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Inside View: Korn/Ferry International

Exclusive interview with IE MBA and Senior Associate of Korn/Ferry International. The company is the world's largest listed executive search firm - get MBA Jobs tips from an industry expert!

In a slick office a few steps away from Lake Geneva, Korn/ Ferry International, the world’s largest listed Executive Search firm, operates a specialist Consumer & Luxury team.

Korn/Ferry has a reputation for shaping leadership strategy and board-level hiring for some of the world’s biggest companies. With a footprint in 80 countries and 3,200 employees, this is a firm you should know about if you have career aspirations to become a corporate business leader.

We give BusinessBecause readers a privileged Inside View into Korn/Ferry with an interview with Emmanuel Medvedowsky, a Senior Associate and IE MBA alumnus. Emmanuel joined the Executive Search giant two years ago, following a spell at competitor Heidrick & Struggles.

A suave Frenchman, Emmanuel studied his undergrad at the elite Hotel Management School: Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, followed by an entrepreneurial venture setting up a Los Angeles-based recruitment firm, specializing in hotel management roles for international graduates. Five years later, he decided he would like to do an MBA to widen his business skills, and to help him transition to a bigger company.

Post-business school, Emmanuel opted against the more traditional routes of consulting and finance and entered the world of headhunting. A natural people person with a passion for consumer marketing, Emmanuel has been lucky to work on senior hiring requirements for multinationals such as Nestlé, LVMH and PepsiCo.

The positions that Emmanuel and his Korn/Ferry colleagues work on are generally at “C-level” (board-level): business unit head, country manager or equivalent. The salaries need to be high enough to justify the expertise and fees of Korn/Ferry; it wouldn’t make sense using this type of specialist search-service for more junior vacancies.

The candidates that Emmanuel works with are typically in their 40s or 50s, with extensive corporate experience, often with an MBA, but not recent MBA grads!

Korn/Ferry has built up a database of thousands of senior executives in leadership positions globally. Every executive participates in a standardized one-hour assessment that includes competency questions and role play, from which they are given a score. 

A major differentiator of Korn/Ferry’s search process is the inclusion of their online assessment, which examines decision styles and verifies the fit of each candidate to the specifications for the role. This research-based psychometric instrument collects information about a person’s leadership style, thinking style and emotional style, and analyzes job fit on seven-point-scale.

Drawing on their database of more than 650,000 assessments, they then create best-in-class benchmarks for specific roles, and compare candidates’ results to those benchmarks to provide a first qualification of the presented candidates.

Some leaders are also assessed through more in-depth assessments to measure their ‘learning agility’ (surveys or ‘agility’ analysis), to help assess their ability to garner insight from experience and apply it to new situations, with the potential to adapt to positions of responsibility in different sectors, markets or cultures.

Switching jobs at C-level, particularly in a marketing function, requires adeptness – something that Korn/Ferry have researched and published a paper on, called ‘The Agile CMO’.

Another skillset that Emmanuel thinks is important for senior marketers is a thorough grasp of eBusiness. Digital marketing and eCommerce is now a core operation, “no longer a side show”, he says, in most organizations. Business heads need to be digitally savvy.

We asked Emmanuel what consumer brand he’d personally invest in right now. For long-term return, Emmanuel says Nestlé: “They’ve built a sustainable business and every business decision is made with a long-term view.”   

Nestlé, renowned the world-over as a food and beverage giant, is also the biggest manufacturer of bottled water, with popular brands such as San Pellegrino and Perrier. As the global population continues to go coffee-mad, Nestlé’s fastest-growing brand is Nespresso. Cornering the water and coffee consumer goods market positions them well for the future.

For a short-term investment, Emmanuel recommends putting your money into a fast-growing luxury brand – there are many to choose from! For his personal attire, he has classic, traditional taste: an IWC Schaffhausen watch from the Swiss watchmaker founded in 1868 and today part of the luxury group Richemont.

So how does Emmanuel source executive talent at these very high levels? Like many headhunters, he uses LinkedIn as a ‘research tool’. Social media is key for MBAs to market themselves. But he also emphasizes the power of Korn/Ferry’s enormous networks: the firm has helped thousands of senior executives in their careers and he can leverage these contacts to find new candidates.

A final piece of advice for MBAs on BusinessBecause: “Do your research before a job interview,” says Emmanuel. At very senior levels you expect business professionals to be articulate – “they’re unlikely to say the wrong thing in an interview”. But sometimes even the most experienced professionals forget to do basic preparation.

Emmanuel cited an example of a recent candidate for a regional head position of a large European retailer – the candidate had progressed successfully through three rounds of interviews, but failed at the final hurdle when he was asked if he’d been in to one of the company’s retail outlets – surprisingly he hadn’t!

Korn/Ferry International (NYSE: KFY), with a presence throughout the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, is a premier global provider of talent management solutions. Based in Los Angeles, the firm delivers an array of solutions that help clients to attract, engage, develop, and retain their talent. Visit www.kornferry.com for more information on the Korn/Ferry International family of companies, and www.kornferryinstitute.com for thought leadership, intellectual property and research.

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