The Preface: Akbar The Great was the Mogul Emperor who ruled India from 1560 to 1605. He himself was illiterate, but he invited several learned people in his court. Among these people, Birbal was his most favorite minister because of his wit and intellect. There are number of folklore on Birbal in India. As an Executive Search & Recruitment professional during last two decades, I Unlearned (learned new lessons) a lot from these stories and tried to use it in my profession for the benefit of my clients and talented individuals I met and interviewed. I am sharing few of those.


The Story:


One day, a poet from a faraway kingdom arrived at the Court. He delighted everyone with his songs and poems. The Emperor, who was always generous, rewarded him well. The poet had never seen so much gold before. He was overwhelmed. Then poet offered a poem of thanks. Emperor Akbar nodded and the poet began his recitation. He spoke of the Emperor’s bravery and kindness. He praised the Emperor’s learning and wisdom. He ended by saying that Emperor Akbar was the greatest king that had ever ruled this world or any other. He is greater than God Himself. With that, the poet bowed and left the hall.There was a moment of silence. Emperor Akbar looked around and his eyes began to twinkle mischievously. “So,” he said, “it appears that I am now even greater than God”. Emperor Akbar looked at his ministers and commanders, his nobles and his counselors. He wondered if any of them would have the courage to speak the truth. Nobody stirred.


“So,” said the Emperor, beginning to feel irritated, “everyone present agrees that your Emperor is greater than God.” Nobody dared to disagree. He turned to Birbal with a frown. “And you, Birbal. Do you agree too?” he asked. “Yes,” Birbal replied immediately. The Emperor’s frown grew. “Your Majesty, you can do something even God cannot! “Birbal said. “If any of your subjects displease you, your Majesty, you can banish him from your empire, never to return. But God can not because God rules over the entire earth, the sky and the heaven. This universe is God’s Kingdom. There is no place in this universe that does not belong to God. Hence GOD cannot banish any of his creatures from His Empire.” “Well said, Birbal!” Akbar cried delightedly!


The Unlearning


There is no body in this world capable of everything. Even GOD has limitations.


The Professional Observation


As an Executive Search or Head hunting Professional, it is my part of my role to read resumes, interview people and to evaluate to draw compatibility with mandate on hand. Many candidates in their resumes despite of limited success portray themselves as capable of doing anything, capable of managing any situation or company of anysize. Perhaps they don’t know that even GOD has limitations. During my interview and interactions with individuals, I make it a point to confront them and facilitate the understanding. Many reasonable ones are quick to correct and realize the folly and rewrite their resumes. This also helped me to build a long lasting and healthy relationship with such executives.

Interviewing, assessing and helping an individual to understand his true potential is relatively easier task when compared with making recommendations to the client. There exists a potential conflict of interest.Highlighting our own recommended candidate’s shortcomings can sometimes go against one’s own interest because for executive search professionals, a part of our income/success comes from selection. It challenges professional and intellectual integrity of even best Executive Search Professional. It has a potential to derail the assignment and most of Executive Search Professionals in such situations end up putting extra efforts. But still it has to dare it to be done.


I firmly believe, for an executive search professional, when forwarding one’s recommendations to a customer, highlighting limitations or shortcomings of the recommended candidate in an unbiased manner should be more important than highlighting strengths of the individual. it is better understanding of limitations of an individual that would be needed for success of an assignment and healthy & long lasting relationships. Such inputs in general are most appreciated by my most of my clients however one of my clients complained saying “Mr. Marwah, I have a problem in selecting a candidate due to area of concerns mentioned by you in the report. I would prefer if you could recommend someone who is fully compatible without the limitations. At that time I narrated my client above Akbar Birbal Story. In my view, once useful credentials of an individual is established then  focus should be only on the limitations of individuals. One need to decide  if team mate or organization  can cope up with the limitations he/she has and how can it  be supplemented either through a team augmentation or otherwise so that an incumbent could have smooth sailing.

As an Executive Search Professional, we also have our own set of limitations which many times our clients are notable to clearly understand or appreciate. There are usual   limitations that each Executive Search Professional has in his/ her individual capacity of subject matter expertise to search a specific sector at a specific level or searching in a specific geographic location/s that any one should look at before retaining an Executive Search Professional. But our biggest limitation is that we can only search and cannot manufacture or develop an individual to perfectly match our client’s requirements. Under the light of this fact, if some of Executive Search Professionals still show courage to list the limitations of their own recommended candidates ignoring their own self-interest then it is matter of appreciation and to be proud of