September 16

Episode 52: Peek Behind the Curtain of Executive Search with Jeff Beacham


In this week’s episode, Mike and guest Jeff Beacham discuss the recruiting process at the executive level. Jeff teaches us what it is like as a headhunter for clients seeking leadership roles and explains the differences between recruiting non-executive versus executive positions.

Jeff Beacham’s Biography

Jeff Beacham is the founder of Authentica Resourcing LTD, an executive search firm based in Birmingham, England. Jeff is an executive recruiter with over 22 years of experience and specializes in leadership roles.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…

  • The difference between the types of recruiters
  • How recruiting actually works and how companies choose which type of recruiter they use
  • How recruiters specialize within different industry niches
  • Why retained recruiters have to know the companies they do work for well
  • Why recruiters need to know the market value of an individual 
  • Why and how recruiters keep in touch with industry trends
  • Why personality fit is so important when recruiting for executive positions
  • How to entice an individual away from their current company
  • How world events can make it harder for recruiters to find top tier talent
  • How timing and life circumstances affect recruiting
  • The importance of authenticity for both clients and candidates
  • How to build up trust with a candidate
  • How gratitude can help us start the day off right


  • “Typically the best candidates are usually already in work and you have to go out and identify and then almost persuade them to consider whatever it is the opportunity we’ve got for our client.” —Jeff Beacham
  • “The consultant has to get under the skin of the client, you know, because to convince a candidate whose, you know, working permanently for another organization and is usually well looked after, paid well, they may be on a progression path already with the current business, and they may well have some very long tenure with that business so they are going to need a fairly compelling proposition to consider moving to another business.” —Jeff Beacham
  • “My role as a retained headhunter or search consultant is to understand the client’s business, not just the remit that we’re recruiting for, but the culture of that business.” —Jeff Beacham
  • “Authenticity for me is everything. It’s the foundation on everything else that my business stands for and as an individual I show up as me every day.” —Jeff Beacham
  • “I’ve just started to look at life you know really with a different lens and I guess this happens to most people as they get a little bit older, um, you start to look at what’s important in life and you know we’re not here for very long are we? So we have to, you know, make the most of the time that’s given to us and try and prioritize things that are going to be meaningful, going to add value to us and the people around us.” —Jeff Beacham
  • “From a client and candidate perspective, I’m really grateful, you know, that I get the opportunity to talk to, you know, some really clever individuals— senior leaders, whether they’re clients or candidates.” —Jeff Beacham

Links & Resources Mentioned…

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Read The Transcript

Episode #52

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to The Get Unstuck & On Target Podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders, and we are business coaches with an HR background who love helping owners grow their business because they've solved their tough planning, process, and people problems. In this podcast, we're talking with experts to get their insights on ways to help you or your business get unstuck. Joining me today is Jeff Beacham. Jeff is the founder of Authentica Resourcing. An executive search firm based in Birmingham, England. Today, we're going to peek behind the curtain of executive search. Welcome Jeff. 

Jeff Beacham: Hello, Mike, thank you very much for having me on your podcast. 

Mike O'Neill: I'm sitting here listening to your accent. We are I'm based in the United States and I'm speaking to, Jeff, who is in Birmingham, England, and he didn't know this, and this is total coincidence, but my last guest, was Brandon Wilson. He is the CEO of a company based in Birmingham, Alabama. So we've got back to back Birmingham podcast, but Jeff, I've been looking forward to this conversation because, as someone who's been an HR, as long as I have, I've got a pretty good idea of how recruiters do what they do. But a lot of folks might not really know how executive recruiting works. So as a means of kind of getting us started, Jeff, what kind of got you into being a recruiter? 

