What are the common mistakes you see candidates make during the search process?
There are two major mistakes. The first big mistake is when a candidate comes to an interview unprepared, or worse, she or he comes in with the assumption that they are going to convince the hiring committee that the school needs them much more than the other way around.
A candidate’s primary objective during an interview is to make it clear that they sincerely want to be part of the institution and the athletic program. The best way to do that is to know everything there is to know about the job, and what it will take to be successful. If an athletics director or president has to spend countless hours figuring out what they are looking for in a hire, then a candidate should spend even more time to prepare and do their research.
The second mistake is when a candidate does not keep the search process confidential. “Leaking” information and publicly “campaigning” for the job are usually fatal mistakes that will cost the candidate the job.
Candidates should trust the process, let things develop, and then be strategic. Often, I see candidates disqualify themselves from jobs simply because they were too aggressive. It’s especially true with coaches who think that if they can get a student-athlete to sign by calling them twenty times in a week, they can convince an athletics director to hire them using the same tactic.
How advantageous is Parker’s vertically integrated business model in Higher Ed for the sports division?
PES truly understands the role athletics plays on a University campus. We understand the balance between athletics and academics. We believe that it is important to establish and nurture relationships across the campus, both academic and athletic. This is a guiding principle that differentiates PES from other sports-centered search firms.
Our company established itself as a leader in academic search before delving into athletic searches. Presidents, chancellors, provosts, deans, faculty, staff, and students are familiar with our team and our process. With athletics, we always maintain the same integrity, work ethic, and business model so that everyone on campus can feel comfortable and confident with the search.
We believe having relationships with the academic leadership of the institution is a great help when we begin to research and qualify potential candidates for athletic positions. Candidates will always list references that they are sure will put them in the best light, but what’s most valuable is having access to individuals who will give you a frank and candid assessment of that candidate. Since we have a wide variety of campus relationships across the country, we can gather an incredible amount of relevant information for our clients.
What was the genesis behind the pricing model for search consulting services in college athletics?
In terms of our pricing model, we are a true executive search firm in the same vein as Korn/Ferry, Witt/Kieffer and Spencer Stuart. In the business world, the base fee amounts to one-third of the eventual hire’s first year earnings. But in college athletics, it’s not realistic to charge one-third of a $3,000,000 coaching salary. Instead, we establish a base rate that accounts for the time and work necessary to prepare for and then complete the search. Sometimes this depends on the size and type of institution, the position that is being filled, or perhaps the urgency of the situation. Regardless, the price is agreed upon before the search process begins.
Our compensation is very much in line with how the rest of the executive search industry operates.
Many in our industry believe being a search firm is easy. What do most people not understand about the difficulty of attracting impressive candidates for an opening?
I can certainly understand why some people might think that way, but as I stated earlier, the role of PES is to recruit, advise, and facilitate the search process. While this sounds simple, there is no way to measure the effort put into preparation, time, market research, data collection, drafting a specific search strategy, and establishing relationships with the institution’s key leaders both on and off campus. And, this does not take into account the amount of travel that is necessary to ensure the right process is in place, and a successful search is launched. There is quite a bit done behind the scenes to make a search look easy and run smoothly.
Lastly, all of us at Parker Executive Search aspire to lead the field of search consultants. The PES team and I understand that there are no short-cuts. Everyone is committed to the hard work that is necessary to serve our clients today and going forward. We continue to invest in our people, our databases, and in building life-long relationships to better serve higher education in general, and intercollegiate athletics more specifically.