Monday, June 1, 2009

Lend a shoulder for headhunters to cry on

I’m holding a tissue drive for the industry’s executive placement specialists, commonly known as headhunters. They’ll likely be burning through Kleenex this week after what must’ve been excruciating months of watching the grass grow, the bills pile up, the accountants nixing luxuries like a communal box of nose dabbers. Now that the tears are being shed in joy instead of despair, why not let them sob and honk a bit?   

The week is less than 48 hours old, yet we’ve already seen two screaming indications that companies are making big hires again. Lane Cardwell, a longtime veteran of casual dining, was appointed CEO over the weekend of Boston Market. On Monday evening, Carin Stutz, a standout who seemed on the CEO track at Applebee’s, was named COO of Global Business Development for Chili’s parent, Brinker International. They’re the sort of placements that give headhunters the vapors, a giddiness they likely haven't felt in awhile.  

Both of the week’s marquee recruits are huge talents, and, interestingly, both were previously under-employed. Their return to full-time duty suggests the smart companies are starting to raid the considerable bench of talent that’s been formed by the cut, cut, cut imperative of the last nine months. The mindset might be shifting back to assembling a standout team, instead of hacking one to bits for the sake of a budget.  

That possibility seems more likely when you consider a few big-name hirings in April, like Bennigan's recruitment of David Goronkin as its new leader, or Real Mex Restaurants' appointment of Dick Rivera as CEO. They, too, were previously under-employed What seemed at the time to be exceptions to the rule may in hindsight be the early indications of an emerging trend.

If the recent developments are indeed the first signs of a shift, it’ll be high-five-worthy news for headhunters. So, please, do your part as they cry for joy. Steal all the tissues you can from your accounting department, and donate them to a worthy placement agency. 

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