Undercover partner hiring hurts. Here’s why

Covert partner hiring is one of the “great ideas” of the very senior firm executives. They feel that a practice group could do much better if there just was a different leader.

 

There’s no one to benefit from knowing that the search is on, right? So it’s done undercover – interviewing external candidates for a role currently occupied.

 

I’ve seen it.

 

But, let me tell you: everyone knows you’re doing it!

 

You will look like a fool.

 

Problems with covert partner hiring

 

“Max, I don’t care if I look like a fool. We need external talent and want to keep it quiet until we find the right person.”

 

Well, you should care because you will be creating other problems in your firm:

 

1. No support from the current leader

They are usually totally frustrated and ready to quit when you inform them – usually by the way.

 

To make things worse, executive leadership often expects the current leader to onboard their successor professionally and with enthusiasm.

 

2. No buy-in from the wider team when it comes to partner hiring

Other partners in the group worry about a new boss who has just appeared from thin air.

 

Team members at immediately below partner level worry about their chances to make partner – now there’s one more to feed.

 

And slots are limited.

 

The lower-level team members are surprised how the firm conducts itself – lots of nice talk, but a harsh reality.

 

3. Hostile environment

Big surprise for the candidate when they realize that there is a whole practice group against them.

 

The extra stress and bad blood are not healthy for the candidate’s success or the firm’s future.

 

And, probably most importantly: staff and partners will view senior executives as weak leaders.

 

Apparently, they had not the guts to address the elephant in the room with the current practice leader.

 

It’s a guaranteed way to lose face and do long-term damage to a firm.

 

External hires are part of reality but don’t go undercover and end up looking like a fool.

 

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