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]
November 10:00am Thursday – Client appoints big-gun head-hunter

I found out from a candidate that a long-standing client of mine (10-plus years) had engaged one of the top-tier recruiters to complete a critical assignment. The business had begun to struggle in terms of footfall and sales during the second half of 2012 and it needed to bolster its team. I’d previously met the CEO in 2012 to discuss this specific assignment but it had gone nowhere.
Tier-one: Looking to fill these rooms.  
Appointing such a firm for the task was a great surprise to me because these firms typically work on Plc, main board assignments where annual salaries are in the £300,000-plus bracket, whereas my assignments are generally for salaries between £150,000 and £200,000.
February 9:00am Thursday – Another assignment

The CEO rings me for a catch-up and wants to arrange a coffee to discuss another assignment in his organisation – at a lower level to the one that has been given to the other firm.
Following Tuesday 12:00pm – CEO explains failure of the big-guns

We meet and go through what he is looking for and why. As is usual with these meetings the discussion widens out into what is happening in the broader marketplace. He asks if there is anybody he should be talking to about the other more senior role.  It transpires the tier-one recruiter had not grasped the nature of the business and the complexity of the background of the individual the company was looking for. I believe the role required the marrying together of a strong cultural fit with an ability to engage with e-commerce quickly and being able to strategically develop the company’s offer over the next three to five years.
Friday 11:00am – The senior assignment comes my way

After the CEO has viewed two CVs I’d sent him (of individuals whose careers I’ve followed for eight to 10 years) for the senior role he is impressed and we agree a ‘full fee’ assignment (based on a percentage of salary). Fees are split into tranches with one-third payments made to the head-hunter at the following stages: in advance; when the CVs are presented; and when the successful candidate signs the contract.

Press for third tranche.

One major difference between the tier-one firms and the way I operate in my part of the market is that they ultimately get all three tranches even if the client pulls out having not been impressed with the candidates that have been put forward. This is because they typically have a cancellation fee that can be charged to the client and this rather conveniently is the equivalent amount to the final tranche.
They also calculate their ‘full fee’ on up to 50% of the candidate’s salary and will also often pull in all other remunerations related to the package, which can significantly increase the payout to the head-hunter.
Of the two CVs I put forward the CEO gets particularly excited about one candidate who has the ideal breadth and mix of background that the business needs over the next three to five years.
Following Friday 6:00pm – Getting to know each other

The CEO undertook the first interview with the preferred candidate over the course of three and a half hours and two cocktails. Following the meeting both parties agree to spend a few hours together in the business visiting some of the company’s leisure venues. Important decisions will then need to be taken by both parties.
Sponsored column by Nigel Sapsed, director of executive search specialist Sapsed Stevens