Interview : Jean Frey

“Local contacts are of crucial importance”

The selection of key executives is an imprtant challenge for every company. Jean Frey, General Manager of Kurt Schindler AG Bern and Zurich and of AIMS International Switzerland Ltd. tells us about the relationship between business consulting and executive search, the advantages of having an international as well as a local network and of what he thinks will be the most important challenge facing today’s small and medium sized companies.

Your company is active in both Executive Search and Business Consulting. In what sense is this an advantage for your customers? Is there any relationship between the two fields?

Jean Frey : The knowledge we gain from a Business Consulting mandate gives us a better understanding of the inner workings of a company. Competencies, responsibilities and selection criteria are no longer just words in a job description but are enhanced by our knowledge of functions and processes within the company.This enables us to “visualise” the candidate in his new environment and to better counsel our customer.

Recruiting a key executive is always of strategic importance for a company. In what case should one use an external partner for the search and selection process?

Very often, the company has already tried to find the new executive using traditional methods. The reason for the lack of success is often a question of small details, lack of time or insufficiently clear profile definition. For senior executives, the Executive Search company has often a better chance of identifying the right candidate because it has the necessary expertise, resources and tools. There are also some companies who systematically use external recruiters. The best employees of the competition will rather answer a “neutral” advertisement than write directly to the company. It is also easier for us to contact employees of one’s customers, suppliers or competitors directly without provoking negative reactions.

What means do you have to check the fit of candidate and position? Which are the aspects you think most important and what differentiates you from your competition?

I think most Executive Search companies deliver a good service, but each has its own approach. At Kurt Schindler, each consultant has his own sensibility and expresses it within the framework of our in-house methodology. We try to create an image of the candidate that goes farther than measurable and verifiable facts and includes more subtle aspects such as emotional intelligence and social competence. To do this, we can also use a variety of evaluation tools ranging from standardised tests to full assessments. Our strength is that all our consultants come from line functions and thus have extensive business knowledge as well as expertise in HR. Also that we are able to deliver our services in many different languages, an ability is of considerable importance in a country as internationally oriented as Switzerland. This international aspect of our activities is further enhanced by our participation in AIMS International, the world’s largest Executive Search network, founded 1992 and with partners in over 50 countries. As a founding member of AIMS International, Kurt Schindler has been able to participate extensively in the network’s development from the beginning. Finally, our 4 national branches enable us to give good coverage also in Switzerland.

With globalisation, international business relationships tend to become more and more important. Which are the main challenges one faces when having international contacts?

Switzerland has its own particular culture. We used to think that we were better than others at dealing with different cultures, but this is only partly true. When one works with a global or transnational company, one is confronted with a wide variety of different cultures, which means our consultants have to be specially flexible and have good analytical skills. Thanks to our network, we are able to use local teams, be it in China, the UK or Hungary, but teams who share the values and methodology of all AIMS partners and are thus able to deliver superior quality.

What do you think is the most important challenge small and medium companies will face in the near future? How can you help them?

The biggest challenge is globalisation. More and more companies open branches in other countries and would like to use a Swiss recruiter with local contacts for their executive searches, like for example, when seeking a plant manger in Hungary. In such a case, the local AIMS partner will initiate the search and report to the Swiss consultant in charge. These local contacts are of crucial importance: thanks to the AIMS network, Kurt Schindler can count on reliable partners everywhere in the world, people we know personally from our many international meetings and learning sessions. All this allows us to act quickly and efficiently, but in a personalised way and finally, to find the required executives within the given time frame.

Article published in « LEADERWirtschaft » – September 2007 – Interview Selina Backes, translation by Grégoire Depeursinge

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Jean Frey Article: Interview in LEADERWirtschaft