Retained search firms bring in
candidates for their own (and their clients’) purposes at times –
candidates who have little, if any, chances of landing the job, but who
are being used to fine tune the specifications in the beginning.
Strange sounding name: Stalking
Horse. What does it mean?
The Stalking Horse (also called the Benchmark Candidate) is a candidate brought in early in the search
process to fine tune specifications. This candidate normally comes from
the search firm’s files, and unlike the candidates expected later in
the search, doesn’t have to fit the specs exactly. The search firm
doesn’t expect the candidate to get the job, and the client is more
forgiving if the candidate isn’t spot on. At the same time, the
Stalking Horse almost never gets the job. Instead, without any other
candidates for comparison, the client dismembers the candidate, finding
everything wrong with him that they possibly can, and gives their
feedback on him to the search firm, so they can now go find the right
person. You don’t want to be the first candidate presented on a search
that has just begun; you might think that this gives you a head start
and that you’re in a class of one, but you’re really a sacrificial lamb.
Stalking Horses often are people to whom the search firm owes a favor. They can’t be
held responsible if they present a candidate and the client doesn’t
hire them. They have no control over what their client does. The search
firm has done what they could for you, their friend. You don’t realize
that instead, you’ve been used by the search firm.
Perhaps you want to go along with this, to build a solid relationship
with a good retained search firm. If you’re working, comfortable and
not actively looking, perhaps not. But be realistic with yourself. If
you’re being thrown in solo, early, you’re a Stalking Horse. Your chances are slim, and you’re serving
the search firm’s interests, not yours.