Why Can’t We Be Friends?

This month marks my 10th year as an Agency Recruiter and over half of that ten has been running Juno Search Partners, which my business partner and I co-founded in September of 2010. Some would say I was aggressive in the timing of hanging my own shingle, I really didn’t have much experience under my belt when I determined I wanted to do it on my own, but I knew nearly immediately that I could do it better than what I was witnessing from other firms and waited for the perfect timing.

My first experience was a “typical agency” environment. Make hundreds of calls, be deceitful in getting around gatekeepers, undermine and disparage our competition, throw resumes against the wall and see what sticks – the ultimate goal was the fee on the board at the end of the month. We were pitted against each other, our competition was sitting in the next seat and worked for the same company, and the clients and candidates were merely means to an end. There was zero collaboration and it was hard to be excited for our colleagues when they saw success. Essentially, nobody won and we had very little repeat business.

My second experience was different, as it was a retained firm and my role within the firm was different. I was an Executive Recruiter and not responsible for sales. By the time I was working on the search, we were retained exclusively and I could take the time that was needed to vet candidates properly, scour the market, and present who we really identified as our top 3 – 5 candidates. It was certainly a more consultative approach and this was where I learned to network, assess talent, and become a partner to my client. However; I found the sales cycle to be slow, the necessary reporting to be tedious, and the searches to be a bit of a bore. My personality is fast-paced and I need to feel gratification and wins often. It’s not a knock to that business model –there are often times I recommend to a client that they find a retained firm, it simply wasn’t for me.

When we were building Juno, we were really focused on a blended model. We thought – “Hey, maybe we can have it all.” We became laser-focused on building relationships, making connections, and only representing the top talent. If red flags popped up, we didn’t ignore them. If we discovered we were working with an unethical client, we fired them. We never disparaged our competition, in fact – we built a bridge to our competition. Our philosophy was simple – “We can all learn more from one another. We should be building each other up, instead of tearing each other down.”

I think what we found was with a few exceptions, other firms embraced us too. We all recognize that the days of acting like “used car salesmen” should be behind us. When we act like a bunch of unethical and greedy children – we damage our entire industry. When we undercut fees just to gain a search, we de-value our entire profession. When we badmouth our competition – we hurt ourselves.

I have co-founded and and am co-organizing a large event next week called DisruptHR. I put out an e-mail to most of my friendly competition to join – why wouldn’t I? I’m not intimidated or threatened, they are my peers. I learn from them, I network with them, and when I can – I help them and hope they are there to help me.

I recognize I have a bias, but I think I work with the smartest and most dedicated Recruiters in the city. We have built a culture of collaboration. Don’t get me wrong – we are competitors at heart and love friendly competition with one another and other firms – but it’s never at the expense of our clients, candidates, or internal culture. We have found a way to work together for one common goal.

My hope is that this trend continues – we are all in this together. I want to know you, I want to understand your best practices, and I want to share ideas and knowledge to move our industry forward. Let’s be honest, there is plenty to go around – we can all enjoy building wonderful careers, feed our families, while treating each other respectfully. Let’s restore our industry instead of destroying it.

So tell me – why can’t we be friends?

Mikal Harden