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]

Mid-July – Everything’s gone quiet

The nature of my world – and you cannot do anything about it – is that assignments come to a standstill at the end of July when the holiday season starts. Therefore, if a job has not been initiated in May/June for delivery in September then things go completely quiet until the second week in September.


The office in August

The big challenge for us as a consultancy is whether we chase people who are on holiday, just about to go on holiday, are just back from holiday, or they are in the office covering for everybody else who is on holiday! Do you chase or leave them until September?

July-September – Looking to connect

The reality for us is that we put out our usual communications, which revolve around simply finding reasons to make contact with people. It could be highlighting to them something that I’ve read and is relevant to their business. But at this time of the year little response comes back from these communications.

Some years we’ve had June assignments that have carried us through the summer but this year we had something of a drought.

5:15pm Friday Sep 27 – Events kick-started

This quiet period came to an abrupt and welcome end with an unexpected call from a new client – that could be enormous for us in the future. Right at the end of the week a member of their recruitment team sent us the briefs for two assignments.

For this big US-based leisure firm it has just dawned on them that trading post-2009 is not going to return to the peaks seen before this cataclysmic period. Their world has fundamentally changed. But as well as the economic situation impacting on them they’ve also not been helped by a major industry disaster and various food scares.

The company has a policy of only operating tours with 100% take-up, which is all well and good if the pricing systems are cutting edge, but they operate with 20-year-old models where the cheapest prices are enjoyed by people booking the latest.

With recent changes at board level they are on course to turn this model on its head and like Bourne Leisure and the airlines the cheapest prices will be available to those who book first. My board-level contact at the company is being helped by three new marketing directors for each of the company’s brands.

To further initiate change at the business we are working on two assignments – for heads of marketing and PR. The challenge is that the firm has in the past recruited the traditional way by sending its requirements out to hundreds of recruitment companies, which has resulted in piles of CVs appearing.


Find the relevant CV

10:30am Monday October 7 – Changing the recruiting process

Many of these will be from people located far afield, whereas a brand director at the company informed me that they have a sensible policy of only appointing people who live within 90 minutes drive of the head office.

To avoid this deluge of irrelevant CVs we chose to target companies within just one hour of the head office. For these roles in the £80,000 to £100,000 bracket the salary is not sufficient for families to be uprooted so the successful candidates will inevitably have a daily commute to work which, if too far, can prove de-motivating over time.

9:00am Tuesday October 8 – killing off the scattergun approach

Within this hour’s drive we selected various organisations in related fields to our client’s business where the employees represent potential targets. In so doing we’ve taken the company away from its former flawed scattergun approach to recruiting.

We are in no doubt that this will be a lengthy project involving the changing of mind-sets at the company. For me as a single external consultant this is a good scenario to be involved in and one that will hopefully involve the bearing of fruit for all stakeholders.

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