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]

The watchword of private equity 
6pm Friday – Urgent call from HR director

Late in the day a call comes in from the HR director at a chain of food and drink outlets looking for a head of operations – with a low six-figure salary and a very encouraging package on the table. Since it is a private equity-owned business they always want things done yesterday so we hastily arrange a face-to-face meeting. 
1:00pm Tuesday – Discuss the role
At the meeting we cover off all the details of the role and the key requirement that the candidate has knowledge of a specific geographic location – i.e. London. Every company now seems to demand experience of working in the capital.
10:00am Wednesday – Working on the assignment

Back in the office I create a list of critical contacts that I know within the leisure industry and who will help and guide me to any exciting candidates suitable for the role. I also draw up a list of companies who might be of relevance in helping me get through to some new contacts. The third strand of the search involves LinkedIn, which has become an important base from which to start having conversations with potential candidates.
2:00pm – Hit the phones

Making calls early in the week is hopeless as everybody is out working hard and not answering their phones. But Wednesday afternoon onwards we can get through to them – especially on a Friday. I therefore push out the calls after lunch to a large number of my contacts – we help each other, it’s fair to say.
1:00pm Friday – Lack of progress

It very quickly becomes apparent that nobody is helping me with this assignment. This is in contrast to the past when people were always willing to recommend other people to me. This represents a new trend where people are cagily keeping the good individuals close to their chests. This is driven by a shortage of quality people in the market due to a combination of low growth in the industry and limited mergers and acquisitions activity, which is leading to limited investment in the training of graduates and a lack of potential progression in the marketplace for high-flyers.
This is very different to the retail sector where the big grocers are still committed to creating jobs for graduates and driving the top people onwards in their careers. This is ultimately benefiting the whole of the retail industry.
A valuable part of the headhunters’ armoury
Following Friday – LinkedIn to the rescue

The lack of help from within the industry led to a greater focus on LinkedIn for this assignment and it proved vital as it helped unearth a great individual. He has done 13 years at Sainsbury’s – with continuous progression – followed by a stint in hospitality as an area manager including the relevant geographic experience. With this CV I have the perfect job for him – thanks to LinkedIn. I reckon I simply would not have found him without this increasingly important resource.
Update to previous column – Curve ball candidate meets the group CEO

Having put forward an interesting candidate for a senior role in a £600 million turnover business, he then sufficiently impressed the divisional CEO for him to want to put him on the board [see last month’s column]. The next step was to arrange for him to meet with the group CEO and group HR director. Following the meeting I hear that he got on very well with the HR director (a people person, not surprisingly) but not so well with the group CEO who closed his eyes every time he looked at the candidate (not a people person, but an accountant). There is clearly room for all types in companies so it will be interesting to see exactly where the curve ball candidate might ultimately fit into this particular business.
Sponsored column by Nigel Sapsed, director of executive search specialist Sapsed Stevens