Making the Right Hire

with Forward Focus Recruitment Inc.

Matthew Clancy, founder.

1. Adjust hiring expectations to the marketplace

Just as industries evolve over time, so does a specialized workforce. With deep knowledge of the industry, Forward Focus is able to offer a reality check when given the client’s wish list for a particular position. Let’s say a company asks to hire a pink elephant with a red coffee cup for one dollar an hour. An adept recruiter will conduct a critical assessment and, in doing so, might discover a different market reality.

“I might find that in this particular sector, there are no elephants; there are antelopes,” says Forward Focus founder Matthew Clancy. “And antelopes don’t drink coffee; they like tea. And they have blue mugs, not red. Antelopes also earn about 30 percent more.”

2. Evaluate the position

Forward Focus digs deep to find out what equates success in any given job. If it is an existing position, he ascertains why previous people worked out—or didn’t. In a sales post, for example, was it a “tactical” worker or a Rolodex hire? The former, Clancy says, would be “someone who can identify pain and add value and doesn’t need to know anybody,” while the latter would “need to have relationships established.”


Matthew Clancy has placed talent for some of Canada’s top IT firms. The headhunter had the benefit of learning from expert mentors who showed him the ropes. “I grew up in the tech bubble and got to work with a number of tech companies as they were being established,” Clancy says. “I was the young, hungry guy in the room with seasoned execs as they were developing their go-to-market strategy.”

After working for three search firms, Clancy launched Forward Focus Recruitment in 2007. The Toronto-based boutique finds talent in the IP-networking, storage, and software markets across North America.

3. Develop a lightning-rod profile

Once the ideal factors have been deciphered, Clancy’s team creates a master job description that, in Forward Focus lingo, is called a “buy profile.” “A buy profile is what candidate you want to buy,” Clancy explains. “It helps to eliminate people from the recruitment process. Some people want the job but don’t have the tangible points.”

Profiles usually consist of a one-and-a-half-page document and might contain dozens of points that are essential to success in the position, ranging from background to skills to personality. From those trigger points, questions are derived for interviewing.

4. Use wide search methods

When recruiting, Forward Focus uses as many channels as possible, starting with its own extensive database. Clancy maps out the industry, identifying partners upstream and downstream to see who his firm knows who might offer a lead—particularly scoping out high performers at competing companies. Other candidates come from traditional forms, such as responses to the job posting and online research.

5. Narrow interview criteria

Before passing referrals to clients for internal interviews, Forward Focus conducts its own preliminary interviewing, using a “red flag” assessment method. “We find the red flag—the reasons why candidates don’t align with our clients’ notes,” Clancy says. “The candidates with the fewest red flags make the best fit.”

This is important, because most recruiters take the opposite approach, looking to give as many candidates as possible the green light, to increase the hiring pool. But Clancy has found that recommending only a handful of candidates—up to five—yields a true-to-needs match.

Beyond the actual skill set required, Clancy intuits a common denominator in every winning hire—will, want, and desire. “I have a ton of will, a ton of want, and tons of desire,” Clancy says. “I work really hard. I want it more than the next person, and I have the desire to get to there, wherever that is. That’s who I am.”

In addition to securing hand-in-glove fits for clients, since its inception Forward Focus Recruitment has produced, in general, 10–15 percent quarter-over-quarter sales growth. Over the next 18 months, Clancy plans to double his staff size, becoming a leader in the industry. At this rate, such a goal is nothing short of attainable.