Talent Acquisition Inside Out
As Managing Director, John Delpino is a leader in Raines International’s Human Resources, Consumer Goods, and eCommerce / Retail Practices. Prior to joining Raines International, John’s career spanned nearly 25 years leading talent acquisition with PepsiCo, Pepsi Cola and its Frito-Lay Divisions, and eight years leading officer-level talent acquisition with Wal-Mart.
John Delpino, Managing Director, joined Raines International after an impressive career at some of the world’s largest and most notable companies. His experience weaves through both internal Human Resources and Talent Acquisition teams and external Executive Search and Recruiting firms, allowing for a unique perspective on the world of talent and recruiting. In fact, John’s roles at PepsiCo and more recently at Walmart both served the objective of drastically reducing the need for the type of firm where he finds himself now. His LinkedIn profile even boasts that his direct hiring “netted cost avoidance of $16.6M” by circumventing the use of search firms.
How does a man resolved to subvert the industry end up working for a retained executive search firm after more than 30 years on the other side? According to John, regardless of how talented and built-out an Executive Recruiting team might be, even Fortune 100 companies face searches that are beyond their capabilities. “There was always a circumstance where you needed to use somebody,” he admitted. While the network of an established HR director will be sufficient to fill standard and common roles like a Vice President of Sales or a Category Manager, John found that the more niche, “one-off” roles often required outside help. “A VP of International Tax,” he explained, “…you do one of those in a blue moon so there’s no baseline to start from – you’re at a cold start.” Another example included the Head of Global E-Commerce. “I was not heavily wired to Silicon Valley,” he recounted, “and the sense of urgency was extremely heightened. I didn’t have the time to gain the affiliations that I needed to be effective in filling the role.” Search firms also came in handy for confidential searches and replacements. As an internal recruiter, all confidentiality is lost the moment you reach out to a candidate. Search firms are a great way to blind the process for as long as is necessary.
The final hurdle that John outlined was capacity and time. At Walmart, he was typically working on 12-15 searches at a time, as he was responsible for all US-based hiring for the Vice President level and above. With only a small Research team at his disposal, John was the one responsible for dialing out to candidates on all active searches within his purview. In comparing workloads, he explained, “the fraction of the time that I got to spend on each of those searches was small, whereas here at Raines our staffing model caps at two to three searches per consultant at a time… you get a much higher touch, and the process is much more hands on.” John also cited the benefits of having a support staff to help in candidate identification and reach out. “Our structure allows us to hit the ground running with cleared calendars and a sense of urgency that often doesn’t exist when you recruit internally.”
The ability to devote more time and resources to a given search has noticeable effects on both candidate and client experience. When you are stretched thin across many searches, the attention you are able to devote to an individual candidate is minimal. “I think that the overall candidate experience is better when attentive search firms are involved,” John concluded. “Candidates benefit from having a point of contact that continually updates and advises them throughout the process – something that isn’t as feasible when your search load grows.”
A similar consequence of spreading your focus across many searches is that “you’re forced to have fewer candidates on each assignment and hope that you have a winner among them.” Alternatively, with a team of Researchers, Consultants, and Managing Directors, John finds that “at Raines, we can continue to scour the market and discover the best candidates even if we already have great people in the process… we have the means to over deliver.” These are the kinds of factors that John took into consideration when deciding on when to partner with a search firm and who to partner with. “When I speak with heads of HR now, I tell them that I understand that firms aren’t always necessary, but I let them know that we’re here for the tricky ones.”
When the decision is made to bring in help from the outside, the next undertaking is choosing who to work with. Considerations in this decision often involve the depth of a firm’s experience doing similar work, the extent of their “off-limits” restrictions, and their style and ability to get along with hiring managers. “At the end of the day, it was about having the highest level of confidence in their ability to get it done.”
John has known Bruce Raines, CEO and Founder of Raines International, for over 25 years. Having worked together on multiple search assignments at PepsiCo and Walmart, John said he has stuck with Raines over the years because of the firm’s ability to differentiate itself from others in these areas. “The obvious advantage we have over some of the bigger firms is that we have fewer off-limits which means greater access to candidates,” he explained. However, what was more striking to him was the respectful nature of the relationship. “There is a loyalty factor beyond that of any other firm that I know of,” he shared. “For example, when Pepsi owned restaurant concepts, with which Bruce never worked, he nonetheless refrained from recruiting from those businesses because Pepsi was a client.” The strength of this relationship was key to continuing to choose Raines over the years. “What I find really telling is that when client contacts leave and move to a new company, they bring Raines with them and that’s a big part of how Raines’ client base has expanded. Having a followership like that says a lot about the quality of the work and the relationship.”
The lesson to be gleaned from John’s experience is that relationships may matter just as much as performance. Replacing any impersonal, transactional sentiments with those of compassion is imperative. In order to improve the relationship between search firms and their clients, John is a proponent of serving as an overall advisor. “I might just be working on one search for a client but if they have a thorn in their paw or some other problem that I can help them with, I want to add value in any way that I can. If I know a great candidate for a search we’re not being retained for, I will still pass them along for my client’s consideration in an effort to help both sides of that equation.”
A close working relationship is also key to the successful execution of a search. In bringing an opportunity to market, it is easiest to attract a candidate when you can provide full information on the role, the company, and the ins and outs of the team. John says, “as long as you have all the important information, you can market the role just as well from the outside as you can from the inside – it all depends on how much the client lets you under the tent.”
As Managing Director, John is a leader in Raines International’s Human Resources, Consumer Goods, and eCommerce / Retail Practices. Prior to joining Raines International, John’s career spanned nearly 25 years leading talent acquisition with PepsiCo, Pepsi Cola and its Frito-Lay Divisions, and eight years leading officer-level talent acquisition with Wal-Mart. John has led and developed talent acquisition teams of up to 20 people, and received the John Ewing Leadership Award for his performance at PepsiCo. While at Wal-Mart, John was involved in VP, SVP, and C-Suite executive search assignments for corporate, Sam’s Club, Walmart U.S. Home Office and field, and Global eCommerce.
John’s career has been defined by identifying, recruiting, and collaborating with some of the most progressive executives in the Consumer Goods, Retail, and eCommerce industries. He has honed his Human Resources subject matter expertise, and built his extensive professional network, while representing two Fortune 500 companies known for their Diversity and Inclusion and Leadership Development track records.
A United States Marine Corps veteran, John received his MBA from Temple University’s Fox School of Business and received his BSBA from Delaware Valley University.