Could you please tell us about your role at Hudson Walker International?
My role has two clear facets. I head up our executive search practice, leading specific searches myself and managing the broader progress of all assignments. Secondly, I work closely with the founder Pauline Hudson-Evans to promote and strategically develop our business internationally.
What is your typical day at the office like?
I arrive between 8.30am and 9am and clear all emails that need answering. I then prepare and plan a to-do list, in order of priority and around diary entries. On Mondays we meet as a team to discuss the week ahead and to be as collaborative in our work as possible. A fresh set of eyes on a challenging assignment is always helpful. I try to focus on current assignments in the morning—interviewing/approaching prospective candidates and discussing profiles with clients. Afternoons are taken up with meetings off site with clients to discuss new projects, presentations and proposals.
What makes an interesting CV according to you? Can you give us some examples?
I am more interested in the person and their achievements than a CV. Often people we approach don’t possess an updated CV, as they are settled and not actively looking to move roles. The research we complete before we approach an individual means we already have an approximate idea of their skills and reputation.
However, when it comes to producing a CV to present to a client, we create a document that demonstrates a measurable and defined track record of the impact an individual has made in each company they have worked. This is coupled with interview notes to give a greater insight into their personality, emotional intelligence, leadership and the perceived cultural fit with the brand.
Connecting a candidate with a company is essentially matchmaking. How do you make sure there is a right fit? Are there any specific guidelines that you have?
This largely comes down to experience and the depth of our relationship with a company and also their ability to communicate the objectives of the hire. ‘Fit’ is not always just finding an individual who slots neatly into a company mentality. It may be that a leader being hired is there to change the culture and corporate dynamic.
A great example would be Orlebar Brown, whose company message and values are consistent through their products, stores, employees and their internal culture. We have worked together for five years and are learning about the evolving nuances of their business all the time. They understand that the more insight and access they give to us as their search partner, the better the result will be.
Has technology changed the qualities that luxury brands are looking for in a candidate? In what capacity?
Undoubtedly. The luxury sector was generally slow to embrace technology but is now investing heavily to catch up; e-commerce is still a massively under fulfilled opportunity for most luxury houses and vital for delivering continued growth, especially now that markets such as China are slowing.
Companies are demanding their business leaders to be more tech savvy than ever, but the talent pool available is still shallow. Luxury brands are tapping up executives from the more mature mass sector—for example the recent appointment of Walmart’s Alex Alexander as Chief Information Officer of Yoox Net-a-Porter. Burberry potted the potential of technology long before most. We were briefed not just to look at candidates from other luxury fashion houses, but from the likes of Apple or Google—Christopher Bailey wanted to change how Burberry engaged with their consumer and needed a different knowledge and mind set in the business.
Are there any kinds of tools, applications, or services that make your everyday business life easier?
Our business works from a specialist recruitment software that holds all candidate and client details as well as all current and historic assignment data. It is cloud-based so we can log in and work as we travel. LinkedIn is a useful tool for research at a mid-management level, but is reliant on people keeping updated profiles and at a board level it is far less comprehensive. The telephone and face to face meetings still rule for genuine engagement though!
When it comes to fashion and business news, what's on your daily reading list? Any great business books you'd like to recommend?
WWD, Business of Fashion, and Luxury Society all produce un-biased and intelligent content. I’ll read anything that doesn’t just regurgitate the news of the day. We also produce and commission a lot of original content ourselves—it is one of our most effective ways of starting conversations with individuals and brands.
Although not particularly a business book, I would recommend Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, which examines how our species has evolved over the last 70,000 years and created the society we live in today.
You deal with a lot of people on a global level. What kind of personal skills does one need to have to be successful in a role like yours?
Empathy and broader emotional intelligence, not just around the personality and ambition of an individual, but also a brand. General efficiency and delivering on what you say you will goes a long way as well.
What is your biggest headache currently?
The challenge of global political and economic uncertainty. We are living in a very troubled period for humanity.
Could you tell us about the biggest setback you have faced in your career? How did you respond to it?
The recession in 2009 took our business to the brink. Looking back, the second half of 2008 had actually been very strong and we genuinely felt the luxury sector was robust enough to weather the storm. Instead business levels dropped dramatically, searches were suspended and for six months we fought to bring every scrap of revenue into the business we could. We responded by really focussing on what we stood for and doing it as effectively as possible. We backed this up by hiring a PR agency to deliver a single message around our expertise within an executive search focusing exclusively on the luxury sector.
What are your business priorities for the next six months?
Strong positive sales in the first half of 2016, on-boarding two senior consultants who have agreed to join us and the successful conclusion to a number of assignments that have just commenced.
Who would you like to recommend next for My Work?
Michelle De Conto.