The AESC and BlueSteps recently had the opportunity to speak with 5 top AESC member executive search consultants, about executive search in Germany. Interviews were conducted with Christine Stimpel, from Heidrick & Struggles, Klaus Hansen, from Odgers Berndtson, Thomas Becker, from Russell Reynolds Associates, Franco Parodi, from Parodi & Associates, and Richard Fudickar, from Boyden. Below is a sample of one of the expert Q&As with Klaus Hansen from Odgers Berndtson.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) and BlueSteps about executive search in Germany. Could you tell us about the search firm you come from and the work you do there?
Klaus Hansen: Odgers Berndtson (OBG) is one of the leading executive search consultancies in Europe with more than 20 offices in all relevant markets, founded in 1965. In Germany, we have offices in Hamburg, Frankfurt and Munich. We are solely specialised on executive search and management audits. I am leading the energy/utilities practice of OBG in Germany and as a Managing Partner I represent the continental European offices on the global board of OBG.
What are the most important trends that you are witnessing in executive search in Germany, currently?
There are several key trends, including:

  • Access to “hidden champions” in the candidate population – those that you won´t find on LinkedIn automatically - is a clear differentiator.
  • Consultants must have an in-depth understanding of the client´s business.
  • Clients expect more advice on the profile of the candidates and more support around the filling of the position than ever for less money.
  • For compliance reasons, relationships with blue chips get less personal and more formal.

How would you describe the industrial, energy & utilities sectors in Germany at the moment and what executive opportunities do they present?
The industrial sector is still quite strong, but with a relative decline in exports. It will recover soon and will get back to former strength within a couple of months. Executive search is clearly focused at the top end; while n-1/n-2 vacancies are filled mainly internally. Candidates must show solid expertise in true leadership and entrepreneurship. The energy sector is still attractive for executives but will change its face in the coming years. Currently, there are interesting career opportunities for executives within tier-2 companies. The large power companies (E.ON, RWE etc.) struggle desperately with the German energy codex (exit from nuclear power etc.) and will not hire from outside for another while, except maybe for very specific needs.
What is your outlook for executive search in Germany for the second half of 2013 generally speaking? And, more specifically for the sectors that you specialise in (Energy & Utilities and Industrial)?
I believe that the current downward trend in the executive search industry will soon end and that the industry as a whole will regain its former strength within the next six to 12 months.
As mentioned earlier, the Industrial sector has continued to perform quite well despite the global downturn and will reinforce its strength during the second half of the year.
Conversely, for the Energy sector, the situation will remain tough for the rest of the year, since Germany’s four biggest utilities (RWE, E.on, EnBW and Vattenfall) still remain out of bounds as a source for searches.
In 2010 you co-wrote an article about women on boards in Germany. What progress do you think has been made by clients and by retained executive search firms in promoting women on boards in Germany?
With regards to the client, progress has been made; you can see more women on boards than ever. However, there are still many companies who consider this as an obligation or a “PR thing” rather than an opportunity. It will take another five to ten years, until this issue will become a non-issue and becomes a matter of course.
Search consultants have in general quickly adapted to this topic and probably all of the major players can provide clients with a long list of highly qualified female candidates. Today, the trick is to find female talent beyond “the usual suspects” who are available for high caliber board seats. This results in a demand for long term relationship building with young entrepreneurial women by helping them to develop the right set of skills.
What do you think is the most common misconception of executive search?
If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys. This commonplace figure of speech has not yet arrived to the clients. Our industry must get much better in explaining the value of retained executive search, otherwise, this business model will be extinct in five years time.

The AESC has member executive search firms located throughout Germany and Europe, all with access to your BlueSteps career profile and CV. Learn more >>



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