John McCullough is Head of Executive Search and Selection at KPMG. He started out with IDA Ireland, before being headhunted into recruitment. He has been working with KPMG for the past 21 years.
Ireland is fortunate in that we probably punch above our weight in terms of the senior opportunities available here at the moment, relative to much of the rest of Europe. It means that we are consistently busy, and given that so much of this market is about reputation, that’s got to be a good thing.
There are a good number of well-qualified, senior people out there with very strong track records. What matters is getting the right ‘fit’, and that demands an understanding of what the client is looking to achieve, their culture and what a prospective client may or may not bring to the equation.
It’s essentially about very high quality matchmaking.
Experience is probably the most undervalued quality, as for the really top positions the right candidate can occasionally take a little bit of time, and judgement comes into play about getting the right fit. That isn’t always apparent on paper – in other words, resumes clearly don’t or can’t tell the full picture. Thankfully, clients are clear that getting it right is what matters and we tend to get it right no matter what the challenge.
At a senior level, advancement is definitely the key candidate priority at
present. For board-level candidates, they are often looking at the top job and
for those just below a position on the leadership team is typically a core
Reputation is everything. We have a good number of clients who’ve been with us a long time, and given that this is definitely not annuity business that’s very motivating. Technology has changed the dynamic in the business in many ways but there’s still no substitute for great contacts and, above all, judgement as to what will work and what won’t. I enjoy every minute of it and securing the right person for the role is hugely motivating.