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Executive Recruiter Cameron Smith on Assessing Assistants

3 min read

Cameron Smith, originally from California, founded the executive recruitment firm Cameron Smith & Associates in 1992. The firm has gone on to become the top provider of executive talent to the almost 1,400 vendors doing business with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CSA now has 22 employees and has placed about 3,000 employees in northwest Arkansas. Smith won the Arkansas Business Executive of the Year Award in 2015.

Cameron Smith is a former professional fast-pitch softball pitcher.

When changing jobs, are most people motivated by money or something else?

Money attracts people initially, but candidates consider other factors when it comes to the final decision. Growth potential, stability, work culture, length of commute, flexibility, benefits and work/life balance are all motivating factors. Cultural fit and a clear vision for career path progression seem to be at the top of every candidate’s list.

When an employee gets an offer from another company and her current company matches that or improves on it, causing the employee to stay, how does that affect her relationship with her boss going forward?

Accepting a counteroffer creates high expectations on both sides. The employer expects the worker to live up to increased pay but distrusts her for looking in the first place. The worker expects the employer to make good on promises made to win her back but distrusts an employer who only valued her when she tried to leave. Usually when someone accepts a counteroffer, she leaves the company within a year because of broken promises.

We believe there is never a good time to accept a counteroffer. Rarely have we ever seen a positive outcome.

You place high-ranking corporate executives but you also place executive assistants. Which is harder to find: a good corporate executive or a good executive assistant?

Both have their challenges. It’s harder to find a senior corporate executive. Most high-level jobs are very specific about the skill set and leadership abilities needed, which makes it a more difficult search. The candidate pool is smaller, the vetting process takes much longer, and the stakes are higher.

That said, a good high-functioning assistant is hard to find. It is challenging to find someone with the polish, technical skills and attention to detail whom you can trust with confidential information and who is happy in that role. It is extremely demanding and requires a great deal of patience, flexibility and ability to juggle many things. Also, a sense of humor helps.

How does Cameron Smith & Associates go about ensuring the right fit between an employer and employee?

We take time to form a relationship with both sides — client companies and candidates. Often we have to ask tough questions to ensure a good fit.

When we receive a job order, we focus on the hiring needs of the company and try to understand the type of individual it needs, the company culture, advancement opportunities and why the job is open. We ask about the positives of the company as well as any issues the company is currently facing. The more we know about the role and expectations, the better job we can do to ensure a successful hire.

We screen qualified candidates for the job and meet with them in person if we have not already done so. Meeting candidates goes a long way toward gauging their energy level, polish and overall interest in the opportunity. We’re looking for not only skill set but also personality, career goals and leadership ability. The hard skills show the person is capable of doing the job. The soft skills help make sure there is a long-term fit between candidate and company.

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