Decision Vision

A Podcast
for Decision Makers


Episode 8

Should I Hire a Recruiter?


Episode 8: Should I Hire a Recruiter?

Should I hire a recruiter? What’s the best way to work with a recruiter? Michael Blake, Director of Brady Ware & Company and Host of the Decision Vision podcast, interviews Joanna Cheng on these questions and much more in this edition of Decision Vision.
Joanna Cheng, Managing Director and Branch Manager, Creative Financial Staffing (CFS)

Joanna Cheng, Creative Financial Staffing (CFS)

Joanna Cheng is a Managing Director and Branch Manager with Creative Financial Staffing (CFS). CFS is a leading, employee-owned accounting and financial staffing firm—the largest one founded by CPA firms. With more than two decades of experience helping companies locate, attract and hire exceptional accounting and finance professionals, CFS has unique resources to better understand hiring needs, attract higher-caliber candidates and assess candidate potential. Established in 1994, CFS today operates 30+ offices across 21 states and the Caribbean. Serving most major U.S. markets and beyond, CFS connects companies with candidates, from entry-level to executive level, temporary to direct hire and project support to interim management.

CFS has twice been named to Forbes’ list of “Best Professional Recruiting Firms” and twice cited by LinkedIn as one of the “Most Socially Engaged Staffing Agencies.”

Decision Vision Podcast Episode 8 | Joanna Cheng | Brady Ware

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Transcript: Should I Hire a Recruiter? – Episode 8


BradyWareCheng.mp3 (transcribed by Sonix)

Intro: Welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast series focusing on critical business decisions brought to you by Brady Ware & Company. Brady Ware is a regional, full-service accounting and advisory firm that helps businesses and entrepreneurs make vision a reality.

Michael Blake: And welcome to Decision Vision, a podcast giving you, the listener, clear vision to make great decisions. In each episode, we’ll discuss the process of decision making on a different topic. Rather than making recommendations because everyone’s circumstances are different, we talk to subject matter experts about how they would recommend thinking about that decision.

Michael Blake: My name is Mike Blake, and I’m your host for today’s program. I’m a Director at Brady Ware & Company, a full-service accounting firm based in Dayton, Ohio, with offices in Dayton; Columbus, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Alpharetta, Georgia, which is where we are recording today. Brady Ware is sponsoring this podcast. If you like this podcast, please subscribe on your favorite podcast aggregator, and please consider leaving a review of the podcast as well.

Michael Blake: So, today, our discussion is going to be about whether to work with a recruiter when hiring new employees. And talent acquisition is a funny topic because we deal with human beings. And human beings are, for the most part, the most unpredictable things on the planet. And you don’t know necessarily what you’re going to get when you’re hiring. You don’t even know what you’re going to get when you get through the interview process. I mean, you pick a resume, you don’t even know what’s going to show up and walk through that door.

Michael Blake: And in an environment now, we have some 4% unemployment and talent is not exactly growing on trees. And if you live in the Atlanta area, you can see that just by the traffic that’s in the area. You know that everybody is back to work because it, now, takes about an hour to get from [Chamblee] to Alpharetta. Talent is hard to find. But the question is you can, of course, go to the route where you can try to find talent “for free,” and we’ll find out just how free free actually is, or you can pay for help.

Michael Blake: And here to help us with that conversation is my good friend, my pal, Joanna Cheng, who is Managing Partner and Branch Manager of Creative Financial Staffing in Atlanta. Prior to joining CFS, she worked for an Atlanta CPA firm in the audit practice for seven years. So, she’s a recovering CPA just like I’m a recovering investment banker and venture capitalist. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Kennesaw State University and is an avid adventure racer. I hope I’m saying that right.

Michael Blake: CFS is the leading employee-owned accounting and financial staffing firm, the largest one founded by CPA firms. With more than two decades of experience helping companies locate, attract, and hire exceptional accounting and finance professionals, CFS has unique resources to better understand hiring needs, attract higher caliber candidates, and assess candidate potential.

Michael Blake: Established in 1994, CFS today operates over 30 offices across 21 states and the Caribbean. Serving most major US markets and beyond, CFS connects companies with candidates from entry level to executive level, temporary to direct hire, and project support to intern management. CFS has twice been named to Forbes List of Best Professional Recruiting Firms and twice cited by LinkedIn as one of the most socially-engaged staffing agencies. And with that, my pal, Joanna Cheng. Joanna, thanks for coming in.

