Friday, May 27, 2011

Security Recruiting Contracts, A Glimpse Into The Future

You’ve probably heard the saying “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. I’m not sure who said that but I disagree. Please allow me to explain.

Bad Contract, Bad Client

For many years now, I’ve seen a direct correlation between bad contracts and bad clients. Recently, I received s search contract from a $9 Billion dollar Fortune 500 company. The contract now stands as the worst contract I’ve seen in 22 years of recruiting from a Fortune 500 company.

The contract offers the lowest search fee we’ve ever been offered by a major employer. In fact, the fee percentage is so low that it is insulting. This isn’t even close to being the only issue.

We’re supposed to guarantee that the candidate we place and subsequently have no control over will succeed for at least six months. For that matter, we’re supposed to guarantee that this company has a manager on board who can properly manage the candidate we present and the candidate they choose to hire. is not an insurance company. We’re in the search and placement business.

People Do What They Do

Of course we want 100% of our placements to be successful but we can only find and introduce people to one another. We’re not in a position to insure what we don’t have control over. People do what people do. An HR Director client of mine once said:

Jeff, you know what the problem is with your product? It talks.
This comment came from the HR Director following my delivery of a candidate who fit a highly complex Converged Chief Security Officer job like a glove. The problem was that he talked so much about things that the interviewers didn’t want or need to hear that he talked his way out of a $250,000 career changing job.

Back To The Contract

This company has a clause in its contract stating that if the name of a candidate we present is found on a major job board, they don’t owe us a search fee. How would we know if someone whom we directly recruit for a position has their resume posted to a major job board when we don’t have subscriptions to any major job boards? Perhaps this is a reason for security professionals to not post their resumes to major job boards. You never know how doing so might exclude you from top-shelf searches that highly specialized security recruiters have on their desks.

I understand that this company is trying to protect itself from paying a search fee to a recruiter that does nothing but post jobs to job boards but not all recruiters operate in that manner and they shouldn’t all be thrown into the same bucket. Thankfully, not all companies are this narrow-minded when they think of outside recruiting partners.

The contract goes on to state that if the company had “intentions” of reaching out to the candidates we present for their open security jobs, they don’t have to pay us a search fee. Seriously? This company could claim to have had intentions to contact anyone we surface.

The Grass Does Get Greener

On the same day, I received a contract from a Fortune 50 sized company. The contract offered a solid and fair search fee and contained provisions to protect and the client company in a reasonably fair and balanced way.

The HR person on the other end of my phone who is connected to this company has been professional and courteous every time we’ve interacted. She has followed through on every word she has spoken and all indicators are pointing to a great partnership.

In fact, yesterday we shared a conference call with the HR person and a Director of Information Security designed to acquaint us with the multiple information security jobs this company needs our help to fill.

The HR person talked about her role and our role and used the word “partnership” multiple times during the discussion. In other words, this HR person doesn’t have a specialization in security recruiting like does and she recognizes that.

Rather than being our adversary and resenting our existence, she has chosen to embrace our existence as strategic partners.

Integrity, Humility, Respect

The company this HR person works for is driven by the guiding principles of integrity, humility and respect. Part of this company’s guiding philosophy covers having respect for peers within the company as well as having respect for business partners with whom they strategically align. That makes a lot of sense to me.

Strategic Partners

When recruiter – client relationships are set up properly, recruiters who are good at what they do and are recognized by their clients as being at the top of their game are viewed and treated as strategic partners. This is the case 100% of the time when we find a great client relationship.


A good friend who works at the VP level in information security was available to me around the time that these good and bad contracts landed on my desk. I explained the contrast in contracts to this friend. He had an interesting response. He suggested that as a job seeker, he would appreciate being able to see the contracts I’m able to see.

I asked why he would want to see a search contract built to fill security jobs? He suggested that from his point of view, seeing how a prospective employer that he might be considering treats their third party vendors would give him a valuable perspective with regards to how they might treat their own employees.

I couldn’t agree more with my friend’s observation.

The correlation that exists between a good or a bad client for also foreshadows what an employer might be like for the security job candidates we would recruit for these companies.'s Security Recruiter Blog