The Headhunter's Edge

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In this manifesto, Christian shows how essential it is to have the most talented people on your side. But how do you find the best? And how do you become the best? Christian's solution: Think like a headhunter. He gives readers the benefits of his twenty years of experience interviewing thousands of CEOs and potential CEOs.
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Overview

In this manifesto, Christian shows how essential it is to have the most talented people on your side. But how do you find the best? And how do you become the best? Christian's solution: Think like a headhunter. He gives readers the benefits of his twenty years of experience interviewing thousands of CEOs and potential CEOs.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Christian, a headhunter who is perhaps best known for placing Carly Fiorina in the CEO position at Hewlett-Packard, offers a book that is part memoir and part advice tome for job seekers and employers. He begins by describing his first headhunting job, which involved making cold calls to place people in the chemicals and plastics field. Though inexperienced, Christian had a talent for sizing up people and quickly became a success; he did so well that he soon launched his own company. Christian readily admits it was the early 1980s, a time when there were available jobs for almost anyone who wanted to work at the levels he placed. The subsequent boom and bust of the tech field and the dot-coms provided him with more experience; he believes that the lessons he's learned as a headhunter apply to both employees and employers. For example, he identifies five key traits shared by all effective leaders: they're honest, smart, passionate about their work, humble and possess the ability to surround themselves with other smart, capable people. Christian offers suggestions for interviewers and would-be employees, such as looking outside their specialties, preparing themselves for all job opportunities and learning to read body language. Christian's writing style is engaging and his advice is sound. However, since he attempts to cover several topics interviewing, recruiting and retaining the book ends up as an overview of the broad subject of employment rather than a specific how-to guide. Agent, Jim Levine. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
What are the strategies to hire the best people and how do you find them? Christian, a leading corporate headhunter and founder and CEO of Christian & Timbers, draws on his expertise to write this practical and highly informative guide. Not only does the author discuss locating the most talented people, but he also provides advice on how to retain them. Christian maintains that "we are operating in a Talent Economy" and offers the following indicators: "talent is someone on the way up," "talent attracts other talent," "talent is impatient," "talent gets to the point," "talent has vision," and "talent is relative." Guidelines for selecting talented people include how to study a r sum , effective interview techniques, and how to check references. Particularly helpful are the sample interview questions, among which are "trick questions" that can help interviewers learn more about the candidate. Case studies include companies such as IBM and General Electric. This is one of the best guides to hiring and retaining the most talented employees this reviewer has seen. Its realistic approach and information on effective job-hunting techniques recommend it to academic and public library business collections. Lucy Heckman, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375505430
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/27/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.08 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

In 1980, Jeffrey E. Christian launched Christian & Timbers, which today has offices in Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Columbia, Maryland; Orange County; Silicon Valley; New York City; San Francisco; Stamford, Connecticut; Tysons Corner, Virginia; London; Geneva; and Toronto. Recognized as one of the premier search consultants for major CEO assignments, he has placed managers in thousands of companies, ranging from IBM, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, and Apple to e-commerce companies such as Lycos and Netscape. He also appears regularly as an executive search and market analyst for CNBC. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio. He can be rearched via the Internet at ctnet.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

It’s a Talent Economy

Not long ago, I set up a meeting between a CEO with a big job to fill and a talented manager I had interviewed who seemed a perfect match. I made arrangements for the candidate to fly in for a meeting with the CEO at his office. Simple, right?

Not when the CEO refused to pay for a limo to transport him to the company’s offices. The candidate ended up taking a taxi—and getting lost. And as if that weren’t bad enough, when he finally arrived at the company’s offices, he had the pleasure of sitting and waiting, and waiting, in the reception area. A half hour past the appointed time, and with no sign of the CEO, the job candidate rose from his chair in disgust and walked out the door. And thus my client lost the one person available who was, in the opinion of his high-priced search professional, perfect for the job. Why did my client lose Mr. Right? Because like too many CEOs—and general managers of engineering, vice presidents of sales, directors of marketing, and managers of whatever with hiring responsibility—he had not committed his brain, his heart, and the future of his company to what I call the Talent Principle:

The company with the best people thrives.

