Insiders’ view of the world of headhunting

Second part of the regular column – ‘Excerpts from a day in 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.
All companies should be looking to the future
8:30am Critical client research project

I was given an interesting research project by a new client who believed it was under attack from other companies in its sector. The commissioned piece of work sought to highlight divisional board level people working at its peers – we’re talking regional MDs and divisional directors. We researched nine rival companies and produced a lengthy document containing 100 names. The client was extremely pleased and during today’s meeting we’ve highlighted the critical 23 people that we now need to speak to. We’ll look to ascertain their packages, salaries, and company share ownerships. The exercise is to ensure the compensation of my client’s top people is in the industry’s upper quartile so they don’t lose any of these great employees. It’s a bit of pre-emptive action and highlights the need to plan for the future when it comes to retaining top people. I’ll be presenting my findings on the selected 23 in a couple of weeks.
11:00am Chief executive meeting about finding new board member

Dived onto a train heading into London for a meeting with the chief executive of a medium-sized business that was arranged by his PA, which often means it is more than just a social catch-up. After a chat about the economy, impact of the Olympics, and a general discussion around the sector, I’m asked – ‘So who is really good out there?’ The next hour is spent talking about who I’ve been talking to, the cultural styles of certain organisations, and the type of person who’d suit a board level appointment in the chief exec’s company. It’s an absolutely fantastic role he’s looking to fill – but then I suppose every role is going to be fantastic for someone. I agreed to meet the chairman in October with a view to starting the search for the new director.
1:00pm Advice sought on suitability of potential candidate

The MD of one of my smallest clients asks me to meet an individual who she’d previously met and to get my opinion of their suitability to joining her company. Culturally they were high potential but the individual would need to undergo an intense learning curve in order to understand the consultancy industry as well as the sector in question. But overall I thought they’d fit and they’ve also got humility in spades so with the right encouragement I reckon they’ll come up to speed. As a third-party I’ve helped negotiate the salary and contributed to setting their expectations. It’s great that they have accepted the job, which is job-done for me.
Good to have a third-party involved
2:30pm Meet executives to understand clients’ culture

Raced across town to north London to meet a senior individual from a retail business after the chief executive had asked me to meet some people within his organisation. The intention was for me to try and better understand the culture of the operation, which would help me with any future placements that I’m engaged on. With such tasks you have to ensure that people do not get the wrong impression and falsely believe that management has lost confidence in their abilities. Thankfully, mission accomplished.
4:00pm Travel back to the office

Leave London and head back to write the ‘pitch’ for the piece of research I presented to the client at 8:30 this morning. The pitch to the 23 individuals on my list will need to sound credible otherwise they’ll not want to speak to me and they certainly won’t be willing to discuss their salaries and future plans. I prefer to write such pitches down first as it helps avoid any ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’ that would reduce my chances of success.
Sponsored column by Nigel Sapsed, director of executive search specialist Sapsed Stevens


  1. zythophile on September 18, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    “it is rarely possible that the names of the Insiders’ clients cannot be divulged.”

    Really? I’d have though it was rarely possible that the names of the Insiders’ clients CAN be divulged.

    Martyn Cornell

  2. Glynn Davis on September 25, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Yes Martyn, that’s correct. It was a sip of the virtual pen. It’s now been corrected.