An Interview with Construction Recruiter Frederick C. Hornberger, Jr.

Construction Review

An Interview with Construction Recruiter Frederick C. Hornberger, Jr.

Wilmington, DE.–March 15, 2003–Construction recruiter, Frederick Hornberger (President of Hornberger Management Company), talks with Chairman William R. Burk, III of Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc. about what makes construction executive search a good choice for constructors, and the benefits of building quality relationships.

By William R. Burk, III

Graduating with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (Finance) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, Frederick C. Hornberger, Jr. moved from being an estimator and sales professional with a design build contractor to the ranks of construction executive search. During his first year as a construction recruiter, Frederick earned the “Top Recruitment Sales” award for Engineering Personnel Consultants, and was a pioneer in introducing executive search to the construction industry. In 1983, he founded his own management-consulting firm exclusively dedicated to board member and senior executive search for the construction industry. He went on to achieve the “Gold Medal Sales” award and “Agency of the Year” award within the National Association of Personnel Services. He was later elected into the exclusive Pinnacle Society, representing the nations “Top Billers” of recruitment services. Frederick is a noted public speaker, and published author of executive career articles and the book “Maximum Career Advancement”. Today, Hornberger Management Company is headquarted in Wilmington, Delaware. Its practice is international in scope, with affiliate offices in Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom and the Republic of Singapore.

WB: Why should constructors choose construction executive search over other less costly methods of executive recruitment?

Frederick: There are many methods of recruiting executive talent. This includes everything from internal promotions, internal referrals, company networking, public advertising, Internet job/resume boards, internal corporate recruiting – to third-party recruitment researchers or executive recruiters. Usually constructors choose third-party, executive recruiters for one of five reasons: 1) when they need to fill a position that is confidential; 2) when a position needs to be filled immediately; 3) when the position is difficult to fill because of unique and complex requirements (or because there are only a limited number of qualified candidates who can fill the position); 4) when the position needs to be filled with candidates who are currently working who may not feel comfortable in directly approaching a job opportunity without the safety of professional representation; 5) when the position is a critical hire and requires experienced, expert recruitment to locate and secure the best possible talent.

As far as cost is concerned, there are studies that show the actual costs of an executive hire when conducted by employers with internal resources. This can actually be more costly than outsourcing the hire to third-party, executive recruiters (The Fordyce Letter, Recruiter Online Magazine, Executive Recruiter News, etc.). If an employer has the same level of internal recruitment expertise as a third-party executive recruiter (where cost is the only determining factor), then employers should remember to compare their direct/indirect/lost opportunity costs, as well as the cost of a bad hire without any replacement warranty.

The fact is that construction executive search can be expensive. We tell our clients that the use of construction executive search should be viewed as an investment to improve the quality of their organization’s managerial might. The end result shows that the right hiring choice can dramatically increase their overall value. The fee associated with any particular search becomes incidental in relation to the ultimate payback for the right hire.

WB: What is the one thing that separates great construction recruiters from the multitude of others?

Frederick: The answer is quality relationships. I find that quality construction recruiters focus their energy and time on building quality relationships with accomplished construction executives. Relationships are the heart of our company and, I believe, should be the heart of any quality construction recruiter.

WB: Why would a contractor hire a construction recruiter based on relationships?

Frederick: Our network of quality relationships with top construction executives is what makes us useful to our clients. Simply put, we are hired to utilize our relationships in order to source, qualify and recruit top talent.

Everyone who provides professional services to the construction industry has a network of relationships, but our entire business is focused on building a quality executive network. For over 20 years, we have spent every hour of every day building relationships and establishing career credibility with accomplished construction leaders.

Because of our quality executive network and established track record, when our clients call us with their executive employment need, we are able to deliver the right candidate at any point in time. Our existing relationships enable us to penetrate the narrow and exclusive market of executive talent within any geographic market. We are quickly able to gain entry to the elite performers who otherwise would not take a recruiter’s phone call, much less submit their resume for third-party representation. It would take 20 years for our competition to duplicate our network – an unlikely feat in today’s times.

WB: What does a quality candidate relationship mean to you?

Frederick: A quality relationship with an executive candidate represents a partnership of the highest caliber. We work similarly to professional agents or talent scouts that often have an exclusive association with their athletes or celebrities. Good relationships are about trust, discretion and respect. You don’t just call on a CEO and expect to get a resume. It takes time. You need credentials, established credibility, a history of providing CEO’s with valuable information and services (sometimes for free), a stellar track record and a reputation above reproach.

We measure our success by the quality of the relationships (candidates) that we represent and not the quantity of candidates in our database. Any search firm can spend money advertising to collect volumes of resumes and claim to be industry leaders with their immense databases of people. But our clients know that anyone can run advertising or recruit masses of candidates who are unemployed – or those willing to job hop at every higher paying opportunity. Our clients want employed, accomplished, stable candidates who are at the top of their game and unwilling to job move to publicly advertised openings that are not retained. We provide our clients a strategic, rifle approach to recruiting. We never have used a shotgun approach. We never will!

WB: How do you measure the quality of an executive candidate relationship?

Frederick: We actually have a Relationship Quotient (5-point index) to measure our recruiter’s performance. The Relationship Quotient measures the quality of a candidate recruited based on the candidate’s work performance record, the candidate’s “placeability” (how marketable the candidate is to our clients), how long the recruiter has known the candidate, how often the candidate contacts the recruiter, and what (if any) business has been generated from the contact. A recruiter who does not maintain an overall Relationship Quotient of 85% is placed on probation, and may be terminated. Executive Search is a tough business with a high turnover rate. It’s not for everyone.

As a company, the high volume of repeat business that we maintain acts as our greatest testimony. Although we do market our services, almost all of our business comes from repeat clients, with the balance being shared between existing client referrals and candidate “word of mouth.”

WB: Can you give me an example of a quality executive relationship?

Frederick: Quality relationships stand the test of time. Since you are in New Orleans, I will offer you a local example with Boh Bros Construction Co., LLC. I worked with a gentleman for three months before placing him with one of their groups back in 1982. It was a perfect fit and he is still with them today. We have countless examples similar to this which exemplifies what I mean when referring to building quality relationships.

Willliam R. Burk, III is Chairman of Burk-Kleinpeter, Inc., a 90-year old, national engineering, architectural, planning, construction and environmental services company based in New Orleans, Louisiana.