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Cable commission hires headhunter for $9K



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March 07, 2012 - A professional employment recruiter will be paid $9,000 to conduct the search for Oxford Community Television's next station manager.

Last week, the Oxford Area Cable Communications Commission voted 4-2 to hire the Royal Oak-based Focus Forward help it fill the position.

"I still maintain that we don't know exactly what we want (in a station manager) and that's part of what I'm looking for an outside professional to help us with," said Commissioner Wayne Hodges, who represents Addison Township.

Kirsten Ross, president of Focus Forward, addressed the commission about her company's services.

"I'm a human resource professional, so I have expertise in helping organizations hire people who fit the skills that they're looking for and also the culture," she said.

Ross noted she has more than 20 years worth of experience in the field and has been a senior certified human resource professional since 1995.

She told commissioners that although she doesn't have any experience working with public access cable stations like OCTV, it's her opinion that "recruiting and identifying appropriate behaviors and skills" for job applicants is something that's "transferrable," no matter what the company or organization is.

One of the biggest advantages of hiring an employment recruiter is the timesaving element. Ross explained that finding and screening applicants is a "really time consuming" process. That's why she has a team to help accomplish the task.

Another advantage is that recruiting professionals know who and what they're looking for and have the necessary skills and experience to find the right people.

"There is an art to the sifting process," Ross said. "We're really good at asking the right questions, reading people and making sure that they're a fit."

Even though she has a team helping her, Ross made it clear she conducts face-to-face interviews with every applicant she ultimately she chooses to bring before her clients.

"Every candidate I present, I personally screen," she said.

Ross strives to present her clients with a "handful" – preferably one or two – of "well-screened candidates" and typically, "one of those people is hired."

"I could throw you a whole bunch of resumes, but then I haven't really done my job," she said. "Going for quantity of applicants to me, isn't so much the end goal. It's the quality."

When asked when the cable commission could expect to see some candidates, Ross indicated it takes an average of four to six weeks.

As part of this search process, Ross plans to evaluate the current "culture" at OCTV, which means visiting the station, talking to some current employees and taking the time to get to know how things work and what's expected.

Hodges noted he wants this process to include identifying why the previous station manager, Don Huegerich, was terminated in December 2011.

"This board took some rather drastic action – any time you dismiss someone that's what it is," he said. "We must have thought we had good reason for that. We need to make (Ross) aware of that because that's a key part of at least identifying to her the culture . . . that we don't like. I think that should be the starting point."

As far as her fee, Ross originally proposed charging the commission 25 percent of the station manager's total compensation package for the first year.

However, she lowered her price on one condition.

"I could go to 20 percent if you'll keep me in mind – consider using me for other things," Ross said.

Based on what the previous station manager earned, the commission agreed to pay Ross 20 percent (or $9,000) of $45,000. Huegerich was paid a salary of $35,000, plus $10,000 in benefits.

One-third of the $9,000 will be billed at the beginning of the search, another third is expected the following month and the remaining third is billed when the candidate is hired.

Per the agreement with Focus Forward, "expenses incurred for research, investigations, printing, postage, telephone, travel, occupational testing, meals and accommodations will be billed for reimbursement."

"Expenses totalling more than $200 will require prior client approval," the agreement stated. Despite this language, Ross told the commission that "rarely is there any extra charge."

Focus Forward's services come with a "90-day guarantee."

"If the person doesn't work out . . . then we refill the position for free," Ross explained.

Ross indicated that gives her company ample incentive to do the job right the first time by finding the correct person.

Despite all the advantages presented, Commissioner Dave Bailey voted against hiring Focus Forward.

"It's not clear to me that this body is not capable of doing the search ourselves," he said. "I was interested in exploring the idea (of) let's save money and do it ourselves."

Commissioner Charlene Sutherby, who represents Leonard Village, noted that originally, she agreed with Bailey's position and planned to vote that way, but listening to Ross' presentation changed her mind.

"I remember when we hired the last station manager there was always this little scuttlebutt going on about favoritism, friends and that sort of thing," she said. "I think if it's an outside person who is selecting candidates, then there should not be any of this whispering that it was a buddy of (one of the cable commissioners)."

In Sutherby's view, a candidate brought to the commission by the recruiter will be seen as someone with the "proper qualifications" for the job as opposed to someone who's there "based on friendship or any other local politics."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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