AAM Minute - Topic At Hand

How Business Developers Add Value to Recruiting

Pauline Gonnering, Cummings, Keegan & Co., P.L.L.P.


Nikki Burgeson (Rehmann), Scott Jensen (Deloitte), Darrell Kong (Burr Pilger Mayer), Don Kreye (Abdo, Eick, & Meyers, LLP) and Chris Menz (Brown Smith Wallace LLP) are significantly involved in recruiting employees of all experience levels. They suggest what traits to look for in future employees, having a presence on college campuses (speaking and conducting on-site interviews), and participating in alumni associations. Because of their in-depth knowledge of the marketplace, they also may know when an experienced candidate is seeking a change.


After talking with each of them about their roles in the recruiting process, the following are four main ways a business development executive (BDE) can assist in finding team members who can be counted on to help drive firm growth.


Use Selling Skills to Get to Know Candidates

Unfortunately, recruiting efforts in many firms occur without inclusion of the BDE. Yet, the skill sets used to find and nurture new clients are quite valuable when recruiting new employees. As a BDE, you tend to excel with soft skills and effective questioning techniques. You also are great at reading a candidate’s unspoken actions, and you can gather insight into the candidate’s background, motivations, and long-term potential success at the firm.


The BDE is probably the same person who has to lead formalized business development training programs once new recruits have been hired. Your firm obviously understands why it is important to build relationships, establish a niche market or service, and identify new opportunities. If you become more involved with recruiting, you can help identify candidates who have skills that will assist in the firm’s sales efforts.


Look for a Future Wingman

When interviewing candidates, technical skills are assumed. BDEs should look for those who will collaborate, seek their advice, and stretch out of their comfort zone.


Trust and synergy are important. Look for someone who can be your ‘wingman.’ Ultimately, the client chooses to work with the partner and technical team, not the BDE. However, you will work closely with this person and you must feel confident in each other’s skills. Specifically, BDEs should seek potential partners who:


  • Understand selling and can close business
  • Know how to identify new opportunities
  • Engage in basic conversation and are able to strengthen that relationship
  • Possess strong business acumen
  • Desire results – one who is a ‘needle-mover’
  • Are willing to share their relationships with you and other team members


These skills do vary by job level, but each employee has the opportunity to show traits as they progress. The BDE can help their colleagues develop the desired traits. Little results are achieved when trying to force a colleague to learn how to sell. It is best to focus attention on those who definitely want to do it and those who want to improve over time.


Become Instrumental to All Firm Growth

Consider opportunities for strategic involvement in your firm. Is your role perceived on a narrow scope to find leads and close business? Can you redefine the role to become more ‘core-centric’ to the firm’s growth strategy?


Understand your firm’s big picture – from sales and delivery to the development of people. Ask questions, share information and ideas, and learn how to help your colleagues. Create a mindset that you have great news about your firm and want to share the ‘gospel.’ This value-added message builds credibility and trust, and over time, future employees and clients will seek your reputation.


Culture Matters

When you are providing input on new hires, consider your comfort level with the candidates. Do their traits match what your firm needs to achieve practice growth goals? Will they fit into your firm’s culture? Will you feel comfortable leaving them for a day with your client? Do not sacrifice culture and collaboration for one hire.


BDEs can apply their natural skills and talents to nurture relationships – whether they are with new clients, new employees, or with their colleagues.