiger / Special to The Seattle Times Jobs (published in June 2016)

It’s no secret that today’s talent market is highly competitive, but perks and sign-on bonuses aren’t the only way to attract top talent. Creating a positive interview experience can strongly influence a candidate’s interest, as well as create a long-lasting impact on your overall employment brand.

According to a LinkedIn poll, more than 80 percent of candidates expressed that a negative interview experience can change their minds about a role; likewise, more than 80 percent also said that a positive experience could change their mind the other way.

But it’s not just the candidate you want who matters; everybody has a network with whom they may share their experience. Employer review sites like are becoming an influential resource for career decisions. More than 60 percent of candidates who have a positive interview experience will not only actively encourage others to apply, but 39 percent of them would be more likely to purchase that company’s product or service. Meanwhile, a third of those who had a negative experience will publicly share that experience as well, according to the Talent Board’s Candidate Experience Awards survey.

Your goal is to ensure that every candidate who has a touchpoint with your organization not only feels they were treated professionally but leaves the experience a new fan of your company.

Here are a few simple steps you can take that will make an immediate impact on your candidates’ experience.

Hook them early with a job description that “wows” and an easy application process.
Job descriptions should outline the exciting possibilities of the company and its role. They should clearly state the qualifications and goals for the position, followed by a straightforward submission process. Send an automated confirmation so the candidate knows his or her application was received. Often, résumé submissions fall into a “black hole” within recruiting departments; by providing a response, you will differentiate yourself and add a touch that shows appreciation for the candidate’s effort.

Communicate, communicate, communicate.
This is the No. 1 mistake hiring managers and recruiters make when it comes to the candidate experience. Make it a goal to reply to every applicant within 48 hours, either to schedule a first interview, request additional information or respectfully decline with an email template. Throughout your interview process, keep every candidate informed on the next steps and timing.

Outline your hiring process, so the candidate can focus on the interview and not logistics.
When inviting a candidate in for an interview, provide clear directions both to the office and upon arrival, and details describing the structure of the interview, e.g., how long should they expect to be there? Whom will they meet? Will there be a white-boarding session or other skill assessment tests? Providing candidates with the proper information to prepare for the interview will make the candidate feel more confident and at ease, which leads to a more “real” interaction. When the interview is over, be sure to let the applicant know when you plan to follow up with next steps — and then do it.

Respectfully decline.
It’s much easier to focus on creating a good experience for the candidate you hope to hire. But how do you guarantee that the candidates you decline will still leave the process with a positive impression of you and your company? Respectfully declining a candidate is a task most of us would rather avoid, so it’s not surprising that one of the top complaints of the interview process is never being officially “closed out.” By sending a quick, professional note letting the candidate know he or she will not be moving forward in the process, you will actually make a much more positive impression than if you avoid delivering the bad news. If the candidate advanced through multiple interviews, take the time to deliver the news by phone.

Timely communication is even more important when it comes to the candidate you do want. There’s a good chance your top choice will receive multiple offers from your competitors. The candidate will consider a number of factors when deciding which offer to take, but many hiring managers don’t realize that one of those factors is the experience the candidate had throughout the interview process. Did he or she receive clear, professional communication? Was the interview process well-organized? These are indicators of how he or she will be treated once in the job.

Most of these steps can be automated and will take just a few minutes, or even seconds, of your time. And yet, so many companies miss these opportunities to create a long-lasting, positive employer reputation in this competitive marketplace. By treating every candidate with professionalism and respect, you will have a competitive advantage over a less-conscientious competitor.

Karen Bertiger advises companies throughout the Puget Sound area as an executive search consultant with the Seattle-based firm Herd Freed Hartz, Inc.

Last update of the article: 06/05/2020.

Recruiting and Hiring Executives to Protect Your Bottom Line

Got an extra $1.5M lying around?

According to Geoff Smart and Randy Street in their best selling business book Who, the average hiring mistake costs 15x an employee’s base salary in hard costs and productivity loss. So the cost of a single employee making $100,000 a year leaving your company with or without cause has a significant impact on the company’s bottom line. While no company has complete control over who will stay and who will go, the best way to protect against these losses are to ensure you are hiring the right people, the first time.

No one is immune to poor hiring decisions. Even the most progressive businesses make hiring mistakes. Zappos’ CEO Tony Hseih began paying unhappy employees $2,000 to leave the company because hiring mistakes have cost him more than $100M. He recognized that paying employees who were not fully committed after two weeks in the role was actually more cost-effective than allowing a more natural process to weed them out over a longer period of time.

The Economist called unsuccessful hiring “the single biggest problem in business.” And leadership-hiring mistakes happen more often than you might think. In the US, the typical hiring success rate of managers is only about 50%, according to Peter Drucker and other researchers.

When only 50% of your leadership hires work out, the costs to your bottom line can be astronomical.

How is that possible? As Smart and Street spelled out in Who, costly hiring mistakes are made when business leaders:
* Are unclear about what’s needed in a job
* Have a weak candidate pool from which they can choose
* Don’t know how to pick out the right candidate from a group of similar candidates
* Lose candidates they really want to join their team

First let’s dissect how that single $100,000 employee’s $1.5M can add up:

A global study of 6,000 HR leaders by CareerBuilder explored the direct and indirect costs of hiring the wrong employee. The study’s participants cited the following wrong hiring costs to their businesses:
* 41% lost worker productivity
* 40% lost time due to recruiting and training another worker
* 37% expense recruiting and training another worker
* 36% negative impact on employee morale
* 22% negative impact on client solutions

To underscore the costs of lost productivity:

A survey of CFOs reported that supervisors spend 17% of their time (almost one day a week!) overseeing poorly performing employees. We’ve all been there, and realize that lost productivity is a black hole that affects the entire leadership team, employees, customers and shareholders.