Jeff Beacham: Do you know, that's a really good question, Mike. And I think, like a lot of recruiters, I, it wasn't something that I planned for, almost 22 years ago. I'd been working in, telesales, in business to business advertising, for about two and a half years. And, I just felt that I needed something that was a little bit more, impactful and, rewarding for me, you know, selling advertising was, you know, is pretty lame as a, as a career I thought at the time. And I wanted something that was going to give me a lot more satisfaction. So, I decided to stop doing that and, I had an opportunity to interview with a small recruitment agency, that my wife used to work at incidentally. So I knew the directors fairly well. And at the time when I wanted to leave my sales role, there happened to be an opening for a trainee recruiter, with this firm. So it was really through, you know, my wife's connection that I got talking to the directors and before I knew it, I was quickly interviewed and on board and you know, nearly 22 years later on, I'm still recruiting. So yeah, I sort of stumbled into recruitment rather than, rather than making it a career choice. 

Mike O'Neill: Well, I found myself doing the exact same thing. I stumbled into HR, but something about it, it kind of gets in your blood and stays in your blood. Jeff, let's talk about recruiting. Because when I use the term executive recruiter, which is how I described you. I know that there's different types of recruiters out there. And in my HR days, I would work with firms that kind of fell into two different groups, contingency recruiters, and retained recruiters. There may be other variants of that, but, can you define those two? What is a contingency based recruiter? 

Jeff Beacham: Yeah, that's another great question. Particularly for people that, you know, may not be from an HR backgrounds or from the recruitment sector. So yeah, typically there are contingent recruiters and what we would class as retained recruiters. So I'm a retained headhunter or search consultant, and, and only specialize in leadership roles from lower level management to MD level. So we've retained we're working on an exclusive basis. The client only works with me for the duration of that assignment, but we're talking about contingent here for the moment. So when a, a company has a, a hiring need. The, the contingent model is where the hiring company or organization would utilize, you know, more than one recruiter to fulfill, that particular vacancy. So they might put it out to two recruiters. It might be 4, 6, 8, 10, and the recruiters would work on that role all at the same time. Well, pretty much on a no win, no fee basis. So it's, it's typically, you know, first past the post and whoever, presents the candidate that subsequently gets offered the role. That's the recruiter that would then bill the client, for placing that person in the business. So, you know, it's, it's quite a speedy, method of recruiting. And I actually spent the first 11 to 12 years of my recruitment career within the contingent a rena before then, moving into, into retained recruitment. And there are, there are, you know, pros and cons for both methodologies. Typically the lower level roles, would be handled by a contingent recruiter. Whereas the mid to senior level, executive roles, director level roles and management roles. It's a different skill set to find and attract and get those sort of candidates over the line. And, and quite often the roles are more business critical or can be. So businesses would invest in a retained search, which is where they would partner with the chosen head hunter or search consultant to go out to market and find them the exact talent that they need for that specific role. You know, and quite often, for example, if it's the managing director, or an operations director, sales director, any of those senior level roles within an organization? There is really no room for error. So the organizations would partner with a, with a head hunter that has experience within that market. My market is manufacturing and engineering can capital equipment. But the methodology is different with, with a contingent recruiter. Those sort of organizations would typically utilize job boards, online databases and online advertising to generate candidates. Whereas a head hunter or retained search consultant would, utilize their own network, that's been, you know, typically built up over many, many years. And I, direct approach to named individuals within specific market sectors and sometimes competitive businesses. So there's a lot of market mapping and candidate identification. In a retained search. So it really is a, you know, you sort of look under all the stones. What we're trying to do is to identify the best possible talent for the client, as opposed to with the contingent model sometimes you end up with the best available talent, because typically the candidates that would come via contingent approach would be people that are actively on the job market. You know, responding to job adverts or putting their CV on lots of different databases. And you can get some really good candidates through that method. But typically, you know, the, the, the best candidates are usually already in work and you have to go out and identify them and then, you know, almost persuade them to consider whatever it is the opportunity you've got with your client. So that they're two very, very separate models. One works on a, no win no fin basis and the retained search is some of the money upfront. And then some stage payments throughout the, the duration of that assignment. 