Joanna Cheng: Thanks, Mike, for having me.

Michael Blake: So, I got to ask this first. You have an office in the Caribbean. I mean, that’s just a front for like resort staff, or does one of your owners live in the Caribbean, and that’s how they sort of minimize their taxes?

Joanna Cheng: We have an office in Puerto Rico, and it’s actually a pretty robust practice.

Michael Blake: Okay.

Joanna Cheng: Even in the light of recent events.

Michael Blake: In light of the fact that island destroyed a year ago.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, there were interests, yeah.

Michael Blake: So, that is a robust practice. That’s interesting.

Joanna Cheng: Well, I mean, I think, as of late, they’ve had some struggles. But, again, from a temporary staffing perspective, there certainly continues to be a need for people to kind of fill the gaps.

Michael Blake: Yeah, okay. That’s interesting. I would not have guessed that. So, I mean, I’ve given out, sort of, your name, rank, and serial number. You’re at CFS. You’ve been there. I think you’ve been there as long as I’ve known you. I’m not sure that I knew you when you’re an accountant, maybe for six months.

Joanna Cheng: I don’t know. I left public accounting at the end of 2011. Joined CFS beginning of 2013. So-

Michael Blake: Okay. So, there’s a couple of year overlap actually but-

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, six years now at CFS officially.

Michael Blake: But they locked me down the sixth floor of the building, so they didn’t let me out much.

Joanna Cheng: Exactly. We are probably like ships in the night.

Michael Blake: Yes. It’s ships in the night that were locked and never allowed to see one another.

Joanna Cheng: Just like when I was an audit. It’s funny because I was gone for a year from the firm, and when I came back people, I’d run into people, and they’d say, “Oh, I haven’t seen you for a while. Have you been in out in the field?” And I’m like, “Yeah. I’ve actually not worked here for a year, but I’m back.”

Michael Blake: And thanks for noticing.

Joanna Cheng: It’s like I just took a hiatus.

Michael Blake: A walkabout.

Joanna Cheng: Right. I was just very long on it.

Michael Blake: A self-audit, maybe you can call it that. So, what do you do at CFS? I mean, it sounds like you’re basically the Grand Poobah, the head honcho, the big cheese. Is that fair, at least, for the Atlanta office?

Joanna Cheng: Right, queen of middle management here in Atlanta.

Michael Blake: Queen of middle management.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah.

Michael Blake: Okay. Your highness.

Joanna Cheng: I run the Atlanta office for CFS. We’re a national firm. And so, I manage a team of recruiters. And we are able to help on a temporary or direct hire basis, kind of, at any level, as long as it relates to accounting and finance within the middle market.

Michael Blake: And how many people do you have on your staff right no?

Joanna Cheng: We have four. We’re a team of five.

Michael Blake: Okay, team of five. So, as I said, you’re a recovering CPA as I’m a recovering investment banker, et cetera, et cetera, recovering adult. What made you make that jump? When did you wake up one day and said, “Yeah, I just can’t count stuff anymore. I’ve got to go be me.”

Joanna Cheng: It was really by happenstance. I think, like many people who come out of public accounting or start to look around, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what the next move was. So, I reached out to some recruiters, had some less-than-great experiences. I met one in particular that had a similar background to mine, had gone up the ranks in public accounting, gone into recruiting, was successful, opened up an office, and needed her first-time employee.

Joanna Cheng: So, it was just something I decided try for a year. I mean, I think, from the things I enjoyed the most about being in professional services was the networking aspect, the relationship aspect, the adding value, and, of course, being a profit center versus a call center. So, I thought-

Michael Blake: Boy, that’s huge.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah. I thought recruiting could kind of be a good segue into that. And worst thing that could happen is go back and do accounting. So, some years later-

Michael Blake: Which isn’t so bad.

Joanna Cheng: Right. Seven years later, it seems to be working out.

Michael Blake: I guess, it’s worked. Yeah. I mean, you’re still gainfully employed, productive member of society, and we haven’t had to bust you out of jail.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, not yet, yeah.