To better understand the lost time due to recruiting someone else:

According to Glassdoor’s Economic Research team, the average time it takes to interview in Portland is 25.3 days, and in Seattle is 25.0 days.

That’s an average for interviewing candidates from franchise workers (shortest time) to government workers (longest time); and Portland and Seattle take the second- and third-longest times in the national study. Believe it or not, we’re ahead of fourth-place San Francisco, and behind only Washington, DC!

Add to the interview time – especially for business executive candidates – the time it takes to negotiate, to wait for the candidate to wrap up their obligations and come aboard, and the time to successful onboarding (not even productivity) can literally take months, unaided.

(At Herd Freed Hartz, we track quality and speed in our average “Time to Candidate” metric of 37 days. This is our average number of days from search kickoff to when the winning candidate was presented.)

To underscore costs to employee morale:

A high stress environment or an environment in which employees are disengaged can cause a loss of employee productivity. A bad hire often causes both stress (to the poor hire and/or others) and disengagement (of the poor hire and/or others).

The American Psychological Association, in their Annual Stress in America survey, estimates that more than $500 billion is siphoned off from the U.S. economy because of workplace stress, and 550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.

Studies from the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization found that disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects than workers who were engaged.

Enough Bad News! How Do We Hire More Effectively?

In short, business leaders must take a more disciplined approach to sourcing and interviewing all candidates – especially executives.

In HBR’s Definitive Guide to Hiring in Good Times and Bad, they noted:

A company can increase its yearly profits and market value by about a third through the disciplined generation and assessment of candidates for a CEO position. The typical cost of a search… is negligible when compared with the expected return on investment in candidate assessment.

Even for a company with a market value of $100 million—a 10% improvement in the quality of candidate assessments would have an expected return of almost $2 million in additional profits per year and mean an increase in market value of $30 million to $40 million.”

What are the attributes of “disciplined generation and assessments of candidates?” At Herd Freed Hartz, we take a programmatic approach with our clients, layering art and science on top of strategy:
* Strategy: Have a written plan to achieve your hiring goals
* Science: Leverage technology tools for efficiency and scale
* Art: Craft inspirational storytelling and candidate experience to ensure your company stands out from the pack


Successful Strategy: Building Your Plan and Goals

A written plan accomplishes several critical things: focusing your search; setting expectations for HR, your recruiting partner and the candidates themselves; and supporting the interview team as candidates come through.

First, defining the specific demands the job will require will help you screen for candidates more quickly, and help potential candidates understand your expectations from the very beginning.

Specifying the relevant skills and experience for the position will speed time to a strong candidate pool, and guide the interview team.

Identifying the team the candidate will need to work with – across and beyond your organization – will help build consensus among constituents as to job and candidate requirements.

And defining the way culture and context will affect the role (not the person) will elevate your hiring process beyond decision-making based on subjective, personal preferences

Science: Tools and Technology Speed Results

LinkedIn is still the biggest platform for recruiters, and recent studies have shown that 87% of professionals on LinkedIn are open to speaking with a recruiter. You might explore other social aggregation tools – like TalentHook, Gild and Hiring Solved – to more quickly find candidates through search. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research shows that HR professionals are leveraging social media to tap into the talent pool and to promote their organizations’ brand, culture and benefits offerings to attract and retain new leaders.

Building a great employer brand online – especially through social media – can help even the most passive candidates consider a career opportunity. Your website is your foundation for success, but increasingly potential candidates are turning to social media and LinkedIn (and other professional networking sites) to gather brand impressions.

Art: Inspirational Storytelling, Candidate Experiences Set You Apart

And finally, the art of recruiting and hiring leaders for great fit is the area that has the potential for the very best ROI in the successful hiring process. The art of executive recruiting is measured, inspiring and strategic.

The art of executive recruiting is:
* Adding just the right sizzle to the job description to make it so compelling, even passive candidates will consider a switch.
* Creating a seamless candidate experience so that every single candidate will walk away with a positive impression of your company.
* Helping everyone in your organization become a great brand advocate – everyone in your business should be a recruiter.
* Boosting your interview team’s skills, to focus on rational vs. emotional decisions
* Using epic storytelling techniques to set candidates and your eventual hire up for success in their first year on the job.

How does your business measure up?

We hope that illuminating the true costs of a bad hire and how to better prepare your organization for hiring success will help your organization to protect your bottom line and prepare for growth in a positive way.

An executive search partner can make the search process almost seamless for your leadership team, your candidates and your employees. And a retained search firm can often accelerate your search to a successful hire.

About Herd Freed Hartz

Herd Freed Hartz is the premier executive search firm in the Northwest, with offices in Portland and Seattle. At Herd Freed Hartz, we listen to understand your story. We do a deep dive on your business, the role you’re trying to fill, and help identify the key outcomes to target the ideal candidate. And we’ve successful placed executives in more than 150 businesses around the Northwest – from Zoom+ to Starbucks to REI to Les Schwab Tires.

We know you can’t find a cultural fit through keyword research. We know how to look beyond the resume to find the right candidates for your business. And we take responsibility to represent your brand extremely well in the marketplace. We help you stand out from your competition, to attract the best prospective candidates, and ensure a great candidate experience throughout the time you connect with them.

We can quickly deliver executive talent to help you win. And as our team delivers great results to your business, we want to earn the right to be your long-term, trusted recruiting partner.

We get the Northwest. We get the importance of personality and cultural fit on both sides of the aisle.

We’d like to help you build a great executive team.

Connect with us – in Portland – 503-535-0713 or Seattle – 206-525-9700.