"There is rarely anyone at this level that we don't have our eye on"
What is executive search? Ask three parties and you will get three different answers. That it involves headhunting and recruiting top positions such as CEO, CFO and member of the Board of Directors is clear. Nevertheless, the methods can differ enormously.
Christophe Paquay, Manager with Robert Walters and specialist in executive search, explains his vision of the market.
Christophe: "For me, executive search means systematic monitoring of the market, continuous assessment of developments in organisations and people changing jobs. To be successful in executive search, you must rely on the knowledge and network you have built up over the years. You need to keep your finger on the pulse and know when something is going on at organisations in your network. Whether it is a board member who is not functioning well, a high-level man or woman who is leaving, or a reorganisation. You need to have an immediate picture of the people who could add value in those circumstances."
What is Robert Walters' position in this market?
"We have been recruiting within a number of specialisms for over thirty years and this has many advantages. In finance, we are known for recruiting mid-level to senior positions such as business controllers, but with regularity we are also involved in executive search assignments. What makes us so well-equipped for this, is related to our 'classic' recruitment activities. Because our consultants approach the market based on professional specialism rather than sector, we have in-depth knowledge of the market. We build up long-term relationships of trust with finance professionals at all levels. And we grow along with our candidates. Someone we recruited fifteen years ago as an accountant is now CFO and turns again to us to help out in shaping his team. Or to suggest suitable candidates for an executive position.
What sets Robert Walters apart?
"We simply know an incredibly large proportion of the candidates out there. If I hear today that a financial director is being sought somewhere in Antwerp for example, then within a day I know of a dozen people who might be interested. There is rarely anyone at this level that we do not have our eye on. That is where I see the distinctive character. In the regular recruitment work we do, speed is often an essential success factor. That is why we are used to working with very tightly organised processes. And we have a direct way of communicating, which is also very pleasant for both client and candidate."
How have you seen the executive search market change over the years?
"The transparency you have nowadays has of course changed the game enormously. In the past, you would sit in a library, do your research on organisations, and look up the names of people you didn't know. Now, thanks to our own database but also thanks to LinkedIn, for example, you very quickly get an idea of who is where and whether they could be of added value. Our focus is much less on searching. Our added value really lies in distinguishing the right people to approach and in the process that we provide, for both the client and the candidate. That dynamic continues to fascinate me. You're talking about candidates with a lot of nerve, who take all the time they need to consider their next step. You should never rush the process on that side, in that respect little has changed."
What trends do you currently see in the field of executive search?
"In the Antwerp region, where I am active, I see a strong increase in the number of assignments. Regional family businesses are increasingly facing the challenge of succession from within the family. This provides opportunities for CFO's and financial directors, but also for managing director positions. In addition, the international technology market is developing strongly."
We are well placed to service these types of organisations with our international network and professionals trained abroad in the countries where Robert Walters has grown.
What role does executive search play in your career?
"An increasingly important role, because as I outlined earlier, you grow with your clients and candidates over the years. Because of the relationship of trust you build up, I increasingly get assignments with a confidential character. I love being involved in recruitment assignments where scarcity and complexity determine the process. To see later that a candidate I placed with a listed multinational has progressed to Senior Vice President. I am proud of that."