A Headhunter Hunts

I’m working up to hiring a new member of the Snedden Campbell team. Between writing a specification for the role and staring into space, I read over some of the stuff that I’ve written in the blog since last summer to see if there was anything that I could cut and paste.

Going back to July, one of my first pieces was essentially about why I’m fantastic and the industry that I’m in doesn’t meet my high standards. (http://www.sneddencampbell.co.uk/blog/we-need-to-talk/ if you’re interested).

The piece kicked off some recurring themes, my dad being a clockmaker for instance. I’ve had a lot of mileage from that one. Because my dad chose to repair clocks for a living when everyone was buying electric clocks or even, god help us, using the digital clock on their cooker to tell time, as a family we were not exactly rolling in it. In later blog posts this has consequences, not least me having to catch fish for a living and ending up with hands like leather. It also meant that any risk I took in business wasn’t backstopped by wealthy family members (I’m looking at you Branson). A decent psychiatrist would have enough for a two-day seminar with all the material I’ve written on this topic.

The other theme is one that I haven’t really written so passionately about. That is the hellscape that is other recruiters.

Of course, once you start hiring people for your business the only real source for them is going to be those who work for what I might loosely call the competition. And it is very much the case that you can’t say that on the one hand the industry is rubbish and on the other, you can only work for me if you have a lot of experience in the industry. A paradox of my own making.

Anyway, as I write my specification and begin to research possible candidates, there’s an imperative to be clear on a number of issues. For instance, business strategy to new people. Why should anyone work for me rather than wherever they are now?

My original strategy when I started up Snedden Campbell was to make it not be like the places I had worked for before that I didn’t like. Now, that’s fair enough but there has to be a positive reason for doing things as well. I believe passionately that we’re amongst the best medtech headhunters in Europe. Easy to say but how do you prove that to a sceptical candidate and keep proving it over time so that they will stay with you? How do we make sure that we are the default choice for current and potential clients when they want to find the best senior medtech people? 

And there’s more. I hate targets and key performance indicators with a vengeance. You can quickly tell if someone generally knows what they’re doing based on the daily stats that our system records but our trade is such that individual quarters are wildly variable. The reality is that in search it’s difficult to assess personal performance until you have two or three year’s worth of data on someone.

We have high standards but does that mean that we aren’t open to learning from the experience of our new hires? Well, obviously not. If I’m paying someone a salary I’m keen to learn as much as I can from them in return for all that cash. Does the new person get to help develop strategy – of course otherwise why hire them?

What if I start behaving like my old bosses? Having a good old panic and shouting at everyone. Not going to happen obviously.

And then there’s the written work. As a breed, we recruiters just don’t seem to be very good at writing anything that you might actually want to read. How do I test for that? Do I get them to write 500 words on something that I can publish on here? Actually, that’s not a bad idea…

Oh, what about sector experience? How many headhunters out there actually have useful knowledge of medical technology? It’s got to be more than 20, hasn’t it?

And then there are the really crucial questions. What if I find the perfect candidate but they’ve never heard of Father Ted or can’t complete the line “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition…”? What if they insist on talking about football!

I need a lie-down…

Posted on: 4th March 2019 by Ivor Campbell

Into his fourth decade of search Ivor has a voice with stories to tell, observations to make and the odd picture to share. Mostly related to the day job.

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