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  1. Could you please introduce yourself?
Tim Robb photo My name is Tim Robb and I am a headhunter in the private equity industry at Miramar Executive Search www.miramar.globalThe firm works across various sectors including industrial, consumer, life sciences, technology, energy, and a number of other practice areas. I have been a headhunter for 4 years. Previously, I served in the British Army and then had a career in management consultancy working with people in leadership roles. I am British, and have lived and worked all over the world: in Asia, Europe, North America and Russia.
  1. In which industry do you see the highest demand for skilled employees?

Broadly speaking, we headhunt at executive level. We are looking for managers who will be running divisions with sales of a hundred million dollars and higher.

To answer your question regarding which industry has the highest demand for professionals with this experience, I would say technology, which is less of an industry and more of a common theme. Some of our biggest clients are technology players like Juniper Networks and Alcatel. We also do a lot in our industrial sector for firms like Cargill, which is a large American conglomeratein the bio-industrial and agro-industrial sector. By bio-industrial, I mean a sector which solves global supply chain or food stock problems . We are also seeing significant investment going into healthcare and life sciences.

  1. What are the personal qualities that modern companies value?

Every company is different but typically at our level we are looking for people with good leadership skills which includes people leadership, emotional intelligence, commercial orientation, market and functional knowledge. Employers value people who persevere, are persistent, determined and honest in their dealings with people and with other stakeholders.

To ensure that candidates have these qualities, we use competency-based interviewing and we reference candidates thoroughly. Leadership is not always a popularity contest, so some people have made enemies along the way or have made mistakes, but we assess to understand whether identified qualities are genuine.

  1. When you screen candidates through their CVs or LinkedIn profiles what is the first thing you pay attention to?

Summary paragraph at the top. If that is well-written, short , and to the point that helps us.

At the top we would like to see a summary of and an idea what direction they would like to be going next. So probably there is something fundamental – something about their current position, and something inspirational – where they would like to be next.

The summary paragraph is usually very personal and ideally it is tailored to the role for which they’ve sent in their CV. However, what’s on paper is usually 10% of the person. It is a good filter but there is no substitute for meeting people in person.

We also use something called “sourcing”, where we talk to senior people in industry, explain what we are looking for and ask them to recommend candidates who perhaps previously worked for them or maybe are now in the market place. That’s known as “endorsement” or “personal recommendation”. This can also be a very strong “currency”.

  1. From your personal experience could you please tell me about the brightest candidate you’ve ever met?

So: good, sharp candidates – it is typically clear early in life that they are going to be exceptional. Often they are graduates of top schools and universities, with a First or 2.1. Particularly smart people often have a maths, physics or science background. But this could also be connected to the fact that we work a lot with technology companies, who appreciate those rational sciences.

Having said that, we also often find ourselves placing people on boards who might be more artistic, softer, rather than scientifically qualified.  Board roles, especially chairman and non-executive roles require all-round skill sets. Scientists and engineers absolutely might be all-rounders as well.  But the role of the chairman or non-executive means to be one of the figure heads of the company, to lead by experience and to support the executives in the team. Their skillsets need to be around people as well as finance, operations, product and market.

  1. What would you recommend to someone who is now choosing their university course?

The most important thing is to do something that you are passionate about. Something that you have a genuine interest in and not just something that your dad wants you to do or your parents think you would be good at. Parents, peers and mentors can be really helpful, but you will be the one who has to work three or four years to attain the qualification.

If you can’t define your passion, then you have to find a degree that will open up many opportunities. For example, if you want to be a “Global Citizen” then do a degree that involves languages or travel.

You could also study something meaningful like Politics or Economics rather than a Sports degree that might be less useful.

  1. How did you make your choice?

Well, I made my choice and then I changed it. So when I was filling in the form I wanted to do Geography, which is a course that I enjoyed as a subject and that opens up opportunities but doesn’t channel you in a particular direction.

I worked hard for my A-levels and got better results than I expected so I was able to change my university, my degree course and take a gap year. I applied to read Politics and Russian at Bristol, which is a great 4-year course that helps one understand how the world works. Studying Russian gave me the opportunity to travel and then do business in Russia, which opened up a lot of perspectives.

  1. In your opinion, what skills should a young person develop to be successful in the future?

I would encourage people to think about their strengths. It is good to be an all-rounder but you don’t need to be an all-rounder at first. So if you like public speaking, then go and join a debating society. If you are interested in politics and philosophy, then join the respective society.

When applying for work experience make sure that you choose a brand or company that opens up opportunities for you. I mean it is good to work for the family business but it is much better to do something larger than that, if it is possible.

It is also worth stating, that candidates who demonstrate early on that they make time for other people, possibly by doing something voluntary or charitable, even if it is only 5% of your time or one month away – I think that is a great statement. In my experience, that tends to differentiate people who focus on having fun and partying, from those who turn out to be exceptional people later in life.

  1. You have had several careers, what made you change direction?

I just found things that I loved.

My first chapter started at university when I went to work for a Venture Capital business. As a part of my degree I had to spend one year abroad. During this time most of the students went to the university in Russia to learn the language and it turned out that they spent all their time living with other English students, speaking English. I decided to do it differently and got some work experience during this time and, by the way, got paid quite well for a 20-year-old. I got a job through networking with a Venture Capital investor who had invested in Russia in Telecoms. This gave me some work experience and also insight into the world of work. I spent a year with them and ended up running quite a large portfolio for the investors.

Compared to other students who went to Russia, I found that I learned a lot more because I was working on the investment side of the Telecoms industry, attending business meetings which were mostly in Russian. I came back in my fourth year to complete my degree with some money in the bank and having had an amazing experience.

So that was a choice: to do more than the average.

My second career was in the Army and I chose that because my family has a background in the service (Navy and the Army). I thought I would do 3 years after university. But I enjoyed my first 3 years so much that I doubled it to 6 years, and then I did another 4 years working in a consultancy role in the Foreign Office. And I loved that too. So I completed nearly a decade of service. I found that to be a great foundation.

Then I moved into management consulting, in a people leadership and sales role, “thought leadership”, assembling teams of people to solve complex problems. That happened also to be in Russia, based in Moscow with some reasonably challenging projects.

After 15 years in people leadership and management consultancy I decided to become a headhunter. That’s a logical  evolution – I have a good understanding of what makes people tick, a good understanding of leadership skills and good judgement of how effective people are at certain things.

I’ve made choices along the way that were imperfect – but I’ve made them work. Life goes by quickly and you have to make the most of it.

  1. Do you think it is wise to plan your career and how far ahead?

If you are passionate about something and you know early on that you should follow that passion and pursue your dream, I guess you should follow the “Seven Habits”; one of those is “to begin with the end in mind”. If you know where you are going, it is easier to get there without distractions and with a great deal more focus. So I would say: plan to succeed.

If you don’t know what success looks like, then at least plan to keep your options open for 6 months or a year at a time.

We are all individuals – celebrate your individuality. For some people, it may take a while to find their calling, some people know it early on in life. But, of course, it is ok to switch if what you are doing isn’t working for you. Be grateful for what you’ve learned and move in the direction that works best for you.