Mike O'Neill: We kind of described this segment as a peek behind the curtain. And so we're going to do a little bit more peaking here behind the retained search curtain. You point out something that was very interesting, Jeff, and that is if a company engages you, you already have shared that the niche or niches that you tend to focus on or manufacturing, engineering, automation and that if they engage you, they're tapping into your vast network of relationships that you've built over two plus decades. And the thing that you said is that you may be presenting a candidate that may actually not be actively on the market. And when you are presenting a candidate who was not actively on the market, it would seem to me that you would need to know your client very well to describe not only the opportunity, but the company that you are recruiting for. Is that for them to even consider what you're describing, they've got to learn through you about that. Is that a pretty accurate description of how you might, would start a conversation with someone about an opportunity that you've been hired to go fill? 

Jeff Beacham: Yes, it is. And you're right. There's a lot of, trust that has to be built up, first of all, for an organization to part with some of the fee upfront. So, you know, they've got to be really sure that the, the consultant that they partner with not only has been in the industry for, for long enough to know what a good candidate looks like, but they also need to have, you know, good insights as to, you know, what the market value is of a certain individual. You know, the current trends and what's happening in the, in the market. But also, The consultant has to get under the skin of the client, you know, because to convince a candidate who's, you know, working permanently for another organization, usually well looked after, paid well they may be on a, you know, a progression path already with the current business and they may well have, you know, some very long tenure within that business. So they're going to need a fairly compelling, proposition to consider, you know, moving to another business. So my role is a retained headhunter or search consultant is to, to understand the client's business, not just the remit that we're recruiting for, but the culture of that business. And culture is something that a lot of companies talk about these days, but, but some, you know, they, they just pay lip service to culture, but you know, when it comes to finding top talent, and head hunting people away from an existing role it's really crucial to get the, the personality fit, right. The client company in the candidate, and then identify, you know, what sort of drivers and motivators that candidate have, you know, what are they looking for? What would they consider to be a good move away from what they used to. So, you know, getting that match of company culture versus how that individual likes to operate, what they expect from the business, you know, how they like to be managed. You know, as well as all the usual things like comps and bens, you know, there's, there's a lot more detail of, you know, really intrinsic information that, that needs to be considered on both sides. Whereas the contingent model can sometimes be, cause it's a very speedy solution, generally, and can be candidate driven. It can miss the point a little bit. So, you know, w when, when clients are looking to hire mid to senior people within your organization, you know, it's almost like a one chance to get it right. So the culture aspect of it and getting the right fit for that individual, you're trying to pull it out of another business really is key. And you know, you, you generally have a much better chance of getting that right through having done this sort of process many, many times before and developed an acute sense of what makes a good fit, you know? So, yeah, I think, I think that's, that, that explains it. 

Mike O'Neill: Jeff, we're recording this, on the last day of August. And if you just step back and just look at world events, it's a pretty scary time for many. And for you to go and identify a candidate for your client and give that client an accurate read who the client is the opportunity. It might be that in itself can be hard, but in today's climate, is it even harder because of just the uncertainty in the world right now, are these senior leaders that you are talking to as candidates? Is there more reluctance for them to make a move because of how topsy turvy things are now days? 