Michael Blake: So, not yet. So, so far, so good. So, you mentioned you had some experience with recruiters that weren’t so awesome. I think you mentioned that.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah.

Michael Blake: What’s an example of that when you’ve had a bad experience yourself?

Joanna Cheng: Well, it’s interesting. So, for instance, one of the — part of our process that CFS is we prefer to meet with our candidates in person, just like we like to go on site to our clients, just so we can get a really good 360 feel for the person, and the opportunity, and find that good fit. So, even before I went into recruiting, I mean, I wanted to meet people. I don’t like just virtually knowing people. I feel like I’m best face-to-face. It was just really interesting to me.

Joanna Cheng: I talked to this recruiter that was referred to me, and it was a great conversation. But, by the end of it, I asked, “Oh, yes. We should meet for coffee. You should probably meet me, make sure I’ve two eyes, and off of my limbs, and yeah.” I mean, he said no, and it was just — I didn’t really know what to think about it because I felt like I couldn’t really adequately work with someone that I had never met in person, especially for such a big decision, which was a possibly career change and change of industry. Experiences like that made me think like, “There’s just got to be a better way.”

Michael Blake: Yeah. I mean, it’s not like it’s a multi-level marketing scheme. It’s a serious professional position. And in what you do, every time you recommend a hire to a client, I mean, your reputation is big time on the line with that, isn’t it?

Joanna Cheng: Yeah.

Michael Blake: So, how you could go into that, how you could get behind somebody, and put that cloud without meeting the candidate, I’m no recruiter, but I don’t see how I could do that either.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, exactly. We’ve done hiring together in our past lives. And, yeah, I think it’s just — We don’t sell paper. And I always say that. And I don’t know if that really resonates. I think that’s a common stereotype among recruiters, and we just throw a bunch of things out there, and we just hope and pray that one of them makes us money. But I mean, there are people behind these pieces of paper. And I’ve seen the best of candidates with the worst resumes. I’ve seen pretty terrible people with really outstanding resumes. That’s part of the sniff test. That’s why we charge for our services. That’s why we have value, and yeah.

Joanna Cheng: So, along with that, I also worked with a number of recruiters that provided jobs that were clearly not a match for my background. And so, again, I just kept thinking like, “This doesn’t even make sense.” This is not a, “Hey, I need a job. Here’s a job. You want this job?” I mean, it just didn’t make any sense to me. I kept thinking, “Are you even listening to me?” And, of course, I never met these people. So, I mean, I’m like, “Well, you honestly don’t know me from the next person.” So, yeah. So, I think, probably naively, going into recruiting, I thought I can make that just a better experience for people.

Michael Blake: So, in your opinion, why do you think your clients hire you?

Joanna Cheng: Really, I wish I knew the answer to that. If there was a concrete answer, I would package it and sell it. Prospecting would be so easy.

Michael Blake: Well, how about this? How about instead of you, because I know you have a humble streak that we will try to break down and destroy over the course of this podcast. But until we get there, why do people hire you as a profession? Why do they hire somebody like you?

Joanna Cheng: Well, initially, I think it’s typically out of need. But outside of that, I will say that, just like anything else, whether it’s audit, valuation, services, recruiting, people do business with people they like. I mean, that’s something that’s very important to me is to develop sincere relationships with people and to understand people’s businesses.

Joanna Cheng: Hopefully, I think, my background is helpful in some sense and really understanding accounting and finance, and what that means to your company for specific positions, but yeah. I mean, it’s either that or my sparkling personality. I mean, I think.

Michael Blake: I’m sure it’s a healthy combination of the two. But a thought occurred. I’m going to go off the script a little bit but not too far. It’s that, in one respect, what you and I do is very much alike is that I put together merger and acquisition transactions, and you put together talent acquisition transactions.

Michael Blake: And in what I do, the reason my clients hired me, I think, is because they either have never been through a transaction, or they do it very rarely, right. And the chances are good the other person on the side of that table has done many transactions, okay. And so, they’re hiring me to kind of leverage the expertise of, say, the 200 transactions I’ve done into the one that they’ve done, right.

