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Hunting for the best

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Mr. Zirbes is convinced that only an executive search consultant that supplies quality is able to remain ahead in the market.

“The financial crisis, which, fortunately, has been mastered by most enterprises very successfully, has also affected our business. As a consequence, many unsuccessful executive search consultants have disappeared from the market. Others, like us, have benefited from the crisis and have demonstrated their high level of competence and expertise.”

A visit to hunting head’s office reveals that the average age of its consultants is about 55 years. “Many of our competitors employ young head hunters, most of them young academics between 25 and 35 years old. They might be talented, but it takes more than pure talent and an academic background. This demanding job requires a high level of experience. Our executive search consultants had worked in executive positions in industry before they started working for us. I daresay that age and experience make all the difference,” stresses Mr. Zirbes.

“This is what I mean by swimming against the current. We have opted for experienced staff, and we have been utterly successful with this strategy.”

Mr. Zirbes has currently observed two main developments within the job market. While on the one hand full employment is within reach in the near future, there is a shortage of executives in some industries on the other hand. As most top managers already have a job, it is hard to find adequate candidates for an executive position.

“Executives cannot be recruited via a newspaper ad. You will only be able to employ the top men or women by headhunting them from competitors. And this is where we enter the stage,” points out Mr. Zirbes. hunting heads seeks and finds suitable candidates for its clients by making direct contact with potential candidates.

“When we set off to find new executive staff, we take a close look at our client’s enterprise in order to figure out what he is exactly looking for. In the course of our search process, we carry out research on our client’s competitors and additionally establish a list of executive personnel working for these companies,” says Mr. Zirbes. “We then make an appointment with candidates who might fill in the position and decide which persons we could present to our client.”

Currently, there are about 30 major executive search consultants. “We differentiate from other competitors through our fast working procedures because we have at our disposal the largest recruitment division in the market,” says Mr. Zirbes.

“While most competitors present their first selection of candidates within four to five months, we are able to present the first candidate already within the first two weeks.”

According to Mr. Zirbes, hunting heads is in a position to deploy about 30 recruiters for one project. They move into the market systematically and thus are able to get a clear picture of the specific market they are acting in.

As most of hunting heads’ Executive Search consultants are professionals from industry and trade, they know the market and know how best to inspire potential candidates.

There might be various reasons why a candidate wants to change his work environment. While one person is interested in a better salary, another one is looking for more responsibility, and yet another one is interested in a more powerful position.

“We focus on executive personnel including managing directors and CEOs,” states Mr. Zirbes. “In fact, we were one of the first consulting institutes focusing on this personnel group.”

Today, hunting heads is active worldwide, working for clients in various industries. In the past two to three years, one focus has been on the renewable energy sector, the chemical industry, mechanical engineering and the aviation industry.

Among its clients are medium-sized companies with a turnover of 50 million EUR, international groups of companies and DAX-listed enterprises.

hunting heads operates on an international basis. One focus is on China, India, Austria, Switzerland, Spain and Germany. About 20% of hunting heads’ turnover is generated abroad.

“Looking back at the past five to six years, we have been extremely successful, generating fantastic growth rates,” states Mr. Zirbes.

“For instance, for 2010, we realised an increase in turnover of 55%, which even amounted to 90% in 2006. Now for 2010, our turnover increased by 48%. For 2011, we are targeting a total turnover of 30 million EUR.”

hunting heads aims to become the number one in its market segment.

“Anybody thinking of executive search consultants should automatically think of hunting heads,” states Mr. Zirbes.

Apparently, hunting heads has understood how to catapult itself to the top of the market by implementing a convincing and discreet strategy that appeals to clients.

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