Harry Wilson, Senior VP, Wachovia Securities

July 7, 2003

Who: Harry Wilson, senior VP and managing director, Wachovia executive search group. Wilson reports to Denny Clark, director of recruiting.

Company: Wachovia Corporation, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has more than 80,000 employees and serves 20 million banking, brokerage and corporate customers. The name Wachovia comes from the German word Wachau, the name of an area in North Carolina.

Search group: Wilson’s search group now has nine people, but has had as many as 15. Two of them telecommute; the rest are in Charlotte. They handle 50 to 60 percent of all retained search work. When Wachovia employees are looking to hire someone, it’s up to them whether to use the in-house search group or an external firm. "There is no mandate and never has been that anyone has to use us," Wilson says. The internal group, he says, costs about a third less than an outside firm.

Technology: Wilson, the rest of the executive search group and about 20 other recruiters at Wachovia use a program called DeskFlow, made by Workflow International. DeskFlow, which Wilson calls "state of the art," is used to manage tens of thousands of contacts, companies and projects.

Finding passive candidates: One of Wilson’s favorite sources is Eliyon. There are multiple ways to search the Eliyon database, including searching for people within a given company, or for people who are somehow affiliated with a group, such as a professional association. "Anytime anyone has been in the press and there’s something on a Web site about them," Wilson says, "it’s going to be in the Eliyon database." If, for example, Wilson sees that someone attended a class reunion, Wachovia can then contact that college’s alumni office and see if they know where the candidate lives. Wilson and Wachovia also use LexisNexis, American Banker, Thomson Financial and other sources.

What Wachovia looks for in a candidate: Wachovia wants people who match the organization’s core values, which are as follows: integrity, teamwork, respect for the individual, service, personal excellence and accountability, and winning.

The selling point: Why work at Wachovia? When Wilson is selling a Wachovia job, "it goes back to the core values and the culture," he says. "True, they all [talk about values], but we live it. Who really walks the talk and really believes in it? That’s big these days...when you come to visit in the face-to-face interview experience, and you meet the execs, that’s when you get the feeling it’s real." Wachovia employees are encouraged to spend four hours of work time each month doing community-service work. They work in soup kitchens, help religious charities and tutor children, using an online system to voluntarily report what they’ve done.

Measuring success: After each search, both the hiring manager and the new employee are given a quality survey. Candidates who weren’t successful are also given a survey. "We want to make sure we’ve handled them tremendously in case we want to go back to them," Wilson says. Respondents are asked about a dozen questions, and rank their satisfaction levels on a 1 (not satisfied) to 7 (most satisfied) range. Each quarter, results are analyzed, and Wilson says that the search group is happily in the 6-7 range.

How searching has changed in the last couple of years: You might think that the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the prolonged economic slump would have made Wilson’s job easier, but that’s not always the case. For one thing, at the top tiers of an organization, or for specialized positions, competition for talent is still intense. Also, he says, "people really have gotten to the point where they truly do appreciate the longevity with one employer." In other words, it’s harder to pry them away because a relatively secure job is more valuable now. Counteroffers are now in vogue. "In the 1970s and '80s, once you accepted a counteroffer, you were kind of marked," he says. "That’s absolutely changed." This means two things. It’s tougher to close a deal because candidates are more likely to get and accept a counteroffer. Also, it means that Wachovia more often will make counteroffers to its own employees who are being wooed.

Workforce Online, July 2003 -- Register Now!