“Executive Search needs to recognize the opportunity in new technologies ” – Interview with Klas Karlsson (Talentia – InterSearch Sweden)
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The future of executive search in Sweden and other Western European countries is facing significant changes. Many of these developments have been accelerated by the radical change in people’s work lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions on travel and meetings. In addition to more flexible remote work models, the world of work seems to have taken a big leap, especially in the area of digitization. Klas Karlsson, executive search consultant in Stockholm and CEO of Talentia AB – InterSearch Sweden, sees the challenges for recruiters – as well as their clients – in identifying technological developments early on.
Professional social networks are changing all the time – executive search must keep up
Karlsson is convinced that an excellent headhunter cannot rely solely on his network and negotiation skills, but must keep an eye on technological developments. He sees the rise of social networks as particularly crucial: “All executive search consultants work with LinkedIn. Those are the basics. But are we perhaps missing candidates there?” Every executive search consultant would need to be aware that even now, candidates may be falling through the cracks because they are not signed up on LinkedIn. Therefore, to stay competitive and reach early adopters of new technologies, a recruiting firm must anticipate where the journey is headed. “LinkedIn has already taken over some of the functions that Facebook used to fulfill. People are also sharing more personal updates and interacting with personal acquaintances.” So, according to Karlsson, a new network that is more distinct from any “private” social networks might emerge in the near future. Such a network would be the place to look for promising executives in the future. “These are precisely the developments we need to help shape, not merely react to.”
The consulting process is becoming more transparent – and starts earlier
Karlsson sees the increasing technologization of the recruiting market as an opportunity for executive search firms to advise their clients in greater detail on other parts of the process that are not “purely transactional”. A consultant should at least anticipate if not initiate a client’s expansion activities. This includes questioning established assumptions that clients might have and also bringing less obvious candidates into the mix. These might for example not currently be working at a competing firm in exactly the same position that you are looking to fill. Discovering young talent and lateral entrants who take unexpected paths is part of that evolution, he says. “We as recruiters need to be more active in helping the clients in their decision making process by providing insights and data – qualitative as well as quantitative –before we start a search or even advise them against a traditional search and instead to go for an acquisition of a company and then support them in the due diligence process.” Although large companies and corporations already have insight departments that work with extensive quantities of data, Karlsson foresees a greater focus on quantitative data for executive search, looking not only at the individual and more at big trends and developments. “This will allow us to approach companies – especially mid-sized companies – directly and to anticipate their needs as part of our services.”
Entrepreneurs and startups in particular demand flexibility from recruiters
Karlsson specifically emphasizes the importance of flexibility when working with entrepreneurs and the startup sector. This concerns established fee structures in particular. “It’s not about pushing a ‘cut-rate’ approach, but developing flexible fee structures that reflect the reality of young, agile companies.” For example, a combination of cash and equity compensation could be a feasible model.” Traditional benchmarks that might work for large corporations cannot not be applied to startups in the same way. The advantage of an international network like InterSearch, Karlsson emphasizes, is not least the opportunity of cooperatively developing innovative approaches and learning from partners in other countries. “I’m excited about what our Indian colleagues are doing, for example, they are real entrepreneurs. I’m definitely closer to them in this aspect than to some companies here in Sweden.”
Klas Karlsson is the founder and CEO of Swedish executive search firm Talentia AB. The company has been focused on proactive recruiting in the Swedish executive search market since 1999 and has offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. Talentia AB has been a member of the global InterSearch network since 2015 and is leading the global Practice Start-up. Scale-up, Venture Capital & Innovation.