October 3, 2023

Recruiting for Enron

Does your company have a reputation problem? If you work for today’s equivalent of Enron, or your last CEO was just indicted, you face special recruiting challenges. Many candidates, perhaps most of them, will shut you out before you can even deliver your message. 

You’ll face similar resistance, though perhaps less severe, if there are other business problems. Maybe revenues are on a well-publicized downward slide, the company is rumored to be an acquisition target, or the government has initiated a high-profile enforcement action due to some real or perceived misdeed. Whatever the reason, candidates wonder whether they’d be signing up for a cruise on the Titanic. 

Approach this problem like a good salesperson. You can’t do anything about the shortcomings of the situation, but you can identify and highlight the positives. Usually the same factors that are driving away candidates can be flipped on their heads and presented as opportunities. For example: 

Revenues have been in a decline. 
We need an executive who can craft and execute a strategy to return the company to growth. 

The FDA shut down our manufacturing facility. 
We’ve made mistakes and are committed to turning things around. We need a leader who can design and implement a new quality system. 

The misdeeds of our old management team caused us to lose trust on Wall Street. 
We need new leadership that can remake our culture and reestablish trust with our investors and business partners. 

Of course, the examples above assume that your company recognizes its problems and wants to do something about them. If that is true, you’re offering an opportunity to turn around a function or a business, and many candidates will find that attractive. 

If the company is on a downward trajectory and there’s no mandate for change, your job will be more difficult. You still must identify the positive attributes of the company and the job opportunity, but your message will be weak. You’ll have to commit yourself to a tough search and grind it out. In addition, you may need to resign yourself to the fact that the job simply is not very attractive, and you may not be able to recruit the quality of candidate you want. 

Excerpted from Mastering the Art of Recruiting (Praeger, 2015)

Approach the problem like a good salesperson.

of Praise

Mike Travis invested time to understand our business. He was efficient, proactive in keeping us informed of progress, and highly attuned to cultural fit.  We were thrilled with the process and the outcome — thank you Travis & Company!

— Francois Michelon, CEO, ENDRA Life Sciences