Insiders’ view of the world of headhunting

‘Excerpts from the life of a head-hunter’ working in the leisure/hospitality/retail sectors.

[Unfortunately such is the sensitivity of the head-hunting profession that it is rarely possible that the names of the Insiders’ clients can be divulged]

6:30pm Tuesday Nov 19 – The customer is not always right it seems

I’m at Novikov restaurant in central London to meet a client CEO along with a third-party who like me also supplies into his business. We’d just ordered food and anticipate the arrival of some of the most expensive individual dishes I’ve ever come across. The real fun involves my client’s 30-month-aged Ibérica ham that costs £88 for a mere 60g.

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Novikov: Couldn’t give a fig for customers

Two of the starters arrive but no sign of his ham. The waitress assures us the chef is preparing the dish. And then with great fanfare it arrives with two people unveiling the diminutive portion of meat. As the dish descends to the table my client recalls that the dish stated an accompaniment of fresh figs and not cubed melon and he pushes it back to the waitress.

The plate moves back-and-forth three times ending with her stating through gritted teeth that ‘chef is serving it with melon tonight’ as she banged the plate onto the table. The chef meanwhile watches from his open kitchen.

All three of us agree we should accept the Ibérica ham with its melon and argue over what we pay later. It’s so rare today to find that the customer is wrong – especially when the bill is £400-plus for two courses each including only one bottle of house wine that came in at a mere £100.

10:00am Friday Dec 6 – Success fees ease wheels of commerce

I fire off an email to the boss of the private equity (PE) firm that I’d recently had lunch with to suggest that from time to time I’m in contact with clients of privately owned businesses that might require PE support to grow. If they are interested in me making the introductions to his company then there could be a success-based fee if a deal is completed.

10:05am

Receive an instant response with his view that he’s sure we can agree terms.

9:00am Wednesday December 11 – Credibility shot in 15 minutes

The previous day I’d undertaken two 15-minute phone interviews with two candidates for a role with a US-based client. Three had pulled out already as they did not regard such short interviews as credible. For a £70,000 role it was arguably a less rigorous process than for a checkout job at a supermarket.

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Yes, 15 minutes is all you have

I call the first candidate for feedback and he was not particularly forthcoming, revealing that after pleasantries there was all of 10 minutes left for the actual interview! The second candidate felt strongly that he was merely part of a ‘process’ and that his capabilities, cultural fit with the company, and his ideas on growing the business formed little or no part of the 15 minute interview.

A call was made to the client and a message left. The client goes quiet.

8:30am Thursday December 12 – Looking for feedback

I email the client with feedback from the two candidates.

8:30am Friday December 13 – Not made short-list

The client responds and informs me that my two candidates have not made it to the short-list so will not be moving on to the face-to-face interview stage. They will sit on a long-list as back-up.

10:30am Monday December 16 – Pull-out time

I catch up with both candidates over the phone and they are of the opinion that although the role sounded exciting the recruitment process has not been engaging and they decide to pull out at this stage.

10:00am Tuesday January 7 – Food for thought for PE boss

I call the PE boss to let him know about a client of mine that has a four-year-old business retailing a classic fast food in an innovative way. They are in a perfect position to have a PE firm take a stake and inject capital to boost their manufacturing production, increase their retail outlets, or take on manufacturing themselves. The two parties agree to meet later in the month…To be continued…

Sponsored column by Nigel Sapsed, director of executive search specialist Sapsed Stevens