Expect the Unexpected

Published: 11 November 2016

The new US President Elect has no political experience, a talent for breaking all conventions of electioneering, and shamelessly pitches populist and often spiky opinions. At face value he barely fits the requirements of the Presidential role and yet has secured the biggest job on the planet. A classic (ish!) ‘left-field’ candidate! 

Arguably everything a Headhunter does is geared to finding the one right answer for a client; the right candidate.  If we accept that all of the candidates on a shortlist can ‘do’ the job, it quickly becomes a process geared to assessing how successful that person can be in that specific environment. The interview and assessment process is all about ensuring that candidates are able to articulate their successes and accomplishments in a manner that translates positively into the prevailing culture of their prospective employer. ‘Fit’ is everything. This process might sound plain and a bit ready baked, and conversely ‘fit’ could be seen as delightfully imprecise! Do challenge, disruption and creativity really play a part in a search? 

The answer is a resounding yes. While the process seems linear, the challenge to the brief and consideration of disruptive approaches is usually done up-front, talked through in the briefing process, ensuring that the whole search team (client and consultant) are on the same page. This process of stretching, stress testing, projecting reflections of the market on to the hiring landscape and agreeing what good and great look like brings the brief off the page. At this point the job description stops being a two dimensional document, and starts to become a living breathing candidate. 

Recruitment is a simple business, and there have been no substantive innovations to a recruitment process in at least twenty years, arguably longer. But creativity is innate and unique to each assignment. A creative search assignment is based wholly upon trust between client and consultant. Up front creativity is usually about the sources of candidates. Where might we find comparable talent that offers new insights, advantages sourced from different industries, countries, businesses at different scales, or candidates at differing stages of their professional development? In delivering this, we then step into creativity ‘proper’; those that satisfy the brief and those that challenge it. 

This is when a partnership built on trust and mutual understanding really counts. It gives the freedom to be truly creative and makes space for the ‘alternate view’ or left-field candidate in the shortlist. These are the candidates that break a rule, challenge a convention, the high potential stretch candidate. Different for the sake of it is a busted flush. Candidates still need to be able to thrive and succeed in the role and the company. 

A pack of these characters would represent a search done badly; the market poorly assessed. But often such profiles demand more of clients, crystallising thinking and prompting wider change. This is the where search truly extends beyond a process; informing, advising and guiding key decisions about a client’s key asset; their people. No matter whether it’s the obvious linear answer, or an irregular, creative and disruptive view, the reassurance gained from a holistic view of the market is critical. The right person, in the right role, with the right mission for the right reasons is a worthy victory. But real success comes over the next week, month, and year as they challenge a business, delivering change and improvements. Forget fees and commercial terms, this is the real value of the right search partner.

Matt Cockbill, Partner, leads the IT & Technology Leadership Practice for Berwick Partners. 

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