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Why do recruiting services need to be hired by municipalities?

Posted on February 3, 2015 by Sunny South News

What happens when two municipalities in Lethbridge County turn to a recruiting service to find a town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO)? A lot of taxpayer money is spent but is it worth it? It depends on who you ask.
Right now, the search is on to find new CAOs for the Town of Coaldale and the Town of Picture Butte but why do municipalities, including Coaldale and Picture Butte, rely on outside sources to hire town managers?
Town councils are made up of a few women and men — fully capable of making a decision, in regards to the perfect candidate to take over the helm of a municipality’s town operations. So, why do many municipalities spend tens of thousands of dollars and more to hire CAOs?
Many town councillors will defend the decision, as it is best for the community it serves. But, aren’t town councils elected to take care of things municipally, which should include hiring a new CAO? Recruiting services only pick a handful of candidates and in the end council chooses the lucky girl or guy.
It’s a pretty safe bet five councillors plus the many directors of a municipality could join forces to select possible candidates, interview said candidates and choose the best individual for the job. It’s not rocket science.
It’s as if town councils decide to wipe their hands of the task at hand, which is a duty of being on council, isn’t it? Again, many councillors will defend and exclaim, “It’s best for the residents.” But, is it?
Couldn’t tens of thousands of dollars be spent on improving infrastructure, fixing potholes and streets, the beautification of towns, funding various projects on the backburner and/or using the money to encourage tourism and economic development?
Some municipalities even have a hiring manager or hiring department to hire other employees. Council is made up of community members and many are part of businesses or community groups and have an intimate knowledge of their community. Wouldn’t these attributes make it easy for councillors to know what’s best for their community, instead of a headhunting service?
What are local options? Well, for starters, the town could put out a help wanted ad through many means available. Then, resumes will be sent in and collected by town employees. Next, those resumes could be narrowed down by other town employees before making the way to councillors’ hands. Perhaps then, those resumes could be read by councillors and narrowed down again to a few hand-picked selections. From there, those selected could be interviewed, maybe even twice. Finally, a candidate could be chosen through a gamut of variables set out by councillors and councillors could even vote until an unanimous decision is made. Democracy, at its finest.
Today there’s — newspapers, job websites up the ying-yang, and social media — to put out the good word a municipality is looking for a new CAO in town.
A small town in Alberta needs to think twice before spending an arm and a leg for a recruiting service simply to find an employee for a community. It, in a way, shows a town’s inability to function as a council if council, as a whole, believes councillors can’t make a decision as simple as hiring someone. It speaks loud and clear, at times.
Collectively, Picture Butte and Coaldale could potentially spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars this year, when all those dollars could be spent on so many other much-needed things in their respective communities. Yes, it is good to ask for external candidates for a job but maybe there is someone already on payroll who deserves a promotion or a chance to shine. Or maybe not.
In today’s age of external consulting, one soon forgets about the abilities of those in-house. Both the Town of Coaldale and the Town of Picture Butte has capable staff and councils to make the call on a new CAO and other communities do to. If not, what is to be said about the hiring practices of said town and/or the voters in said communities.
Municipal councils — save a few bucks. In this case a few bucks more and maybe next time look to council and/or municipal staff to choose candidates for hire. Not only will it save money, it will save residents from wondering what the heck is the municipality doing, as they question the integrity and validity of those voted in — in the first place.

One response to “Why do recruiting services need to be hired by municipalities?”

  1. Bruce says:

    Full disclosure- I am a professional municipal recruiter. Here are some things that Sunny South News forgot about:

    Senior and middle municipal managers are in great demand throughout Alberta and across Canada. Many of Canada’s top municipalities have recently undergone or are currently undergoing searches for Chief Administrative Officer. Frankly, there just aren’t enough to go around!

    Add to that the fact that 2013/14 were election years in many provinces in Canada. Given the reality that an election cycle is often a chosen retirement time in municipal executive careers this is especially significant.

    2010 was the beginning of a retirement trend for CAOs … as the year that more ‘baby boomers’ turned age 57 than in any year prior to or after that year. OMERS research indicates that many senior municipal employees have opted for retirement in 2012.

    Today, EVERY 75 seconds another ‘baby boomer’ turns age 60 in Canada and this is a circumstance that will persist for another 16 years.

    1000 Baby Boomers turn 65 EVERY day and will for the next 14 years.

    There are approximately 60% as many Gen Xers… the less experienced generation that followed the ‘baby boom’ which only further widens the gap in the search for qualified people. If EVERY Genexer took a ‘baby boomer’s’ job there would still be a 40% shortage of talent

    Top candidates are most often not looking and need to be FOUND.

    Advertising alone usually attracts unhappy or unemployed people …often both.

    It is critical to avoid attracting the person “who made the last Town miserable”.

    It is my opinion that since municipal employees are often well known to each other, a top candidate would rarely risk sending his/her resume in response to an ad when uncertain about who would be receiving it. In the hands of the wrong person a happily employed, but interested, CAO could be risking his/her career by sending in an application to be “sorted out by town staff” .

    Searches through a professional recruiter come with a one year guarantee. So if things don’t work out in the short term the process begins again at no charge to the town.

    The same can’t be said of the do-it-yourself approach. The town could spend hundreds of dollars on ads and thousands of dollars in man hours only to have the whole thing go wrong … just like it has already in so many municipalities around the province.

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