Putting out an ad and waiting for the candidates to present themselves sounds like the most straightforward way to approach recruitment. This is not, however, how most organizations looking for executives or highly specialized professionals go about it.
Enter executive search — a recruitment service by which companies seek out highly qualified candidates to make job offers to. Adrien Bizouard, Robert Walters Vietnam’s headhunter-in-chief, is the man at the helm of one of the world’s leading specialist recruitment consultancies helping clients acquire high caliber professionals through the extensive networks, specialized industry knowledge and relationship-building.
Since its establishment in 1985, when the Group opened its first office in central London, Robert Walters has built a global presence spanning across more than 30 countries. Based in Saigon, Robert Walters Vietnam specializes in permanent specialist recruitment of mid-level to senior roles across a variety of industries, including accounting and finance; engineering; Human Resources; technology and transformation; legal; sales and marketing; supply chain; procurement and logistics; and technical healthcare. Among its clients are blue-chip firms, multinationals and local firms.
As the Country Manager of Robert Walters Vietnam, Adrien Bizouard has led the company to achieve important milestones in securing its leading position in the market. One of the most successful was the launch of Come Home Phở Good in 2016, an outreach program targeting overseas Vietnamese. The program helped candidates considering a career move to Vietnam make an informed decision through sharing market research, insights and updates on the job market in Vietnam.
We ask Adrien about the pros of bringing in a recruitment agency, tips on looking for a job in a depressed economy and what success looks like in executive search.
How did you begin your career in recruitment and what attracted you to the field?
My career started with an internship at an executive search firm in Bordeaux, France in 2011 and then in Saigon in 2012. I first joined Robert Walters Vietnam as a consultant in 2013 before being promoted, in 2015, to manager of the sales and marketing division (FMCG) and of the technical healthcare team. I was made Country Manager in 2017.
What attracted me to the industry in the first place and the reason it holds me in its grip is the complexity of the sales process. Humans are exceptionally emotional beings so our decision-making, in recruitment and elsewhere, is closely tied to our feelings and emotions. In an industry that is built around ‘human capital’, diving into the depth of human psyche is what makes the job so exciting.
But for me, the most satisfying part of the job is coaching the candidates to get a job that best matches their skill set, expectations and work history. Placing them where they can grow in the long term while being a good fit for the company’s culture.
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How would you describe your management style?
I am a staunch believer in meritocracy. When you are given an opportunity to show your merits to the full and you work hard and you work smart, the results will speak for themselves and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
I also subscribe to the growth mindset theory that stipulates that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort, persistence, trying different strategies and learning from mistakes. Being optimistic and creative and picking yourself up and trying again after a failure is a very powerful attitude.
As a manager, I always lead by example. To me this means never giving up when looking for solutions, never compromising on quality, putting people first and being seen as approachable. Even our office layout where management sits with the rest of the team and not in a corner office behind closed doors signals openness and proximity.
And lastly, in our industry you won’t get far without being empathetic and having a high EQ. It’s about trying to understand the reasons behind people’s behavior and about genuinely believing that every human being is driven by the right intentions.
When should a company consider hiring a staffing agency? And why?
Recruitment companies are here to advise and make recommendations based on a deep understanding of the challenges an organization is facing. Perhaps it’s in a growth phase or is restructuring or is preparing to enter a new market — all these scenarios call for bringing in a specialized recruitment partner. Selecting a trusted recruitment partner who “gets” you and your industry and applies contextual recruitment practices to find the best match will always pay off.
Robert Walters works with many leading companies. Industry-specific knowledge aside, what are the qualifications and personal characteristics that the majority of successful candidates possess, across all industries?
Self-awareness about one's strengths and weaknesses is key and so is a desire to learn. There will always be some technical skill that even the most experienced candidate will need to pick up on the job, so understanding one’s knowledge gaps is crucial.
Another quality all successful candidates possess is open-mindedness. Being receptive to new ideas often stems from being exposed to diverse perspectives, so international experience and English language skills are sought after by many employers.
During the recruitment process, standout candidates possess an ability to tailor their ‘sales pitch’ based on the employer’s requirements and hence to articulate their achievements in a way that is best suited to the role.
And lastly, a trend that I’ve observed recently is that clients are looking for candidates who can demonstrate longevity within an organization, who stay with a company for a long time and show a stable growth pattern.
What does success look like in executive search? Is it filling a position quickly or finding the perfect candidate even if it takes twice as long?
Both! As specialist recruiters with real market knowledge, we aim to provide both speed and quality. To achieve this perfect balance, however, there are many stepping stones we must walk across to attain perfection.
It starts with being memorable for the right reasons and providing a great candidate experience. The way I see it, finding and placing people who stay and grow within a company not only helps clients to grow sustainably, but it also allows us to have a real impact on people’s lives.
And of course to remain competitive we are always pushing ourselves to improve and adapt to the changing market conditions. Clients come to us for our expertise and we are constantly sharpening the saw, so to speak.
Any tips for the candidates looking for a career change during an economic downturn? Which industries are actively hiring in Vietnam at the moment?
In the grand scheme of things, very few industries will remain affected by COVID-19 in the long term. Most of the industries are still flourishing and digital and tech organizations might even have competitive advantages as recruiters, despite their high volatility, at least in Vietnam. Healthcare, consumer goods or home equipment are looking promising too.
For employers, my advice is to first look for an internal solution first and only consider external candidates if promoting internally is not an option.
For the candidates, I’d say keep an eye out for opportunities and something will turn up. Be patient and remain positive. Use new technology to stand out: a video CV is a good example. It’s important to remain selective and not settle for a job that is less than ideal. This is the perfect time to establish an open and honest conversation with your recruiter and take your career to the next level.