As seen in the May, 2000 issue of ...
I N D U S T R Y P U L S E
A VETERAN IN THE WAR FOR TALENT:
IT FUNCTIONAL SPECIALIST JUDY HOMER
Like all search consultants today, Judy Homer knows well the stresses, challenges and joys of
battling daily on the front lines of the war for talent. After nearly a quarter of
a century as a functional specialist in information technology, says Ms. Homer, never
has the supply-demand ratio been so out-of-whack. Recruiting today is as much or
more about educating clients as it is about counseling candidates
Her search for a chief technology officer at Internet firm Webloyalty.com is a case in point.
"it was tough," says Vince D'Agostino, president of the Norwalk, CT based start-up "We wanted to offer the job to one candidate, but Judy saw he was wavering. She pushed us to say to him, 'Hey, you've got to commit.' And she continued to send us other candidates."
Gone are the days when employers were all-powerful and candidates anxious contenders. Today, talent - particularly an IT professional - often has multiple opportunities and wants to hold out for a better offer, which is frequently possible. As a result Ms. Homer, president of Manhattan-based J.B. Homer Associates, educates clients early and often during an assignments on the nature of today's marketplace. "They've got to move quickly," she says. "If they see a candidate they like, they have to move." As in the Webloyalty.com situation, Ms. Homer is not shy about taking action. "There's no game playing today" for clients or for candidates, she says. The only difficulty:
"Being so forthright with clients means you must know them well" and vice-versa.
Part of that mutual understanding is trust. A client will listen to a recruiter's counsel only if he or she believes in the recruiter's ability. Over the years, Ms. Homer has gained a strong reputation as a functional specialist. Many assignments, such as Webloyalty.com's, come via recommendations from former clients. "Name recognition has been both my friend and my killer," she says. Her $6 million company has grown through word-of-mouth but she rarely wins searches in competition with such better-known shops as Korn/Ferry International or Heidrick & Struggles. Yet her clients range from start-ups to Avon and Grey Advertising.
One of the firm's hallmarks is its team approach. Each search has an account manager, but several consultants participate at every stage to decrease the possibility of a poor fit. "Each consultant has different strengths, and together they ask questions about the search to make you think through the problem," says client Ed Cannon global chief information officer at Grey Advertising.
Despite all talk nowadays of working at Internet speed, Ms. Homer doesn't cut cycle time at the expense of client service. In an assignment for investment bank Commonwealth Associates, for instance, J.B. Homer Associates' consultants helped to build acceptance for a newly created chief administrative officer post. The job required creating space between other employees and chairman Michael Falk. "It wasn't necessarily their job," says Mr. Falk, "but it built a lot of trust for me."