What about the best product? What about marketing or sales? Strategic thinking? What about all those wizard business models coming out of the B-schools? They do not drive business. Talent does. In fact, there is no such thing as “sales” or “marketing” or even “product” without people. If, for example, you have a marketing problem in your company, then my advice would be to hire a more talentedperson to run the marketing department. The real art of building a successful company is to bring together so much talent that no one would want to work anyplace else, and that those who do will want to be part of your winning team. I would even go so far as to argue that you can build a major career in business simply by surrounding yourself with the best people you can find. Talent will draw more talent. It is the kind of virtuous circle you want in your career and your company at every level, from CEO right down the pyramid. If you are at the beginning of your career, attach yourself to the best people in your company; find mentors. If you’re already in a position of power, recruit the best people you can possibly find and keep them at your side. If you hire talented lieutenants, they’ll tell you what to do. All you have to do is listen. It’s that simple.

Finding all those talented people is a bit more difficult. So is interviewing for talent and persuading the best people that their future is with you. The most difficult challenge of all can be to keep the great talent you have from accepting another job offer. How do you get the best people and keep them? How do you create a career so that you will be identified as “talent”?

You have to learn to think like a headhunter.

That is the goal of this book. If I can help some of the most successful companies in the world find the smartest, most creative, and hardest-working talent available, then I think I can help you, too. In 1980, I founded Christian & Timbers, the first search firm specializing in information technology. Our work has affected thousands of companies, ranging from such Fortune 50 legends as IBM, Microsoft, and Apple Computer to such Internet and e-commerce pioneers as Lycos, Netscape, Cisco, Amazon, and Yahoo. When Hewlett-Packard’s chairman, president, and CEO, Lew Platt, decided in 1999 to replace himself, HP chose us to do the search. I brought them one of Lucent’s rising stars, Carly Fiorina, who as HP’s new president and CEO has injected new life into one of America’s great companies. Today, Christian & Timbers is one of the top ten search firms in the nation, with thirty partners and fourteen offices in the United States, Canada, and Europe. It has been a great ride, fueled partly, of course, by one of the most impressive economic booms in U.S. history. But my company—and my competitors in the executive search industry—have also benefited from what I believe is one of the most profound constants in the marketplace:

There is always a talent shortage.

At no time in history has this been truer than today, when every top company in the world finds itself competing for talent. Forget the hype about the “New Economy,” the “Internet Economy,” and the “New New Economy.” You cannot even be distracted by an economy in recession. We are operating in a Talent Economy, where only companies who hire the best people will thrive.

THE WORLD WAR FOR TALENT

In the 1960s only 9 percent of new chief executives came from outside the company; today upwards of 40 percent of new CEOs are recruited from elsewhere. Meanwhile, the pool of executives qualified for top management positions has actually been drying up. In 1999, Fortune reported that Silicon Valley “has been short of talent for a decade or more, but there’s evidence the problem is getting more desperate and far-reaching than ever.” The magazine pointed to five hundred vacant high-tech CEO positions in the Valley alone and cited a study that concluded that so many empty top jobs cost companies in the area upwards of $4 billion annually in lost opportunities and productivity. Even after the Internet bubble burst on Wall Street in April 2000 and the NASDAQ lost 65 percent of its value, the talent crunch persisted. High-flying companies had suddenly crashed to earth. Those that were still alive needed intensive care. But the kind of leader who can revive sick companies is rare in the best of times. Suddenly, “turnaround CEOs” were in high demand. Early-stage companies that had been looking for CEOs now wanted COOs with proven skills in running a business day-to-day whom they could groom for the CEO spot. Top companies surveyed the wreckage of the dot-coms and snapped up the best managers, many of whom found themselves hotly pursued by more traditional firms desperate for Internet expertise as well as what wisdom they might have picked up watching their start-ups or early-stage companies imploding. New companies reacquainting themselves with the old saying in business that “Nothing happens until something is sold” were searching for vice presidents of sales. Every company seemed eager to cut costs and wanted an experienced chief financial officer to do it. Particularly hot were CFOs with international experience. Technology is now a glo- bal business, and U.S. companies with the financial talent to manage money worldwide will have an edge on their competition. In interviews with one hundred senior managers of Fortune 500 and venture-backed companies about their future hiring needs, Christian & Timbers also found out that with Europeans discovering the joys of instant messaging and Americans trying to download the entire Internet into the palm of their hand, the need for management talent in the wireless space had not abated. Fiber optics companies still racing to create the perfect fiber optics switch were scouting for talented engineers—and would be for the next decade, the best guess for when the new networks would be in place. Software programmers are still in demand, and there remains a shortage of good computer engineers.