Michael Blake: In your world, correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that, hopefully, they’re not hiring all that often for the same position. If they are, that’s a different issue if it’s a merry go round, right. But in an ideal world, you’re maybe hiring once a year, once every couple of years, or maybe once every few months if you’re growing like gangbusters, but that’s still different from somebody whose job it is to hire people 24/7 or place people to be hired 24/7, right?

Joanna Cheng: Yes.

Michael Blake: There’s a big advantage to having that expertise and experience in that discussion, isn’t there?

Joanna Cheng: Well, absolutely. I mean, it’s what we do day in and day out. And I think that’s what the advantage is. I mean, we’re talking to people, we’re talking to companies where we have like the pulse on talent. We can see what’s available, what’s not. And, again, I think, CFS, one thing that we really emphasize is being consultative. I mean, this is, hopefully, not just a transaction. I mean, this is so important to your business. I mean, finding the right controller. And when I say right controller, I mean not someone who understands accounting can do the job. It’s someone who can help your business go from A to Z or wherever it is that you want to go that you like and that likes you.

Joanna Cheng: I mean, that’s the magic, right. That’s what you can’t see from the paper. That’s what you can’t see from an online application. And I think that’s a fallacy that creates the need quite honestly. People have these experiences. We did it ourselves. We found this person. They were perfect on paper. They’re perfect in the interview. They showed up, and they were crazy.

Michael Blake: Right.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah? And you go, “Well, we hear that story all the time.”

Michael Blake: Because they don’t say on the resume interests and crazy.

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: Right? It doesn’t show up, right? And-.

Joanna Cheng: Their representative was like, “Let’s keep that.”

Michael Blake: It’s on the down low.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, yeah.

Michael Blake: Yeah. And, often, the people who have the most polished resumes have them polished because they’re polishing them frequently.

Joanna Cheng: Right, or they’re paying for the polish.

Michael Blake: They’re paying for the polish, one of the two, right? And you probably developed a spider sense. You must developed a sixth sense of some kind.

Joanna Cheng: There is a little bit of that. I mean, you do get a feel for people, but that feel is — That’s, I think, the fun part. I think the best part of my job is really knowing my client, understanding their business, and then meeting somebody. I think this happened with you. Meeting someone and going, “Hey, I just met this person, and I just think you should really talk to them. I think they may be a good fit for your group.”

Michael Blake: That’s true. I’d almost forgotten, I was actually a client of yours.

Joanna Cheng: Yes. And we know when that works, and those types of situations more than often does, I mean, it’s a good feeling because you just feel like all the stars aligned and maybe you’re good at your job.

Michael Blake: And that hire worked out. I mean, he stayed longer than I did by a lot. So, I really can’t disagree with that. So, can you point to like a favorite success story of yours where you really helped the company or even maybe helped the candidate out?

Joanna Cheng: I can think of a lot of stories, but I think one thing, in fact, I had lunch today with a candidate that was a relocation candidate. It’s a really tough and usual position. It was like on the request of one of my favorite clients. And the process was painful, and it was hard because I don’t think either — we didn’t really — we didn’t know what we were looking for until we found it. But I’ve been talking to that candidate today, and how happy they are, and what they’ve been able to achieve in the time they’ve been at the company. I don’t know. It just made — that’s what makes me wake up and do what I do. And, in fact, that client is one of my adventure race buddies.

Michael Blake: Really?

Joanna Cheng: So, I’ve recruited for them since their inception as a startup to, now, a very successful business. And that’s something I’m very proud of.

Michael Blake: So, in addition to running away from alligators and copperhead snakes and jumping over quicksand, you’re doing that.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah. So, now, we throw ourselves in the briar patches and the like, yes. So, that’s real trust.

Michael Blake: Yeah.

Joanna Cheng: That’s when you trust, yeah.

Michael Blake: Yeah, it is.

Joanna Cheng: Like your service provider.

Michael Blake: It is. I don’t know if anybody would trust me to lead them through an alligator or copperhead. In fact, it’s-

Joanna Cheng: Oh, I didn’t say I led. I’m just, you know, but I’m there.

Michael Blake: You don’t necessarily shove their head into the water-

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: … if something bad happens

Joanna Cheng: Right. I would put a stick between my client and the alligator.

Michael Blake: Okay.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, yeah.

