The new US President has no previous political experience, displayed a talent for breaking all conventions of electioneering, which has continued into government, and shamelessly pitched populist opinions to win. At face value he barely fit the requirements of the Presidential role and yet successfully secured the biggest job on the planet. Political sentiments to one side, he is a ‘left-field’ candidate if ever there was one!
Arguably everything a Head-hunter 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. There have been no substantive innovations to the underlying recruitment process since the industry began. But it’s not process that differentiates. 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 exerted in the ‘search geography’ – where we are going to find relevant candidates. Where will we find this key talent? We will look for people who offer new insights, competitive advantage from different industries or different regions or countries. We might explore businesses at different scale; a‘no.2’ in a larger business ready to take on a ‘no.1’ slot in a smaller business, or a high trajectory ‘talent’ candidate stepping up to the role. Once this aspect of creativity is satisfied we then step into creativity ‘proper’; looking at the person. This is the real challenge; differentiating between those that satisfy the brief and those that positively & constructively challenge it to advantage of the client.
This is when a partnership, over a supplier relationship, really counts. It gives the freedom to be truly creative and makes space for the ‘alternate view’, the 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 being different is a busted flush. Candidates still need to be able to thrive and succeed in the company, and of course do the job. The jury remains out on POTUS.
A shortlist made up entirely 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 victory. But real success comes over the next week, month, and year as they challenge a business, delivering change, growth and improvements. Far beyond fees and commercial terms, this is the real value of the right Search partner.
Matt Cockbill, Partner, recruits Transformation, Change and IT Leadership at Berwick Partners.