ENTREPRISES & STRATÉGIES — Services & Conseils


It gets lonely at the top…Luxembourg’s hunt for elite executive

City Space Businessman Thinking Concept. (Photo: Rawpixel Ltd)

City Space Businessman Thinking Concept. (Photo: Rawpixel Ltd)

I am sure there is no need to tell anyone reading this article that the recruitment market in Luxembourg has a plethora of recruitment agencies and consultants that support all sectors’ businesses and organisations, varying in size, structure and maturity. 

As a matter of reference, asking around some of my peers and colleagues in the Financial Services industry, we believe that there are at least more than 60 recruitment agencies out there, ranging from the contingency, no cure/no pay agencies to the so-called executive search practices.

If we canvass the Luxembourg recruitment market for a true Executive Search offering, the picture certainly does not correspond to the recognition and knowledge that bigger international cities in Europe, some our very close neighbours, understand as to what executive search firms actually represent and do. Executive search firms who “truly” deliver what it says on the tin – searching for executives –, full stop.

Although Luxembourg is supported by a robust recruitment and HR ecosystem with highly skilled and dedicated professionals, unfortunately, local organisations and candidates alike are bombarded by such a number of diverse recruitment actors and practices, putting all categories in the same “head hunting basket” that they are just lost in this overabundant realm, putting a real shadow to our global activity and on the local market itself. Giving a perception that Luxembourg is indeed just a local market, as opposed to our neighbouring European countries, where there are real executive search companies, with processes and methodologies fully in line with the global cross-border Executive Search best practices.

We can barely count on one hand the top 10 European (let alone globally) ranked global executive search firms that are actually based and practicing true “glo-cal” cross-border executive search - to - from - and for - Luxembourg today.

Hunting for the elite

Searching for senior talent is not only about data and the hiring process. Choosing the right skills, experience and values to fulfil vital senior executive positions is a process that goes beyond algorithms. Some senior roles are simply too complex, too new with an ever-increasing C-list, and too important to reduce them to a process.

Successful executive headhunting means an in-depth analysis of a company’s senior management requirements, a detailed appraisal of potential candidates, supported by a highly skilled professional team with huge personal experience and a successful career history themselves. It is not enough to learn the basics and having an abstract knowledge to become a Headhunter for senior talent. How can a person successfully act in our trade who does not have the professional experience and market knowledge of an industry? Who has not acquired the necessary experiences themselves?

Dedicated “Partners” who provide optimum advice, based on market knowledge, full discretion, understanding the company culture, diversity and inclusion matters, with an international approach, that are increasingly more important to an organisation than the process itself.

The Executive Black Book

The search for the optimum executive talent has dramatically evolved over the last couple of decades. The view was that the all-powerful and much sought after head hunters’ ‘executive black book’ – essentially a list of their best top senior management contacts – defined the industry. People wanted to not only be in it, but also, know who else was in there.

And then, in 2003, Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of Paypal and LinkedIn, came along and threw open those sought-after professional profiles for everyone to see. For the first time ever, the world could take a peek at some of those coveted details. 

We believe that when the right talent meets the right opportunity in a company with the right philosophy, amazing transformation can happen.

Reid Hoffman,  Co-Founder,  Paypal and Linkedin

The debate will no doubt continue but we cannot limit the changing forces surrounding the executive search industry to just social medias. 

As so well described by my colleague, the Managing Partner at Odgers Berndtson Luxembourg, just this month:

“Executive Search needs to keep on building a true partnership with candidates and clients, to challenge the assumptions, avoid the obvious, move beyond the patterns and provide an independent voice, a reflective space and most importantly, a creative leap so only the most well considered outcome is delivered. Only then, can one truly follow Reid Hoffman’s view and let ‘an amazing transformation happen’.”

We have to see the bigger picture. The infamous Executive Black Book, albeit in digital format with a global reach these days, continues to be filled, regardless of social media.

Odgers Berndtson Luxembourg

Josée Lynda Denis

Partner Financial Services