Dear friends,

This is not a sales pitch.  Spring begins the busy season for ecommerce recruitment, and I’d like to share with you a few things which may give you some perspective on your careers, and for approximately a third of you, your job search this year.

First, a little math:

There are 1000 companies in the Internet Retailer Top 1000. (Like, duh.)  The average tenure for all jobs in the IR-1000 seems to be just shy of 3 years.  In other words, folks change jobs about every third year.  Meaning, for any existing (non-“new”) client-side job you’d like to apply, there will be roughly 330 openings this year, nationwide.

Location … Role … Money … Pick TWO.

There’s an old saying in recruiting, Location … Role … Money … Pick TWO.  I can’t promise these jobs will be local to you, or that they will be at the right comp level, or that relocation assistance will be offered, etc.  I can only say that statistically speaking, 330 roles will open.  That’s 27 per month. Again, nationwide.

These numbers are purely anecdotal, based on my own 10 year career as an ecommerce recruiter.  Only Linkedin knows for sure.  Regardless, some of these openings will be filled internally, some searches will go to job boards, some will go retained, and some will go to contingency recruiters.  Like me.

100% of the shots I don’t take don’t go in.

By convention, contingency recruiters are bounty hunters, and gunslingers don’t get paid by the bullet:  We get paid by the client only when we close the search.  I’m 100% commission based, and it’s never in my financial interest to knock out a good candidate. Unlike retained recruiters, your interests and mine are economically aligned. Like a sports agent, I’m actually incentivized to know all about you, and there are IR-1000 rock stars I’ve placed 3 times since 2004. If you can do the job and your heart is set on the role — I’ll do my best to get you a thoughtful audience with the client and prepare you for the interview.

If you’re a strong, viable candidate, why wouldn’t I?  That’s how my business works.

This year my company will be contacted by 350 potential clients. We will take 200 of those searches (100% ecommerce), and we will turnover our job board seven times.  That’s a lot of search activity, yet there’s a good chance I’ll knock you out at some point.  After all, I’ve KO’d some of the best people in the business — people who’ve forgotten more about ecommerce than I’ll ever know.  When that happens, it’s essential that you understand that there are only THREE reasons why your candidacy did not get traction:

  1. You couldn’t do the job (you lacked the right technical experience, etc)
  2. You wouldn’t do the job (the comp package was too light; the job was in a city your spouse hated; etc)
  3. The hiring committee found someone “more qualified.”

About # 3:  Not too long ago, I sourced an incredibly talented SEO candidate with an auto parts background for an apparel client of mine. The candidate was highly qualified and possessed a fine blend of street smarts and book smarts.  He COULD do the job and WOULD do the job for the specified comp and location.  Yet his candidacy was DOA.

Why?  Because the hiring manager couldn’t “sell it” to the rest of the organization — and her explanation was fascinating: During her very thoughtful rejection of the candidate, she asked me the following question …

“Harry, would ‘Saving Private Ryan’ have been as good of a movie if Jim Carrey had played Tom Hanks’ part?”

“Of course not,” I scoffed. She asked why, and I reasoned that it would have been impossible for me to watch the movie without expecting Jim Carrey to do something funny. In other words, I just couldn’t “see” Carrey in the role, and I would have “projected” his prior characters like Ace Ventura onto the Hanks character of John Miller.  Like most movie goers, I have a built in bias against seeing Carrey in anything other than a comedic light.

tom_hanks_spr

My hiring manager agreed and explained that in her company, whenever a candidate is hired, a memo is sent out to the entire organization announcing the hire. Immediately, everyone looks up the new hire on LinkedIn, and if they just don’t “see” the new hire in the role, the new hire’s career can be over before it begins.  In my candidate’s case, everyone would have eye-rolled “auto parts!” and questioned management’s sanity for casting an “auto parts guy” in an apparel role.

This has NOTHING to do with whether the candidate can do the job. It has everything to do with the hiring committee being able to sell their decision to the rest of the organization — and there’s nothing I can do about any of this. It’s 100% beyond my control, and no amount of my credibility or personality can sell around this.

Moral of the story: Understand that as your ecommerce career progresses, for better or worse, you will be typecast.  It’s a reality that can potentially cost you a plum ecommerce job (and me thousands of dollars). The only thing you (WE) can do about it is remain extremely disciplined about the roles you will consider. Most ecommerce execs spend more time planning their vacations than they do their careers. Dumb. At a minimum, you need a system for getting ahead.

You and I are both actors, which explains why my Linkedin bio makes no reference to my career as a commodity trader prior to my becoming a recruiter.  Because why would anyone in your position take career advice from a commodity trader?  It’s inconsistent with the story you want to tell yourself … and others … about me.

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One Response to Top Recruiter Reveals: “Here’s Why You Were Passed Over for that Plum Ecommerce Job.”

  1. EthicalCompanies says:

    You forgot number 4. Prejudice/discrimination. HR professionals and/or recruiters are professionals discriminators. You get people decide stuff like the following: wrong sex/too old/too young/thinks you might be gay/doesn’t like your hair and so on and so on. I’ve never seen quite so much discrimination in any industry as in eCommerce. It’s full of self important people who are, let’s face it, just glorified shopkeepers/mail order sellers and some of them act like their organisation is “heaven” and get so unbelievably prejudiced who can and can’t enter the gates of their self defined “paradise”.

    Honestly getting a job in accountancy or consulting is less trouble than it is in eCommerce. I have “caught out” some retailers who were clearly prejudiced and thought I was too old (yes I’m referring to a recruiter who “accidentally” CC’ed me in an email), the wrong sex (yes M**k**d I’m looking at you with your “got any girls” comment to the recruiter).

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