This week we chat with Toby Monk, HR Recruitment Advisor at Christie’s. Best known as one of an elite group of go-to auction houses for buyers in the market for a spot of Picasso or Da Vinci, or one of Pricess Diana's dresses, the firm describes itself as: "A name and place that speaks of extraordinary art, unparalleled service and expertise."
Toby manages recruitment for the EMERI region (Europe, Middle East, Russia and India) and has been at Christie’s since August 2011. He has been in recruitment for nearly eight years.
He gives us an inside look at one of the world's most glamourous businesses, including the Senior Strategy Director role Christie’s is currently recruiting for.
What is it like to work at a prestigious fine art auction company?
Christie’s is one of the world’s largest art businesses and the company has numerous revenue streams. In addition to being an auction house, we act as brokers for private sales and also provide storage for very precious works of art. Christie’s International Real Estate also markets high-end properties valued anywhere from €100 million to €400 million or more.
The work culture is simply incredibly dynamic and fast-paced. You might imagine that because we’ve been around for so long it would be a staid and quiet environment, but that’s not true. Christie’s is filled with incredibly bright people who rely on one another to achieve the end result. There’s always something exciting going on so the culture is collaborative and the people who work here always have to make use of their communication skills.
Do you ever hire MBAs?
We are definitely moving towards that. For some of our senior business roles, an MBA is a prerequisite. When we hire MBAs we are typically looking for people who have been to top-tier schools.
Describe some of the positions you're hiring for at the moment?
The company is going through a major technological overhaul so we are hiring into lots of tech roles, but besides that we are hiring everything from administrative roles to senior executives.
One of the interesting roles we are currently recruiting for is Senior Strategy Director for the EMERI region. We want someone who can help develop some of the new growth initiatives of the firm. Ideally, this person must have a background from one of the top strategy consulting firms like McKinsey or Bain or one of the big investment banks. They might have also been at one of the big high-end luxury retailers.
What do you look for in job candidates - any basic dos and dont's?
It depends on what area of the business you are applying to. For example, you would need an academic background in art if you’re working in auctions. If you’re on the business side it varies but one universal characteristic is good client-facing skills.
You've previously been a recruiter in the finance sector. Is recruitment very different in the art world?
Hugely! when recruiting for finance roles more times than not you’re dealing with an intangible product. Here you can see the items so it feels a lot more real. I sit on auctions which are sadly out of pocket for me, but doing this allows me to see in its entirety what we are working towards.
Have you ever bid for something? And what are some of the crazy items you’ve seen?
These are big ticket items so I don’t bid. I can go downstairs and see them with their estimates right beside them. Sometimes, you see this horrendous thing but it’s priced at £2 million. Other times you see something that you think is quite nice and its not as expensive as you would imagine. It’s all about people’s tastes and who's in fashion.
You started out your career as an entrepreneur in language services - tell us a bit about this.
During summer holidays at university, I worked at a language school so when I graduated I opened up a language school with a classmate. We went to different schools and ran their trips and social activities and brought over students from Eastern Europe. Then a lot of people from Poland were coming to the UK to work in the UK. A few years down the line my partner moved to Asia so we sold the business.
Did you ever think you would work for a fine art auctions house?
Never! I Just ended up here. I meet people who say its their life long dream but I never felt that way. However, I’m glad I did. I’m very happy to be here.
What advice do you have for MBAs entering the global job market in 2012?
You need to be able to demonstrate your passion for art or the luxury goods section. It’s not enough to say “I’ve always dreamed of doing this”, you really have to be able to prove that, perhaps through a dissertation or solid work experience in these sectors.
If you're taken by Christie’s, see here for more details on the Senior Strategy Director role.