Advocating the Art of Recruitment: A day in the life of “talent harvesters”


Today I've decided to do it! After many years of contemplating and going back and forth, I've decided to share insights about my job. Not only because journalists and editors are not bothered to do it, but more importantly because it is a fascinating profession and very much unknown or ill represented regarding the vitality of recruitment is in today's economy. When I recently contacted journalists and explained why they should cover what it is to be a headhunter, I highlight that we are industry specialists with a sixth sense regarding our sectors (finance and investment). Our position enables us to have access to fantastic business intelligence and very confidential information as we know what's happening inside companies within our industry. We are a bit like spies: we hear everything and don't say a word. We keep silent as confidentiality is paramount for our job and reputation. I think of myself as agent 007, sipping a martini shaken, not stirred, at casino royal. We know who moves, when, where, and why; long before the general market or media knows. We feel the change in the wind & tide and proceed accordingly to best stay at the forefront of our industry. At times, we are the wind & tide that cause a change or shift in the market, shadow-recruiting the perfect candidate for our partners. Lastly, our company is known for being a specialized in the Family Office and Investment / private equity recruitment sector. Many readers would be keen to understand what it takes to work in these niche markets, the career path, what it offers, and how to get involved. Though I do not understand why executive search/recruitment jobs are still so unpopular, I am passionate about my job, even after 13 years of practice. The main reason is that I'm still learning every day, and I'm curious if many jobs still offer this luxury. Recruitment is, above all, about discovering and learning new professional elements daily. This line of work allows you to be systematically confronted with diverse, varied, and never-ending exciting new environments. Speaking to a candidate or a client implies immersing oneself in their world and discovering a new professional reality we had not previously mastered. Each company operates according to its code of conduct, and understanding these elements is very nourishing from a business and strategy point of view. Moreover, it allows us to complete recruitments that will last over time. Furthermore, all this information and new elements are gathered by interacting with the professionals who run their own division, department or company, and not through an article or business training. The expertise developed by our teams on a given sector of activity does not, in any way, detract from this "discovery" aspect. There is always something to learn and discover: management methods, a company's ambitions, company values, organizational strategies and market knowledge etc... Recruitment is also a great school for sales. We cold call clients and candidates; our best marketing tool is our phone. We need to sell opportunities to candidates at the right time and the best talent available at a specific time to our clients. Additionally, The sales process is highly complex as we sell human capital. Our job is to understand the obstacles for both parties to facilitate and finalize their "transaction" (the recruitment). In a way, it is very close to lobbying ! And as I always tell our junior recruiters, we are the best ambassadors for our clients who trust us. Our reality as recruiters is that we have two clients: a company with a need for skills, and a candidate with a professional desire and aspirations to evolve. We could be compared to a human capital brokers, and selling is therefore omnipresent in our job. Too often, people think our job is HR. This is only partially true. We find the best talent available at a specific time for our clients, which is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack, and our primary added value lies in the capacity to do it in a small time frame. Moreover, I don’t see ourselves as “head-hunters” as it is commonly known or called but as talent harvesters. Like farmers we nurture a specific network of professionals overtime and place them according to the DNA of the clients we work for, the personal chemistry at the perfect timing. There is another crucial dimension to our role as recruiters. This is KYC (Know your client). No one client is the same, and each have different corporate cultures and structures. To bring the best value, we must understand them and their needs. Sometimes, our role is more like being an advisor or a consultant. In some instances, our clients need to be made aware of what they are looking for, and we have an essential role in accompanying them to identify exactly what that need is. Moreover, our clients are often sophisticated, picky, and have unrealistic expectations. I like to call this the "client Wishlist". However, we almost always find a way to deliver. One of the most satisfying aspects in our field is finding the perfect profile for a client they did not have the resources to identify otherwise, knowing that we have provided them with an asset which will potentially benefit the development, growth or performance of the company. This makes the long and complex search worth the hours. On the flip side, for the candidates, we are often improving their situation by offering them a better position, promotion, increase in salary etc. In this sense, we are "life changers ". I remember asking a few clients what our added value work brought them in terms of revenue. A few key recruitments that we managed at UR Capital allowed the client to get into a new market, structure a new department and, in some cases, add several double-digit millions to their PnL. On the contrary, some consultants we identified helped clients re-organize their business line and organizational strategy ultimately cutting costs, and saving our clients millions. Again, participating indirectly in this success is rewarding and gives us the strength to deliver the extra mile in our routine. Recruitment has its negative aspects as well. Our job is intense, stressful, and complex, with its fair share of frustration and disappointment, especially when a placement is unsuccessful. In contrast, whene have done our job successfully, and the deal goes south for reasons out of our hands, this is disappointing for us, the candidate, and the business. Another frustration we encounter is constantly having to justify our utility. Sometimes clients think it is enough to put up an ad to get relevant candidates. They do not realize the amount of work that goes into puting together a shortlist of 5 first-class candidates, especially in a world where the talent war is increasingly a significant constraint to business growth. Over time UR Capital managed to reduce the amount of work done on a contingency basis. Clients who trust our professionalism also understand over time that there is no point in working with several headhunters. The qualitative approach of a retainer is much better than progressively starting to change their thinking about the recruitment job that needs to be done. This is something which makes me proud: gaining a client's trust and the privilege to accompany as their trusted partner on their growth journey! And in return, we always deliver the extra mile.

Back to list
share on or