My executive search journey

I started my executive search career 16 years ago and traditionally I’ve always focused on HR recruitment. The dictionary definition of recruitment is ‘the process of finding people to work for a company or become a member of an organisation’. Executive search is a specialised recruitment service to seek out and recruit highly qualified candidates for senior-level and executive jobs.

For me, it’s about so much more than that.

Every brief is different and over the last 18 months, there have been a number of external market conditions that have turned everyone’s world upside down, presenting us with the most challenging and bizarre market I have ever encountered.

Someone once told me there is a home for everyone, and it is so true, a person can be brilliant in one company, but not so good in another and that is down to the different Cultures. Culture fit is a phrase that gets banded around all the time and it’s a minefield when trying to get it right. I see lots of blogs and posts talking about culture fit and finding the right person for the right role, but what does it actually mean? In my opinion, you need to really get under the skin of a business and determine what good looks like, what really drives the business and what goals they have long term. You then need to understand the team dynamics, the personalities involved and any gaps they have (tools like insights and the GC index are great for this). This approach enables me to really understand the kind of person that they need and ensure that I can deliver.

After years of recruiting HR roles, I was approached by one of my clients, (CPO, Hospitality Business) who needed to recruit an MD into the business and asked for my help, we had worked together previously in the HR space and got on well, this was the start of my journey into wider executive search. Although I’d never recruited this kind of role before, he was confident in my style “I realised that this is a little outside of their usual sweet spot, but knew that they would hit the mark quickly, and they did.” Taking the brief and hearing what would be needed from someone to be successful in the role, was exciting and got me thinking I wanted to do more of this type of search. I found it really interesting and engaging, so started asking our clients if we could help. You can see more about this case study here.

Since that time, as a business we have placed a number of senior exec roles:
  • Managing Director – UK’s fastest-growing privately-owned hospitality company
  • Director of Customer Experience – Private Equity backed Manufacturing Business
  • Director of Business Services – Multibillion turnover FTSE100
  • IT Director – Engineering business
  • Head of Procurement & Supply Chain – Engineering business
  • Head of Operational Excellence – Global Listed Pharmaceutical business
  • Head of Professional Services – Leading Russell Group University
  • Regional COO – Privately Owned Hotel and Restaurant chain
  • Group Property Director – UK wide retail business
  • Operations Director – Care business
  • Finance Director – Waste management company
  • Head of Change – Large multisite retail business
  • HR Director – B2B wholesale business, 12k employees UK wide
  • Head of Internal Communications – UK Pharmacy Company

I still love our bread-and-butter senior HR roles but enjoy doing a variety of wider executive search and it also helps our clients who like working with us as we understand their business and can move quickly.

Recruiting senior roles

I’ve been recruiting senior roles for too many years to remember and found that once you hit a certain level it’s less about what the candidate does and more about how they do it. Generally speaking, you don’t get to director level without being good at the job. Obviously, I’m not saying that the technical aspect of a role is non-existent at this level, I just feel that to be successful in an executive position, you have to be the best, it’s as simple as that.

When taking a brief, discussing the technicalities and deliverables of a role is a given. Understanding how a business needs the job done is the tough thing to decipher and sometimes even tougher to measure. It is paramount at this point that we understand the long-term vision of the organisation, appointing execs is always a business-critical process and requires a business to know their own culture and exactly what type of person they are looking for.

To deliver on this, I have to quickly build relationships with prospective candidates. Getting to know someone in an interview process is key, constantly assessing on both a professional and personal level, to really understand their character and personality traits and if they will get the best out of the team and fulfill the business’s objectives. This approach enables us to shortlist quickly and effectively. In the current market, long processes will almost certainly ‘kill a deal’ as people are getting multiple approaches and offers at any one time.

Why use us for your senior exec work?

When you are recruiting for different roles in different industries, clearly you can’t be an expert in all of them. Clients come to us when they have a difficult brief. It might be a new role in the business, it might not be fully defined, they may have compressed timelines, or the situation might be sensitive or confidential. I have asked many of my clients in the past – why do you use re:find? Their response is that they enjoy working with us and find our shortlists refreshing. We provide a full market map of relevant talent in the market and focus the search on people that I think will fit the business and will fulfill the role to the best of its potential, not just people from the same sector. We never advertise roles. I feel that this ensures we only find the very best out there and it also fits perfectly with our clients who need us to be as discreet as possible. Once we find the right candidates and have vetted them, we can arrange an NDA to be signed to ensure that the role and the situation is kept confidential. We ensure candidate care throughout the whole recruitment process and into the onboarding process with you, which helps to make the transition smooth and the new appointment quickly get settled into their new role.

It also helps that we’re approachable, easy to work with, but with a robust back-end process to enable us to find that niche best talent.

Part 3 of Carl’s journey – the value we add – coming in March.

Carl Hinett is our Director & Executive Search Specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch carl@refind.co.uk.

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