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Talent spotting

Your career; Headhunting

Graham Jackson is a consultant with Bristol-based headhunting firm Potensis, which specialises in the property, construction and engineering industries.

Headhunting has been in existence as a form of recruitment for many years and has evolved from its traditional roots as an informal grapevine into a clear-cut, research-based process providing clients with access to every single person within an industry.

Civil engineering headhunting is becoming an increasingly common method of recruitment as many organisations are looking at restructuring to increase profitability and cannot afford mistakes. And the talented individuals that companies look to hire are well looked after by their current employers, kept busy and are not on the open job market.

Traditionally, headhunting is thought of as a series of meetings in smoky gentlemen's clubs based on a particular consultant's individual knowledge of contacts within a marketplace to find the best person they know for a role.

While this provides a certain level of service, it is not enough for the modern construction industry, where the emphasis is on providing value for money and a fast efficient service.

Search companies now work from a full assignment specification produced in close liaison with the client. The target industry is then fully researched. Any relevant industry knowledge is used as an aid and not the basis of the assignment.

The first time a targeted individual comes into contact with a headhunter is an anonymous phone call outlining the opportunity and gauging their interest along with key aspects of their experience. If the candidate is suitable and interested, an interview will be set up with a consultant. This will generally take place at a neutral venue, such as a hotel.

At the interview the candidate will find out more detail about the opportunity and the consultant will find out more about the engineer's technical expertise and qualities such as business acumen, management style and character. Following the interviews, the consultant will visit the client and present a shortlist of suitable candidates.

From this stage, the consultant, arranges interviews and manages the offer process and notice period.

Companies are typically looking for a modern and sympathetic management style, commercial experience and an ability to present to and impress clients. MBAs and postgraduate qualifications are increasingly in demand as are project management skills.

If you are wondering how to make your phone ring, work hard and stay abreast of the changes within construction - and always take your phone calls. You can never tell who is on the other end.

Key points

Anonymous phone calls can be interesting

Sympathetic management style impresses

Get good at presentations

MBAs and project management skills are always a plus

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