Esade Careers

We sat down with Oscar Sobrón, co-founder and director general of Ackermann Executive Search, to gain insights into the mind of headhunters and learn about the latest job-hunting techniques.

Do Better: What is the secret to finding a job?

I tell everyone that what you need to succeed in your job search is patience, persistence, and perseverance. When people ask me for job-hunting tips, I say that we all have an audience we have to sell to, and I suggest they adapt my sales technique to their job search.

How does this technique work?

First, I find out whether I know anyone who can help me in their human resources department. If I do, I get in touch. If I don’t, I start using all sorts of systems, such as LinkedIn, phone calls, and email. I get in touch with those involved without intermediaries, and I use several channels to contact the person I’m interested in.

What you need to succeed in your job search is patience, persistence, and perseverance

Another crucial aspect is to keep pace with technology and be familiar with online channels, as these are the most used tools for communications. And last, but not least, languages are another key asset in the job-hunting process. It may sound obvious, but in Spain 50 to 60% of candidates fail in their job search because they are not fluent in a second language – usually English.

What is the first thing a headhunter looks for in candidates?

First of all, candidates don’t approach us – we approach them. Normally, when we approach a candidate, they already have more than 10 to 15 years of solid experience in the job market. The main reason why we don’t select a candidate is because they don’t fit the profile that we agreed with the client, not because of a mistake by the candidate.

What are common mistakes in job interviews?

As a headhunter, the most frequent mistakes I see are:

  • Unnatural behaviour. We want natural behaviour, not role-play.
  • Arrogance. We are the ones doing the headhunting and selling the project to candidates. This is why candidates are sometimes a bit arrogant, and companies don’t like this. You can’t just expect people to like you. It must be mutual, and you must show interest.
  • Not knowing about the client, the project, and what they do shows a lack of interest from the candidate.

Another important factor is that we are specialised in the sector and we know a lot of people. If what candidates tell us does not tally with their past or their goals, leadership style, strengths, or weaknesses, we will look into it.

The main reason why we don’t select a candidate is because they don’t fit the profile that we agreed with the client

On a previous occasion you said that people leave their bosses, not their companies. How can you know that the person being interviewed will be a good leader?

Sometimes, when you need work, you’re not very choosy. But if there is no rush to find a job, it is hugely important to discover and assess who you’ll be working with, as well as where you’ll be working. This "who" will spend more time with you than with their own family.

It’s essential to know whether there will be empathy with the boss. How? Well, one way is by assessing whether they ask reasonable and concise questions, and that there is a plan for the position being applied for, and that the company has a vision, principles, and values. You must be able to gauge all this information and ensure a two-way conversation.

Leadership misconceptions
Related content: 7 misconceptions about leadership

What qualities must a good leader have?

I think the basic skills are the same as 20 years ago. A leader needs to know where we are heading and how to convey and communicate this message. She also needs to know how to motivate and assess each person. We are independent individuals and we cannot all be managed in the same way. 

Leaders must be receptive to every idea put forward and use them in a positive way. Leaders are defined every day. They have a strategic vision that they must convey to others. It’s important that they know how to work with people, not just goals. It’s a matter of bringing out the best in everyone by understanding each individual.

Where do leaders fall short?

In standardisation. Everyone must be treated equally. A boss must adapt and strive to achieve the group’s goals. Unfortunately, many leaders fail to listen. Many firms include people of different ages, different ideas, and different cultures – and many managers are unable to harvest the resources they may receive from their team.

In addition, as the responsibilities of a leader increases, they must achieve their goals without conveying to their teams all the pressure they are under as a negative factor – but rather as motivation. They must do so without being authoritarian.

Many managers are unable to harvest the resources they may receive from their team

Most headhunters advise against major changes just now, but how can we plan for success where we work?

It’s not that this is the wrong time. However, I would want to be very sure of where I’m going and be sure that I really am headed for a place where the project is safe, and in an environment where it can grow. There is a lot of uncertainty and we don’t know where we are going. To be successful, it is important to remain in line with the goals you set for yourself.

All companies tell us where they are headed, and you can prepare yourself with this information. You must be adaptable. It is also important to be open-minded and inspire change. Because the world turns so quickly, companies must constantly adapt to change, and you must adapt to the company. 

You should also be willing to consider other positions and countries. Regardless of your future career path expectations, remain open to new experiences and opportunities – and do not be afraid. You never know where your next job may take you.

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