"If we're paying a search fee, then I expect to find someone who can really 'wow' me," the Director told me in my morning meeting. "I'm not going to settle."
Later than day I met with another client to discuss their new search. The COO was explaining her expectations, "I want to see qualified candidates from a variety of backgrounds, so we can compare them." She outlined how her very stable team would benefit by including new people with diverse perspectives.
The simple act of paying a search fee dramatically raised the expectations of both hiring managers.
Think about that for a moment.
When you post an ad on a job board, you hope to get someone good. That's your hope, but you've learned not to expect much. When you "industrialize the hiring process" (like posting ads, letting HR process the responses, and only interviewing the people who happened to notice the ad, and who took the trouble to apply) your hiring managers know they should lower their expectations. And when you lower the caliber of people you hire, you are forced to spend more time managing average people.
Alternatively, when you invest more effort in your hiring process (either by investing in your internal recruiting process, or by engaging a search firm), you come to expect more .. so you end up hiring more exceptional people, and getting higher productivity with less management effort. (Managing high performers is not easy, but it's far less exhausting than managing low performers).
When you pay a search fee, you feel like your money would be wasted if you only saw people who were good--you want someone great. In fact, you don't just want someone great, you want to know you hired the best possible person, so you expect to interview people from a variety of backgrounds. This diverse outside perspective helps prevent the kind of stale, insular mediocrity that follows the phrase "5-10 years of experience in our industry."
So if you want better hires and more productivity with less management effort, shift your perspective. Invest in your hiring process. Trust in the fact that organizational commitment follows money--when you invest more money in recruiting, your managers will invest more energy getting the hiring exactly right.