Michael Blake: Okay. So, let me ask you. I want to ask you this in a very smart aleck kind of way.

Joanna Cheng: Okay.

Michael Blake: Why haven’t you been replaced by websites? They’ve been all over. They’ve come and gone, Monster, Hot Jobs, CareerBuilder, Yahoo Jobs.

Joanna Cheng: And, again, they all have their place, and they certainly have their success. And we leveraged that technology. We partner, in fact, with some of these companies.

Michael Blake: Is that right?

Joanna Cheng: And they’re our vendors. But, again, it just goes back to the relationship. I mean, valuation. I mean, can’t we just make a calculator, and plug in some assumptions, and-

Michael Blake: There are people that are saying that.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah. Come up with a number or a multiple and go, “This is the-” It’s not the point. I don’t think that’s how the world works. I mean, we’re not — people aren’t widgets. Talent, it can’t be manufactured. It’s so interesting because, I think, especially within accounting and finance, I mean, people just think, “Oh, I just need a CPA,” or “I just need an AP clerk.” And I don’t know. It’s just like anything else.

Joanna Cheng: Let’s say, think about you in any job that you’ve ever had, okay. And I don’t know. Maybe people have just been very lucky, and loved everywhere that they worked, and loved the people, and those people love them. But I’ve been in several situations where I could do the job, I did it well, I just didn’t like it, or they like me, and that’s what doesn’t work, right.

Joanna Cheng: I mean, middle market, in particular, is really attractive to me, (1), because that’s all I know professionally; but (2), it’s like these businesses are often someone’s baby. I mean, they’re trying to achieve a very specific goal. They’re not looking for workers. They’re looking for partners. They’re looking for people who want to be part of this team. They want people to help drive their passion to do whatever it is they want to do with this business. And that just can never be measured by a machine. And I may be eating my own words when Skynet takes over the world. But as for now, I think, my job is safe.

Michael Blake: Well, I think there’s truth to that. It’s interesting you bring up the valuation part because much of my industry is being replaced by websites. And I don’t think my children would have any interest in doing what I do. But if they did, I don’t think there’s a job there necessarily for them. And we have to move towards an advisory position. And I tell people, if you want a valuation, here’s a website that you can just go get a valuation done. If that’s good enough for you, then do that, right.

Joanna Cheng: I like that, make valuation.

Michael Blake: If, on the other hand, you want to learn something about the business that you didn’t already know, that technology is not is not out there yet. And I think I sense that’s a very similar kind of conversation, at least, implicit conversation.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, advisory, consultative, it’s all the same thing, right. I think people aren’t looking for an answer. I mean, the answer in valuation isn’t the number. It’s, “Can I achieve my goal? What are your thoughts on that? Do you have any advice for me? What do you think?” And those are the types of questions, and that’s the type of insight, I think, I can provide to my clients. What should the salary reasonably be? Is this reasonable? Historically, this is a person’s background. Does this make sense? Is this a fit?

Joanna Cheng: And we can talk through all of those things. I mean, again, it’s not a perfect science. I mean, I think that’s one thing that’s always really resonated with me just professionally is an accounting in all things. And I think, I remember you saying this many years ago, but, sometimes, we are looking into a crystal ball, and it’s just not a binary world, and there is no right or wrong. I mean, the perfect — everything could go perfect in the hiring process, and it could be the perfect candidate, but something can happen, and you have to — all recruiting is or financial reporting is just trying to control, and assess, and analyze enough of the variables to, hopefully, ensure success or some type of predictable outcome, but there’s no guarantees.

Michael Blake: So, let’s talk. The large companies that have their own in-house HR departments, do they also use recruiters, or are they typically bring the whole function in-house?

Joanna Cheng: Oh no, they absolutely use recruiters.

Michael Blake: They do, okay.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah. So, we tend to shy away from large HR departments for that reason. It’s just a lot more cooks in the kitchen than needed. We prefer to work directly with hiring manager and get a better sense of what that position is. Not saying that HR isn’t our ally, and we certainly want to work through their process, but something like a Fortune 100 company is just a completely different beast. And I think if, again, create a financial staffing just specifically, we don’t typically serve that large of a company. We probably aren’t the best resource. We’re not as willing to go and work with a VMS system where, again, in many ways, it’s selling paper. You could be drawing-

Michael Blake: What is a VMS system?

