I conclude my series of blog posts on the hiring process in the compliance field, which have been based on a series of interviews with Maurice Gilbert, the Managing Partner at Conselium Partners LP. These interviews are being broadcasted on my podcast site, fcpacompliancereport.com, my YouTube channel – FCPA Compliance and Ethics and on iTunes. The first of three podcasts went up on September 1 with the remaining two going up over the next consecutive Tuesdays, September 8 & 15. Today, I want look at the offer and issues for both the company and the candidate.
There is one significant step that Gilbert and his team at Conselium must handle at this juncture, which is to check a candidates references. Gilbert noted that reference checking is “very important. We have the ability to do an extensive reference check. This is not casual and it’s not done with former HR people at a former employer because they will not give a reference check.” The work Conselium does goes much deeper as Gilbert explained, “We actually interview professionals that the candidate has worked with as a peer and some references are supervisors.”
Gilbert has prepared a “detailed questionnaire that we walk through with the person being a reference and we’re talking about technical skills, presentation skills, leadership skills, character. Now, typically there is no surprise because this has all been vetted in our screening process and we know these people.” However Gilbert emphasized, “our clients like to get this data and we could spend easily 45 minutes in interviewing a reference to get these data points.”
The next step is the offer. Gilbert would have previously held conversations with the client about the minimum economic expectations of the candidate. Gilbert goes over the discussions which may have occurred around the economics and expectations, then encourages the company to come out of the box with the best economic offer which it can afford to do. I asked why he took this approach as I would have guessed there was a fair amount of give and take over the offer. He responded, “Well, because of supply and demand. Demand is very high, supply of great compliance officers is very low… We’re not at a Persian market here and we put something out there and see if it’s going to fly.”
The company will prepare an offer and then Gilbert and his team will review it. “We’ll give our client an opinion and then we say, “Okay, that looks reasonable.” Then we take it back verbally to the candidate. We get the candidate’s by-end comments, concerns, whatever and if it’s a go, then we have the client prepare a formal offer letter. That’s usually how it shakes out. Rarely, is there a tremendous back and fourth. There are some situations where you’re just massaging the components but the total package is what both parties are expecting if that makes sense.”
At this point the formal offer letter has been sent to the candidate. You might think things are running smoothly and they might even be over for Gilbert, his team and the company at this point but Gilbert noted the next step is one of the most tricky and must be not only be thought through but also handled with some delicacy. That is the resignation of the candidate from his current employer and transition to the new position. The reason is that almost always the candidate will receive a counter-offer from his or her current employer.
Gilbert related that he spends long conversations with the candidate preparing them for this eventuality. One of the reasons is that it can be “very, very uncomfortable. By that, what I mean is I’ve seen companies go so far as to try and make the individual feel guilty like, “How could you do this to me?” The professional could be quite vulnerable emotionally. What do I mean by that? Well, here’s what I mean. Even though the professional is excited about moving on and they’re moving on for reasons that have been constantly reinforced throughout the three or four or five month process. Even though they’re moving on and they’re gravitating to something which is usually a great promotional opportunity usually.”
Gilbert counsels the candidate at this point and tells them, “you have to stay focused on why are you about to or why did you accept the offer of our client? Well, you accepted the offer because it affords you a promotion. Your present employer is not going to do that. If they were going to promote you, they’d promote you. Does that make sense? The best they could do is throw a little money your way, big deal. If they throw a little more money your way, that doesn’t address the issue of why you wanted to leave in the first place.”
Gilbert reiterated the difficultly of this situation for the candidate. It is not unusual for even a seasoned compliance professional to be nervous about moving to a new situation. As he noted they might even be “somewhat emotionally raw at this point”, he counsels them to “just recognize it that you may be a little bit uncomfortable until you start your new job but it’s like anything else in our lives.” So Gilbert sees part of his role with the candidate to help them recall the reasons they were open to leaving and almost every time it is far beyond simply money. This means that when the inevitable counter-offer appears from the current employer, a candidate should stand firm in their conviction and move to the new opportunity.
The candidate should also be as professional as possible and not leave the current employer in more difficult state. This means that the transition should be planned as thoroughly as you can and this transition must be executed upon while the candidate is still at their current employer. Of course, some companies still view anyone who leaves as ‘disloyal’ and may well want you to leave immediately. If they take that Middle Ages approach to human resources around departures, you probably made the right decision, if not soon enough. A similar situation happened to me once, I called the new employer and the President said that was great news and I could start the next Monday since I no longer had to give two weeks notice.
On the other hand, if your company is hiring take some care to personally walk the new hire through the process. I once worked for a company, which after you accepted the offer; they never contacted or spoke to you again in person. All contact was automated or online. Of course, that is how this company viewed its employees and, indeed, how they treated them after they were hired. From the compliance perspective, it also sends a very negative message about the company’s culture. Whatever you want to say about Amazon, they certainly provide the personal touch to new hires.
I hope you have enjoyed and, more importantly, found this five-part series on hiring in the compliance profession useful. As Gilbert wrote in his guest post last month, which led to this series, “The demand for top-notch compliance pros is high, and the supply low. Hunting heads takes time, talent and chutzpah. If it were easy, companies wouldn’t need us.”
The hiring of a Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) or compliance practitioner requires expertise and skills usually not found in a HR department or with senior corporate executives. A company such as Conselium Partners LP can help any company navigate these very difficult waters.
Maurice Gilbert may be reached via email at email@example.com.
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© Thomas R. Fox, 2015