How To Catch The Eye Of A Headhunter

1. What is the difference between a head hunter and a recruitment agency consultant?

A head hunter would at all times work on exclusive assignments on a retainer basis. This means that we work very closely with our clients against very specific criteria to fill a position. Thorough environmental scanning and third party sourcing would be done before we contact potential candidates. No confidential reports will be submitted to the client without a personal interview with the head hunter and the approval of the candidate to submit his/her confidential details to the client.

Remember ± 85% of head hunted candidates are not active in the job market. Various employment agents can work on the same position for a client. It has happened that candidates are not even aware that their curriculum vitae’s were submitted to a client! If too many agencies contact a potential candidate this can also result in candidates indicating no interest in a position.

2. What are the kinds of personality traits that you would look for when trying to fill an executive position for a firm?

First and most important is displaying that you are able to walk in a fellow executives ‘moccasins’ (empathy not sympathy). Long-winded executives that cannot make a point will never make it to the ‘real’ top. Communication skills, whether verbal or written, are critical.

Integrity and honesty are well received. Even well seasoned executives sometimes cannot answer this question “what is the biggest mistake you have made in your life and how did you rectify it?” Executives must also be aware of their development areas.

3. What sort of qualifications should people have if they want to be headhunted for a top executive spot?

It very much depends on the industry. It is highly unlikely that the group CEO of a mining house would not hold a relevant mining degree from a reputable university coupled with an MBA. On a lighter note I cannot imagine the CEO of a well known wine, beer and spirits company not having a keen interest in wine tasting and not knowing the difference between a good or mediocre wine.

A solid basic university degree or a good B Tech degree from a technikon is only an entry point not a guarantee to success, similarly a prestigious MBA might raise your profile, but at the end of the day if it cannot be applied optimally in the work place then that prestigious qualification is only good on paper.

4. What experience (for example, how many years in an executive post) do people need to be considered for an executive placement?

The first criteria is work history and a proven track record. Good executives are not ‘job hoppers’. Executives that have steadily climbed the ladder with the same employer is a positive. To change jobs just for better remuneration is a no go. Hard core competencies are non-negotiable.

It is not the number of years that is important, but the knowledge you have gained during those years you worked and what change or turnaround record you have to offer to a prospective employer. One can have ten years experience, but in fact only have one year repetitive experience.

5. What kinds of behaviour would turn you off a potential candidate?

Executives with big ego’s and “I did this and I did that” (as if his/her team does not exist) leave a bad taste in the mouth. Mr know-it-all can often shoot himself in the foot when being interviewed by a knowledgeable panel.

Trying to ‘sweet talk’ can be irritating, it always makes me wonder if he/she has a habit of ‘brown nosing’! This is a very negative indicator for future success in the work place.

Bad cell phone habits and being more interested in the emails coming through is not only disrespectful, but this kind of executive will do the same in an executive committee meeting or a board meeting.

This is not a minor detail – dirty shoes, often executives are wearing Armani attire and beautiful ties but forget to clean their shoes! This certainly also applies to female executives.

6. Does age matter – for example, would there be a minimum age you would consider?

Officially age should not matter, but it would very much depend on the retirement age policy of the organisation at the older age spectrum. The pendulum is returning to where companies would consider a 55 year old for executive level employment. The age cut-off depends on the skills set the executive has to offer. At the younger end of the scale it would depend on the position requirements. The determining factors being qualifications, competencies and most importantly emotional intelligence.

It is often said that age is not a criteria. The youngest Group CEO of a well respected listed company that I know of was appointed at the age of 28. Was it a good appointment? Certainly yes, today he is the Chairman of the company and still relatively young.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is a founding director of and shareholder in Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.

How To Skirt The Danger Zones At Your End-Of-Year Party

Looking forward to letting your hair down at the annual office party? That’s understandable. You deserve a chance to unwind, relax and have fun with colleagues. But be warned: letting your hair down can degenerate into letting yourself down.

In worst-case scenarios the end-of-year party can become the end-of-career party. Festive gaffes can turn upward progression into regression while missteps by those already in leadership positions can compromise credibility and authority.

Performance appraisals apply to office parties, too. That’s not official, of course, but be aware that scrutiny is not restricted to formal HR processes. Subjective social assessments are made and can either be damning or career-enhancing.

Just like an annual performance review, an annual party is an opportunity to impress. For senior personnel, it’s a chance to set an example. For up-and-coming talent, it’s an indicator that you have what it takes to reach the next level.

You can still have fun, but the following danger zones are best avoided…

ALCOHOL: The ability to hold your drink is vital at corporate social occasions. Often this means just that … holding the glass and taking the occasional sip rather than drinking to excess. Take it easy and make sure a designated driver is on hand to take you home. An arrest for drunken driving can arrest the development of your career and could be a nail in your career coffin.

BEHAVIOUR: Be friendly and cordial. Greet everyone; those in lower staff grades as well as immediate colleagues and superiors. Being an executive snob is outdated and emotionally un-intelligent. A good supply of free eats may be on hand, but don’t gorge yourself. Don’t help yourself to an extra bottle (or two) to drink on the way home. This is tantamount to petty theft and a sign you can’t be trusted.

Creating a total mess (littering) at the party reflects badly not only on your personal standards, but is indicative of a messy attitude towards your office environment.

Don’t ‘get carried away’. Kicking off shoes or shedding clothes can best be left to royalty. Prince Harry can’t be sacked from the British royal family for what the newspapers called “a naked romp”, but corporates rarely have hereditary middle and senior management positions. Harry Windsor’s job is safe for life; yours might not be.

DRESS: Relaxed or flamboyant attire may be permissible but don’t go overboard. Women should avoid revealing tops and short skirts. A ‘flash’ from Madonna does no harm to her pop career, but what about yours?

FLIRTING: A little flirting may seem like harmless fun, but can get out of hand. A show of affection for a boss or a personal assistant can be misinterpreted. It will raise eyebrows if colleagues of the opposite sex leave together. Don’t put yourself in a position where your actions and motives can be misconstrued.

In the contemporary corporate world, we are all responsible for managing our ‘personal brand’. Be careful what brand attributes are associated with you and your reputation.

LANGUAGE: Watch your language. Formalities may have eased, but this does not mean risqué jokes are in order. Even though you may have been encouraged to use first names, don’t fall into the trap of being overly familiar.

A man might be tempted to show he is ‘one of the boys’ and a woman may want to show she is not a prude, but a sense of balance is required.

SOCIAL MEDIA: The paparazzi have been invited to your party. That’s not an official invitation, but these days every one of your colleagues comes to the office festivities equipped with a cellphone … which means they all carry cameras.

Unguarded moments can easily be captured. They seem like harmless fun at the time. Unfortunately, it is not so harmless when junior colleagues share the pictures with everyone at the office or the photos end up on Facebook.

Some prudent companies have quietly developed social media policies. They are mindful of the risk to their reputation if embarrassing photos of corporate events are published on line. Extra vigilance is needed at party season.

Individuals should also exercise care. Prospective employers check social media sites. In effect, pictures of your most embarrassing moments can go on your curriculum vitae, due to diligent reference checking pre-employment offer – the offer may never be made.

These early alerts are not meant to spoil the party. There is no need to be a killjoy. You can enjoy yourself and still enhance your company image.

Remember, there is always a morning after the night before. Make sure in the cold light of day you can look back and say ‘I had a good time and did my career some good at the same time’.

Auguste (Gusti) Coetzer is a founding director of and shareholder in Talent Africa, a leading provider of integrated talent solutions and leadership development.