Hugo Shorten is a Principal Consultant at Redgrave Partners, a London-based global executive search firm. With over 12 years in recruitment, Hugo fills us in on what headhunters are looking for in this tough market.
What type of roles do you specialise in (level, sector, region)?I focus on recruiting Finance & Strategy professionals within the Consumer sector. The Consumer Practice at Redgrave Partners focuses predominantly on retail and FMCG sectors, with a particularly strong presence in luxury. We form partnerships with clients ranging from the highest echelons of the FTSE to private equity-backed SMEs, with the common thread being that all of our clients have placed the attraction of the best human capital high on their corporate agenda.
Whilst I am based in London we have recruited roles in over 20+ countries over the last 3 years and have just finished working on a strategy mandate for a large Australian retailer; at this time of year the proposition was really quite compelling to those shivering in London! Whilst it might sound a little trite, the majority of positions we headhunt for command six figure packages and range up to C-level.
What common characteristics do employers look for in high-calibre candidates?
Most clients are looking for a game-changing hire – someone who can take their business to the next level of its development. Most commonly we will be looking for those individuals who can affect change – whether it be cultural, structural or strategic. Many MBA students are able to demonstrate the ability to conceptualise ideas, but those in the highest demand can marry this with hard evidence of translating strategic thinking into action.
In the current climate clients are focused on execution and delivery. Strategically focused roles can often be seen as “luxury hires” and in a difficult trading environment they are often the first roles to be scaled back. Conversely, the more forward thinking, and by association braver, corporations are looking to snap up talent before the market picks up and they enter a more competitive candidate marketplace.
What's the worst/ funniest thing you've heard a candidate say?
Where do I begin? The interview room should elicit only the most professional and thought-through responses, but for some reason it is also privy to melt-downs of the most epic proportions. I could, or perhaps should!, write a book on the lack of interview etiquette that I have occasionally borne witness to. Often this is from those operating at the very highest of levels! I remember the CFO of a FTSE 250 business who upon meeting for the first time, and as part of a formal interview process, deemed it appropriate to use a particular expletive which has no place in society, polite or otherwise.
Another was when I was interviewing for a petcare business and had been asked by the CEO to assess each candidate’s levels of feline sympathy (i.e. whether they liked cats of not). Whilst this wasn’t a major criteria upon which to rate each candidate’s suitability for the company, the response of “I can’t stand them!” by one candidate did preclude them from the eventual short list!
Do you have any advice for MBAs who are looking to get hired as senior executives?
Be prepared to be flexible on your initial entry point into a business, and take the opportunity to meet as many industry leaders as humanly possible. Nothing may come of the initial conversation but these exploratory discussions can often lead to something further down the line. Always keep your ear to the ground and ask your own personal network to keep you in front of mind for opportunities they might be approached about. The MBA community, more than any other, truly understand the value of networking and referrals. Sooner rather than later Karma has a way of working its way around to your door.
Have you seen pay levels change much in the last few years (post 'financial crisis')?
Broadly speaking pay levels have remained static. Clearly, basic salaries in many financial services have increased as the bonuses have reduced. Overall, a number of businesses have focused on LTIPs (Long Term Incentive Plans) as a better means of locking employees into the longer term / future / turnaround of the company.
Which sector/ industry/ region is Redgrave seeing the most growth in (highest hiring rates)?
Any sector where there is an increased focus on customer insight. Increasingly the technology / telecoms sectors are after those individuals with a consumer goods pedigree as they fight for a competitive advantage in understanding consumer habits. Private Equity has certainly awakened from a dormant period, but positions within the portfolio businesses, let alone the PE house itself, is at its fiercest.