<B>The seven-minute solution</B>

IE Focus

17 February 2005

A new development in recruiting, speed networking lets job-seeking executives meet a maximum of headhunters in a minimum of time.

The meetings take place in five-star hotels. Every seven minutes, a bell rings. It looks like musical chairs. At the bell, interviews cease and everyone shifts to another table. Once again, they have seven minutes to convince, charm, seduce, make the connection, land a job.

On one side of the table sits a headhunter. On the other, a top executive seeking work. Typically, these rendezvous, the latest fad in recruiting, assemble over a dozen from each side, totaling 200 hours of interviews over the two-hour time period.

Out-of-work managers today, fed up with waiting for phone-calls from headhunting services, are pooling their address-books, widening their networks to produce improved chances on the job market. When headhunters and outplacement services fail to meet their demands, job-seekers find they can open more doors by using their collective sources. The more contacts one has, the greater one’s chances of finding work, after all.

Some sessions require that each job candidate bring a headhunter along. Thus, a dozen speed meetings can assemble as much as 150 consultants, representing 100 recruiting firms. All the major players participate.

Speed meetings help personalize job-hunters, making them stand out from the crowd, or from the huge piles of resumes that hide headhunters’ desks.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Speed netting can bring these new-age networkers other benefits, like conferences, breakfasts and other exchange possibilities that are often organized here for later on.

Time of the essence

Having a mere seven minutes to present oneself makes one think through one’s presentation more thoroughly. Job-hunters talk less about their track records and cut directly to the projects they have. Nobody really expects to find a job in seven minutes. But you do hope to spark something, set a process in motion so recruiters will think of you if an opening comes up. For everyone knows there is a hidden employment market out there. How many positions are never advertised? How many are held close to the employer’s vest, only revealed to intimate associates or a limited number of friends?

Many out-of-work executives attend these speed rendezvous to convince headhunters to see them a second time. Recruiters let the network know which candidates they desire to meet again for a standard interview. The general ambiance is upbeat: job-seekers say recruiters show them a more positive face than in typical interviews. Headhunters don’t try and trip them up with questioning. Many even suggest other leads or provide phone numbers of friends, further widening the network. It’s not uncommon for candidates to leave these meetings with a handful of appointments.

Recruiters benefit, too. They are aware that speed netting is a way to build their source books. Feeling the job-search pinch on their side as well, some participate out of solidarity, to support what they feel is an intelligent initiative. They know that today’s candidate can be tomorrow’s customer, and that one hopeful can bring others in the door. It seems to be a fad with a future.

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