Nor has the talent crunch been limited only to technology. By mid-2000, the requests for top executives in the biotechnology sector were already up 300 percent over the previous year, according to search-industry surveys; analysts were predicting the biotech business to grow annually by 20 percent over the next decade. Healthcare is wide-open for talent. Hospitals report one of the highest rates of job growth in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses, health technicians, and researchers are among the top five professions with the largest job growth and persistent need—right up there with the high demand for computer scientists. The aging of the Baby Boomers is likely to keep the employment opportunities in the healthcare and life sciences professions recession-proof. The number of law graduates has not budged in recent years, which has put smart, young lawyers at a premium. (Our hiring study in the first quarter of 2001 revealed a major shortage of bankruptcy attorneys—not surprising considering that the economy was on the verge of recession.) Financial services companies are also competing for young talent. Even major consulting companies such as McKinsey, Bain, and Booz-Allen, which used to have their pick of the best graduates of the best business schools, have had to sweeten compensation for young associates, as well as for partners who find themselves tempted to fill some of those CEO vacancies around the country.

Today’s top executives must be more qualified than ever before. Leaders in the biotech industry, for example, have traditionally had scientific backgrounds, M.D.s, and Ph.D.s. But to make it at the top of biotech in the future will require an understanding of the technology driving scientific development, along with regulatory policy, not to mention the ability to convince venture-capital firms and other investors that you have the skills to take a start-up or early-stage company to $500 million in a flash. Executives with all these skills are rare. Even the utility sector is scrambling for talent. Deprived of their captive markets by deregulation, utilities have been forced to consolidate and restructure. Suddenly, they have to become real businesses and compete for customers, which requires the kind of marketing talent that utility executives never needed. Sixty-five percent of recent hires came from outside the utilities industry—the same people every other industry in America is after.

Copyright 2002 by Jeffrey E. Christian
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Table of Contents

Pt. I The Talent Principle
Ch. 1 It's a Talent Economy 3
Ch. 2 The Formula for Exceptional Leadership 37
Ch. 3 Recognizing Talent 70
Ch. 4 The Interview 93
Ch. 5 Who Would Leave a Company Like This? 136
Ch. 6 Talent Is Worth Fighting For 165
Pt. II Talent - Becoming It
Ch. 7 Building Your Talent Quotient - and Your Career 187
Ch. 8 You're Always Your Own Headhunter: Growing Your Talent Network 214
Pt. III Conclusion
Ch. 8 It's All About Talent 235
Acknowledgments 243
Index 247
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Interviews & Essays

A Letter from the Author
Twenty years as a headhunter have proved to me how important and how powerful talent is in creating great companies. In fact, I have learned that there is no component more important than exceptional people and this realization serves as the ultimate inspiration for this book.
Over the course of my career, I have had the good fortune to be exposed to, interact with and learn from the country’s top leadership. From them I have gleaned many of the perspectives that I harness today. I have tried to take this knowledge and transfer it into this book with the intention of helping readers build their careers and their businesses.
I hope that you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed the journey of collecting, documenting and then editing through my personal experiences and reflections. At a bare minimum, I hope that you glean one new piece of information that positively affects your personal and/or your company’s success.
--Jeffrey Christian


From the Hardcover edition.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2013

    The lessons learned from this book have assisted me in my own ap

    The lessons learned from this book have assisted me in my own application process as well as my overall outlooks at the business world. I highly recommend this book. I first read it in 2004 and have re-read it several times since.

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