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Taking a ‘sports star’ approach

CHIEF executives using recruitment firms as agents to secure them their next big contract? It may already be happening.

In the world of ‘executive search’, more colloquially known as head hunting, this appears to be a growing possibility.

In Australia, recruitment firms cannot take money from people to help find them jobs. However, if a corporation was looking for someone to fill a key role, the recruitment agency could get their fee from them – not too differently to the way sporting agents work now.

Mason Partners partner David Borrill said there had been suggestions in trade literature that senior executives would become like sports stars.

“People will end up managing their careers as they move up the corporate ladder,” he said.

“It’s hard to see that sort of thing happening in Perth but it could easily happen in a place like New York.

“We’re talking to people constantly.”

Spherion Group director Tonya Puglisi said the ‘sports star’ approach was already happening.

“However, there’s been a lack of more senior level positions in the market lately so it has probably dropped off a bit.”

Executive search is growing as a recruitment tool for some organisations because it can help save time and provides a degree of discretion that advertised recruitment searches cannot.

TMP Worldwide Western Australian principal consultant Grant Girdler said executive search could save time because it involved approaching candidates that could already do the job.

“We are enticing them rather than having people that are not happy in their job or are not performing applying to you,” he said.

“When you advertise, about 95 per cent of the applicants are not suitable.

“At the top level of an organisation the difference between a top performer and an average one could be millions of dollars.

“That’s why companies spend the money to get the right candidate.”

Mr Girdler said times had changed in recruitment.

“In the old days of recruitment you put an advertisement in the paper and waited for the applications to flood in,” he said.

 “Now when you are doing even a middle management search you have to supplement the job ads with some form of executive search.”

Mr Borrill said executive search was sometimes the preferred method because the client did not want the market, or its competitors, to know that it was changing one of its managers.

“There are times when it will be in the client’s interests to be more covert about their recruitment,” he said.

Ms Puglisi said there was a process to executive search.

She said the first step was to draw up a target list of companies that could hold people who could fill the position the client wanted to fill.

“You then work out with the client if they want to go locally or nationally with the search,” Ms Puglisi said.

“We get in touch with industry bodies and universities, depending on the position, and even journalists covering the relevant sector to add to the list.”

She said the target list was checked with the client to make sure the companies targeted would not clash with their business.

“For example, the client may say: ‘Don’t go to that company because we have a partnership with them and it could jeopardise that’,” Ms Puglisi said.

“We then start approaching the candidates.

“We have to start by asking them if they know of somebody that could fill the position to satisfy the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association ethics. This can press their buttons and get them interested in applying themselves.”

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