Joanna Cheng: Vendor management systems-

Michael Blake: Okay, yeah.

Joanna Cheng: … where you have to upload resumes and something, probably a robot, is looking for keywords. Again, anyone can do that. I mean, it just makes no sense to me. I could put CPA controller manufacturing expert on a piece of paper and have that picked up, but is that the right candidate for your job? I mean, maybe, maybe not. But I’ll tell you, like the effort and cost to go through all of that doesn’t really make sense for our model.

Michael Blake: Now, hiring somebody today is a big commitment. And it’s not just a big commitment economically, but, to some extent, it’s a big commitment legally. And you can’t just hire completely whatever your whim takes you, right. There are certain processes, there’s certain standards of fairness that we have to observe both from a moral standpoint, a legal standpoint. Is that something that you also can help a company navigate to make sure it doesn’t accidentally step in something during the hiring process?

Joanna Cheng: Absolutely.

Michael Blake: And you save somebody’s bacon doing that?

Joanna Cheng: Well, I mean, and I won’t use any specific examples here, but I think especially smaller businesses or owner-operated businesses. People just don’t know what they don’t know. I mean, it’s purely out of ignorance, not out of spite, but yes. I mean, there will be certain things discussed that we’re like, “Yeah, we can’t have that. That can’t be a variable.”.

Michael Blake: Right. You can’t ask that question.

Joanna Cheng: Right, or don’t ask that question.

Michael Blake: Right.

Joanna Cheng: So, yes. And from a hiring liability perspective, I mean, I think, we do our diligence as well as kind of anyone else, right. You got do your reference checks, background checks. And technology has certainly been very helpful in that that it’s more difficult now, I think, to kind of hide some of your educational or criminal skeletons than maybe you could have in the past.

Michael Blake: Now, 10 years ago, we saw, remember, the job market was – to use a technical term – in the toilet. But I think firms were even using recruiters then, even in times where there’s ostensibly a much more rich labor pool from which to select talent. Why do you think that is?

Joanna Cheng: Well, again, your needs are your needs. Very often, that looks and smells a certain way. So, the question to yourself is return and your effort. Your company, your people, your internal efforts, that’s going to cost you money to source and go through kind of just all the bodies, or you could outsource that function to someone that does it every day.

Joanna Cheng: I mean, again, good economy, bad economy, businesses have to operate. Everyone’s always looking for talent in some respect, whether that’s from a project basis or a direct hire. And I think that each economy has different demands, and that’s why recruiting has kind of been able to navigate these different cycles.

Michael Blake: So, we hear a lot or I hear a lot, and I’m sure others do, about different models where one fee model is contingency-based, the other is retained search basically. Can you explain kind of the difference between the two? And from a customer’s perspective, what do you think the pros and cons are of each?

Joanna Cheng: CFS is a contingency model. So, I always like to say I work for free. I get paid upon my success, and I really enjoy that aspect of what I do. Retained search is different the sense that you pay a fee regardless of outcome, in some respects. And those are typically very specialized positions, more difficult to find positions. I mean, national and international searches.

Joanna Cheng: So, pros and cons. Contingency, I mean, the pro is, again, you can get a lot of recruiters working for you for free. They’re out there kind of kicking bushes, and doing all the legwork, and hopefully bringing in the best of the best, and you can make a hire, and best recruiter wins. The con is those recruiters are working on many different other contingent searches, and you may not be their sole focus, or there could be other drivers of why you’re not seeing what you think you should be seeing from the caliber of candidate, or quantity of candidates, or whatever it is.

Joanna Cheng: From a retained search perspective, I mean, that typically should be a dedicated effort. I mean, they want not only to take you money, but they do want to earn it. I’m a little bias because I’ve never worked in the retained search model. I think that the only thing I can think of is everyone has to make money, and just makes me wonder sometimes the bandwidth of recruiters even within the retained model like how much time are they truly dedicating to your search. I mean, that’s something to think about. But, again, you got to use who you know and use who you trust, right?

Michael Blake: Yeah. That’s why you got us. What is a stereotype about your industry or people in your industry that we should dispel? What do most people think about what you do that’s just wrong?

