Interview with Valerie Germain - Part 2
October 26, 2016
This is the second part of my interview with Valerie Germain, a partner with Heidrick & Struggles – a leading executive search firm. Ms. Germain works out of the firm’s New York City office and spent close to an hour talking with me about the executive search process. One of the first things we discussed is the different types of search firms and the roles they play in connecting an employer with potential employees. There are three types:
Contingency Firm – typically looking for junior and mid-level executives, and as the title suggests, the recruiter is paid only if they find a suitable match and that match is hired. Companies often work with multiple contingency firms to find a suitable match.
Retained Search or Executive Search Firm –These types of firms are retained exclusively by the company to find suitable matches. “Retained search firms almost exclusively work at the C-Suite and executive levels.”
Internal Recruiting Teams – “It is important to note that increasingly, outreaches can also come from internal recruiting teams. People might not be aware of this, but many organizations today have their own internal recruiting capabilities.”
Ms. Germain felt it is important for people who receive an unsolicited phone call or email from a recruiter to feel comfortable that outreaches should be confidential and the recruiter (regardless of the type of firm they work for) should be a professional.
However, she noted that you should know you are talking with a reputable firm. Make that judgment based on a few questions. Your first should be, “Tell me about yourself.” Next ask about the firm, and finally ask about the client the caller represents. This will help you determine the type of firm the caller works for (if they don’t begin with that information) and his or her level of experience. However, keep in mind the recruiter may not be able to disclose the name of their client in this early phase of the outreach. Ms. Germain cautioned, one should never agree to an interview with the company until the recruiter has divulged the name of his or her client. Without knowing, you can’t effectively do your research and prepare for an interview.
Ms. Germain also spoke about attitude and potential opportunities. “A conversation does not need to imply you are looking or interested, however, the only way to know is to listen and ask questions.” You may not be looking, but don’t shut the door on a potential interesting opportunity. If the caller does not tell you, ask if the position is new or if they are filling the position because someone left.
While you are listening and asking questions about the role and the company to determine whether the opportunity might be of interest, remember the recruiter is doing the same thing. He or she is trying to assess if you might be a good fit for the company. “There is no reason not to share details, aspirations, goals, and interests.” If this role is not appealing, you don’t know what other opportunities the firm may represent.
Part of the getting-to-know one another phase is Q & A. Answer the questions you are comfortable answering. It is perfectly acceptable to say, “I would prefer to answer that at a later date.” Ms. Germain noted that this often comes up around the issue of compensation, though not exclusively. She added that it is also acceptable to ask for more time to answer a question – even if that means having a follow-up phone call or email.
Ms. Germain's final piece of sage advice is, “For many people, the difference between being able to grow is passion. If the millennials have taught us one thing, it is to love what you do.”
I thoroughly enjoyed the interview with Valerie Germain, and if I am to share what I think the takeaway is, it is two-fold: First, Love what you do – that passion breeds creativity and fosters achievement. Second, be willing to look at yourself honestly, so you can know who you are and what you want. And, I would add one more, understand the value and the boundaries of your digital footprint.
Anne Converse Willkomm
Director, Graduate Studies