Tales from the recruitment crypt

Targeted international recruiting poses its own challenges. Sometimes, despite the best research, things are not as they seem. Take, for example, my experience as a recruiter for Bio-Research Laboratories in the 1980s. My mandate was to identify, locate and recruit a rare top scientist in the U.K.

I had determined his name, and that of his employer, but could go no further. The company protected its intellectual property well; there was a “firewall” around key employees, and the receptionist would not let me talk to him. Clearly, a more creative solution was called for.

For two days I was stymied. Then, just like in the cartoons, a light bulb went on. I cleverly reasoned that Dr. X would have to live within commuting distance of this company, which was located in a rural area. After looking at the map, and making some inquiries, I identified only one community that looked like a nearby residential area. Taking a deep breath and crossing my fingers, I called Directory Assistance. Bingo! They did indeed have a listing for an individual by that name, and in that town. My creativity was rewarded. Things were soon to get even better.

Waiting until “tea time,” when all self-respecting Brits are supposed to be at home with the kettle on, I made my call. The phone was answered in a masculine voice, with a heavy regional accent. “Are you Dr. X?” I asked. He agreed that he was. I then launched into my very best introductory speech, describing for him the wonderful career opportunity with our company and speaking in dazzling terms about the work environment, etc. His accent made his response almost incomprehensible, but I could tell that he was excited.

It is worth explaining that my objective was to persuade him and his wife to board a plane to Montreal at company expense. The way this worked was that I would book their flights and hotel for them, and simply give them a locator code to pick up the tickets at Heathrow Airport in London. This was a proven method that had worked well for us in the past.

As I was chatting with Dr. X, my beleaguered boss (overworked and exhausted, and desperate to hire this new scientist) walked past my desk. I gave him a big thumbs-up.

Dr. X and I continued to converse, in a fashion. When I got to the part about how we would like him and his wife to come to Canada as our guests to explore the opportunity, he was beside himself. “Arf a mo’,” he invoked. “Ah’ve got to tell me wahf.” I heard: “Mona! Ye won’t believe it! They want us to coom to Canada!” He returned to the phone. “She’s that pleased,” he said. I took this to be a good sign.

Clearly, I was at the top of my form today — what a recruiter! (More thumbs up for my boss as he again walked past my desk — I could see his worry lines fading already).

Dates and flight times were discussed, and we agreed that the couple would fly to Montreal the following week. I had never enjoyed such quick success. Fortunately, I descended from my pink cloud of self-congratulation just before hanging up the phone. This had been too easy; some survival instinct kicked in.

“Dr. X — I just want to confirm with you before we hang up that you are in fact employed by XYZ Pharma as a pharmacokineticist?”

The long silence at the other end seemed interminable. Then, “Ye’ve got the wrong man, lass. Ah’m a pig farmer!”

To this day I am haunted by the specter of what would have happened to my career if Mr. Pig Farmer and his wife had arrived in Montreal, at company expense; the result of mistaken identity. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Dianne Bradshaw is a staffing specialist with 26 years of experience in global recruitment and assessment. She is a senior consultant with Alan Davis & Associates Inc., a Hudson, Que.-based firm that provides specialized services in recruitment, selection and interview training. She can be reached at (450) 458-3535, or at [email protected]

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