Joanna Cheng: I’m a big advocate of the saying that stereotypes come from somewhere.

Michael Blake: Okay.

Joanna Cheng: Okay. And I think one of the reasons I became a recruiter is because I had terrible experience with recruiters. And I continue to kind of hear those stories often. So, recruiting is a sales job. And I think that’s-

Michael Blake: Twice over.

Joanna Cheng: … the reality. That’s the reality of this job. And what I’d like to dispel is that we’re like used car salesmen, and we’re just throwing bodies at companies, and just walking away with a check.

Michael Blake: Wish, it was that easy, right?

Joanna Cheng: Oh yeah. I mean, that would be great because that’s the issue is that does happen. And there is a reason why recruiters can have a bad reputation. But what I would encourage people to think about is there are good recruiters, just like there are good accountants, like good doctors, good lawyers, good valuation experts. People who, hopefully, kind of care a little bit more, who take pride in what they do, and really stand behind their business.

Joanna Cheng: And, also, too, I think, have the luxury to say that as a privately-held company, like we certainly are making things a little bit differently than maybe some of our larger publicly-traded competitors, and they’re driven by a different — they need a different outcome.

Michael Blake: Well, they’re going to be driven — they have to be driven by a quarterly number, right?

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: They have to have 90 days of view ahead of them. And then, after that, they’ll worry about the next 90 days.

Joanna Cheng: There’s just a reality of that.

Michael Blake: Yeah, that’s right because that’s what shareholders are telling them they wanted them to do.

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: How does a company best work with you? Like you, I’m in the service business, but there are certain conditions in my business where the client does certain things, they make my job a lot easier, and the likelihood of a positive outcome that much greater, right?

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: For a company to maximize your effectiveness, what should they be prepared to do on your end as part of that partnership to give the best chance of securing that great outcome?

Joanna Cheng: Just being available. I think that’s number one.

Michael Blake: What does that mean exactly?

Joanna Cheng: I think we’re in this hyper-busy world, especially when you’re a man short, or you need an extra pair of hands. You’re busier than ever. And that drives the backbone of my business. That being said, if you were truly looking for the right fit, you’ll spend the upfront time to invest in speaking with me, so I can learn about your business. You’ll make time for me to come visit, and talk to me in person, and show me around. And when we make our recommendations, really take the time to listen, and discuss, and ask questions.

Joanna Cheng: I think that’s the best way to work with a recruiter. Like we’re, again, not selling paper. I mean, there are people here. There’s a reason why I’m making a recommendation. If you don’t have the time to talk to me about it, it’s very hard for me to help you. So, I’m often thinking like, “Help me help you.” I know you’re busy, but we’ve got to talk about this, and we’ve got to make time because I think this is a choice.

Michael Blake: Yeah. I think I would imagine in your world, there are clients that look at you and say, “Oh, thank God, I can just hand this entire thing off to Joanna. She’ll go away for whatever period of time, and she’ll just come back with-“

Joanna Cheng: A magical unicorn.

Michael Blake: Magical unicorn.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah.

Michael Blake: Right?

Joanna Cheng: Mhmm (affirmative).

Michael Blake: But maybe you’ll come back with a magical unicorn, but if they don’t just sort of throw the thing over the wall, that’s more likely to happen, right?

Joanna Cheng: Right. Yeah, exactly. And that’s exactly right. I think what happens a lot in recruiting, especially when you’re working, again, with many firms who will just take a general job description and kind of run with it, is, again, these are people, they’re unique. And I do, actually, use that term in my office is we hunt for unicorns. And so, something that like a purple unicorn with a gold horn is very different than the green speckled one. So, when you show up with the pink one with orange sprinkles, and you go, “That’s not what I wanted at all-“

Michael Blake: It sounds like a very mythical place to work, by the way.

Joanna Cheng: It’s a magical land.

Michael Blake: It sounds like it.

