11 November 2005

Learning from executive job search – part 1

I am in the process of (hopefully) concluding a job search for myself which started in the background about 6 months back but in right earnest about a month or two back. As a background, I am a senior executive who worked for 10 years in a leading software enterprise application company – running global product engineering and professional services – about 800 people across the world. Before that I worked for 4 years in the finance industry.

Here are my learnings. These are entirely based on my experience.

Executive search firms are highly ineffective. At the end of the day, executive search firms work for the company. They are measured on whether a job was filled rather than how many resumes they were able to find jobs for. In the last 6 months, I must have contacted over a dozen executive search firms – including the top 6. None of them came thru. The one executive firm that did put me up at an account is somebody I had not contacted – they found about me from somebody else. Part of their challenge is that I do not think they share the resumes within the company. While many claim to have databases – other than one firm who I saw truly share their resumes – when I talked to as many as 6 people from the same firm – they had not a clue that all of them were talking to a person who is already in their database. My suggestion is to keep your network of the exec search firms up but do not count at all on that. Additionally, I found that the exec firms often help in coming up with the job description and they use their own way of “filtering” people – not necessary wrong or unfair – but very different from what I would do as a practitioner.

Surprisingly, small search firms come thru. I had the best experience with the small boutique companies. Usually, they cannot put you thru to more than a couple of companies but they were able to put me thru to the highest level. They also seemed more hungry for the business. Two out of the top five prospects that I liked best were brought to me by small search firms.

Websites are a good start. Sites like 6figures.com, linkedin.com are a good start. Usually you will find some job descriptions that you may like. What was effective for me was to find out about the recruiting firm or the company from these sites and then I called them up. 50% of the time I was able to reach somebody and then when I explained who I am, was put to the highest level which resulted in a phone call and often interviews.

You will be surprised who will come thru for you … and who will not… When I spread the word around people senior to me with whom I had worked in the past that I am in the market, I was totally surprised who all came thru and who did not. A CMO of our company with whom I had very little – but not substantial interactions was very helpful – she not only got me a few good leads – she followed up on them too! On the other hand, people with whom I was pretty close – some even socially – were not effective/willing at all. Lesson is not to count on people who you think you can count on.

People who were in my division were most resourceful!! By and large, the most high quality leads that led to at least multiple rounds of talk with the company came from people who had worked in my division – in fact none of them were my direct reports except one. Three of the top 5 companies that I liked came from people who worked in my organization at some point of time. I have a habit of wishing people who have ever worked in my division on their birthdays (I put them in my diary). All three followed the same pattern – email wishing happy birthday – reply asking how are you doing – response saying great, I am in the job market – phone call/email asking would you be interested in our company – me asking what do you do? Can you put me thru to your CEO – and the rest followed very quickly!! Lesson for me – Keep up the good habit of the birthday wishes (it keeps your network renewed once every year at least).

VC network. I do not have a strong VC network but while talking to a few startups, I noticed that this network is very powerful. If VCs are impressed with you, their ability to place you in companies that they influence is very high. However, this is an observation more than an experience.

That’s all for today. Next time, I will talk about some of the good and not so good practices of the recruitment process itself that I learn from…


10 July 2005

My baldness

In defense of all bald men

(Or as Shakespeare would put it … Toupee or Not Toupee!!)

Most men are born bald, some acquire baldness and some have baldness thrust upon them. I, with millions of hapless men and handful women, am afflicted with the shining-pate-iotitis!! No amount of cajoling with Selsun (plus and the non-plussed versions), Oasis and Rogaine would coax my deeply rooted follicle to come out of the mean ground level!! That and my underwater options from internet bubble days never saw the light of the day. Even my wife’s misguided effort to get me onto Propecia would not solve the problem. Propecia comes with a self-aggrandizing statistic of working on 99% men. I fell within the other 1%!! Well, Propecia also warns that 1% of the population will have reduced sexual functions. You guessed it!! I fell within this 1% too! Guess who is having more hair-raising experience now – me or my wife? 🙂 I guess this is almost fodder for a new soap opera – “The Bald and the Beautiful”.

I am not the only one with split hair problems. Mine, in fact, split about 20 years ago!! The genesis can be traced back to my engineering days. I realized I was getting bald since every morning it was taking me more and more time to wash my face. While perturbed, I figured I had enough hair to last me a life time. Adolescent stupidity – what can I tell you?

I think, we, the bald guys get the short of the stick (no pun on Propecia intended). People laugh at us. Life has presented me with numerous occasions when I would walk into a party and the host (or the hostess) would stop dead in the middle of welcoming me in whilst his (her) attention got distracted by the halo – a trifle more horizontal I must admit compared to more traditional halos – on the top my head. The customary “halos” take a form of a conversation such as …. “Hi, Rajib! You look…err… bright”!!

I get heckled at my stand up shows by yells from “Put your hat on!! There is too much shine on your head” to almost unbearable ones… “Is that your head or are you standing upside down?” 🙂

I feel nobody in this world is happy with their hair – the curly ones want straight hair – the straight ones want curly hair and we, the bald, want everybody to be blind. However, the bald ones seem to be overly sensitive about their hair – which is strange considering they don’t have any. I have a friend who truly defines optimism – he buys hair restorer and a hair brush from Eckerd’s on the same day!!

It is my well founded observation that we get judged unfairly altogether. We, the bald, hereby proclaim ourselves as the taller, smarter and handsomer version of our brethren – homo hairis. Clearly we are taller since we are bald in the first place because of our unique ability to grow taller than our hair. 🙂 We are definitely smarter – oh! Yessirrreee! May I refer you to Ibid 3 Unum 5 of the Old Testament which ran thusly – “God created a few perfect heads; the rest he covered with hair”!!


Look at the sheer advantages we have in life – we are not afraid of pulling the hood down in a convertible; we get special discounts at Pro-Cuts (although Supercuts has a special “finders fee” for people like me now), we don’t have to track down the missing comb in the bathroom and we don’t have to pull our hair out whenever our wives say “I have a headache tonight, dear”. No, Propecia took care of that!! Thoroughly unencumbered by the problems of the locks and tresses, when we go for a formal meeting, all we have to bother about is to straighten out the tie!! When there is a hair in the soup we yell at others at the dining table – because it obviously cannot be ours.

And we have our moments of insecurity too. In a classical Freudian concept of balancing, we often grow bizarre beards / mustaches like Sam Pitroda, Sean Connery, to keep the attention away from the top. I must confess here that I fell in that trap a year back with tremendous results. The party-entering conversation has moved to a “brighter” note of “Did you forget to shave today?” 🙂

I agree though the homo hairis folks do have certain advantages too – for example, they can rub their hair back and do the Joey-style “How You Doing?” when they meet a girl at a bar or split hairs over trivia at otherwise entertaining parties at the same bar. Even better, they can keep ponytails like Hariharan and truly confuse you about their gender from a distance. 🙂  And a Tamil Brahmin with hair knows where to stop drawing his bibhuti up his forehead.

On the other hand, while our hirsute brothers fret and foment when a bird does the “deed” on their head, we merely wipe with a Kleenex and thank God that cows cannot fly. You see, we believe in the eternal balance of life. As the pirated version of the Bible in China says now “God is good / Good is fair / To some he gives brains / To the others hair”

But we try and take a philosophical look at life – essentially for men, it comes down to two choices of styles of hair – the parted and the departed!! At the end of the day, I do have to sigh and repeat what a few changra chhokras once told me in the mean streets of Kolkata – “Dada, Sobtai Kapal”

(this was composed by me in 2005 after collecting a lot of comments I had to hear in my life and read about other’s same fate 😮 )

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