Joanna Cheng: I mean, again, it just comes down to information. And that’s what I typically advise my clients, especially when I first worked with them. I say, “Hey, we present candidates in very small rounds. We like to discuss their backgrounds with you and discuss why we think they would be a fit, and why you should consider them for hire.” And if we’re completely off target, then someone is missing information, or maybe we don’t know what we’re looking for yet. And I see that a lot as well. Sometimes, people think they need these 10 bullet points, and you go, “Well, yes, but this unicorn has six of those, and you don’t even need the other four.” But until you have that conversation and kind of work through that process, you kind of don’t know what you don’t know.

Michael Blake: And then, maybe, it turns out you don’t need a unicorn, just a really nice horse will do.

Joanna Cheng: Exactly, yeah, with a party hat on.

Michael Blake: With the party hat on.

Joanna Cheng: Yeah.

Michael Blake: So, last question, and then then we got to wrap up. But I think a lot of people miss the fact that recruiting is an active job. When we call your recruiter, that’s an action-related. To recruit is as active as opposed to just sort of posting a job and waiting for resumes to fill in. And a question I’ve always had and just been kind of curious about is when you recruit somebody who wasn’t necessarily looking for a job at that time, how do you kind of gauge or kind of verify that that person’s really invested in the process, and that if they do kind of make it through your vetting process, you’re going to present them to the client that they’re going, there’s a fully invested candidate, and not just sort of as a hired gun that might be recruited away from them two years later? You know what I mean?

Joanna Cheng: Well, yeah. And you see that in like the tightest labor market we’ve seen in many years.

Michael Blake: Right.

Joanna Cheng: And I mean, I think that in some respects, it’s the new normal, just poaching or the temptation to jump in for what it is when times are good. I think people are always open to opportunity. Again, we can’t see into the future. I don’t know if someone’s going to leave in two years or 20. All we can assess now is your factors causing them to be open to opportunities, like why are they looking? Why would they want your job? Why would they want work here? Why would they stay? I think into overriding all of that is something that is mentioned, but it’s probably not discussed as much as it should, which is retention. Whose job is it to retain these employees? Is it the recruiters’ job?

Michael Blake: It doesn’t sound like because your job description is not retainer.

Joanna Cheng: Right. So, that’s something I always think about. And I will say this, I mean, generally speaking, for instance, there are definitely companies that are known for extremely high turnover. And those are companies we tend to shy away from, or we will provide staffing on a project basis. But it’s hard for us to put — I always say it’s hard for us to put A people in kind of a C Company. It’s hard for us to put C people in an A company. It’s the same thing. It doesn’t work.

Joanna Cheng: So, yeah. I mean, my advice in terms of choosing a recruiter also says, “Hey, yeah, there’s a cost to that. There is a benefit there. There could be some risk associated with it, but what are we doing as a company to retain that talent?” because you can get in the door, but keeping them, that goes beyond my job.

Michael Blake: Sure.

Joanna Cheng: And I think that’s pervasive in recruiting. I mean, people switch firms all the time. One thing that attracted me to CFS and kind of holds true in my experiences, our tenure of employees is unusually long for our industry. I do think that says something in a positive way.

Michael Blake: Well, this went great. We got a lot of great information, great insights, but we can’t cover everything that we’d like to cover in a half-an-hour podcast. So, if somebody wants to ask you some questions, reach out to you, follow up, can they do that?

Joanna Cheng: Yeah, absolutely.

Michael Blake: So, how would they reach you?

Joanna Cheng: I’m on LinkedIn. So, Joanna Cheng with, apparently, not enough of my background. I’ll let you-

Michael Blake: Yes. Well, it was background-light. We’ll just say you use social media judiciously.

Joanna Cheng: Right.

Michael Blake: And Cheng is spelled C-H-E-N-G.

Joanna Cheng: Yes.

Michael Blake: Correct?

Joanna Cheng: And our website is It will have our company number. You’re welcome to give a shout, shoot us an e-mail. Happy see how we can be a resource for you.

Michael Blake: Okay, very good. Well, that’s going to wrap it up for today’s program. I’d like to thank Joanna Cheng so much for joining us and sharing her expertise with us. We’ll be exploring a new topic each week, so please tune in, so that when you’re faced with your next business decision, you have clear vision when making it. If you enjoy this podcast, please consider leaving a review with your favorite podcast aggregator. It helps people find us, so that we can help them. Once again, this is Mike Blake. Our sponsor is Brady Ware & Company. And this has been the Decision Vision Podcast.

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