Jeff Beacham: Yeah, that's a good, another great question, Mike. And, something that really resonates with me because when, one of the, one of the real senior searches I conducted, last year was for a managing director. And one of the concerns that the client organization had at the time, Before going out to search was, you know, with COVID, you know, on, on the rise and, you know, lock downs in place, would it be the right time to go to market? You know, they, they had some real concerns over whether candidates would be, you know, ready to, to move in in those circumstances, there was so much uncertainty, you know, this was this was before the vaccines were, were rolled out. Of course. So, you know, nobody knew quite how long it was going to take for us to get to where we are today. And we're still not through, through the woods yet with, with COVID, but, but last year it was even worse. So, there was a lot of doubts in, in quite a few clients' minds actually, as to whether the timing was right, but, you know, individual business circumstances will dictate whether. They hire now, or whether they shelve that and hire in three to six months time. Luckily there was an interim in place from, within the business with this particular role. So it wasn't so much of a burning platform. But what I found was, through the, the duration of the search was that most of the senior level candidates that I was head hunting and talking to for the right opportunity, COVID, wasn't really a factor. It was more about, you know, well, what would this opportunity offer me? Does it match, you know, where I might need to take my career moving forward? Does it match my circumstances right now? And I think most senior level people, if they've, if they've got it in their minds, that they've maybe hit a ceiling where they are, or they, you know, they just want a bigger or a fresh challenge. I think global events can, they do factor in to the equation at some point, but I think, it's more important and this is the feedback I've had from, from the candidates is that, you know, if a jobs right, it's right. You know, sometimes the timing's never right. So do you wait or do you, you know, grasp that opportunity, that's going to get you to the next level or get you, you know, increased responsibility. So I, you know, in my experience over the last sort of 12 months, I don't think certainly COVID has had as much of an impact, on candidates being head hunted out of businesses, because generally they're either, they've either got a reason to look for a move or not, and it depends on how compelling the opportunity is, you know, so, yeah, it's, it's, it's been tough. Some people have been in two minds. But I think there's, there's been as many cases of people that, you know, maybe have been in the middle of a, a really important remit that they want to see through, you know, right to the end, rather than have to hand that over to somebody else. And I think COVID has just been playing along in the background there, but I haven't seen it as a a major factor, certainly in stopping people from, you know, deciding on whether now is a good time to move or not. 

Mike O'Neill: It's very interesting to hear. Jeff, as I'm listening to you, one of the words that kind of comes to my mind is trust, and that is for a company to engage you. They're paying you at least a portion of your fee upfront, which requires considerable trust. When you are reaching out on behalf of that client too candidates, you have to establish a sense of trust with those candidates. And almost go in hand in hand is the idea of authenticity. How important is authenticity to this?

Jeff Beacham: Well, I think it's, it's absolutely intrinsic. I mean, okay I called my business authentic or resourcing. I was looking for something that was going to be something a little bit different, but also played to my, my own values. And, you know, I think authenticity, whether you're a client or a candidate. It's really key that you, you know, you, you understand and get to know and trust the recruiter that's, you know, either got your career or your next hire, in their hands. So authenticity for me is, is, is everything, you know, it's the foundation on everything else that, that my business, stands for. And, you know, as an individual, I show up as me every day, Not how someone else would have me be, or, you know, I don't attempt to be a clone of, of, of someone else, you know, I'm happy in my own skin and I've got strong self-belief. And authenticity really does, make it easier to build up a level of trust with a senior level client and senior level candidates, you know, because pretentious people get found out very quickly. I, I've known some, I've worked with some, we all, we all know these types of people. And I think if, you know, as, as a professional in business, you know, if you're going to put your career or your next hire in the hands of a recruiter, you want to know that they are, you know, they, they have your best interests at heart. And it's not just about, winning a fee. And, and for me, it never has been about that in nearly 22 years, you know, for me, you know, recruitment has almost been about doing the right thing and, you know, I do that through, through listening and through understanding, you know, my client's challenges and what they're trying to achieve. And then from the candidates perspective, you know, the, the authenticity must shine through in everything that I do. So, you know, I, I work harder, you know, listening to candidates with empathy, you know, trying to understand. Where they've come from in their career, what they're trying to achieve. Sometimes some of them are in really difficult circumstances. You know, they, they might have been through a tough, organizational restructure that was unplanned. They might've been made redundant. Some candidates might be going through some family issues, you know, some personal challenges and particularly at the moment with, you know, the pandemic and other things that are going on around the world. You know, there are other circumstances that can factor in to the way a candidate or client actually thinks and behaves. So I think having an open transparent working relationship with all parties is key. You know, that that level of trust is, is absolutely crucial to a successful outcome. 

Mike O'Neill: You know, Jeff, we've talked about the importance of trust and we've talked about how authenticity factors in to that. You use the word core values a little while ago. Jeff and I are part of a community. It's a worldwide community. In which leaders, literally from all over the world, come together to be supportive of each other. And one of the recurring themes in this community is this notion of gratitude. Now, gratitude might sound like a real touchy feely topic, but as you and I have gotten to know each other through this community, we've begun to understand it in new ways. What is it about gratitude that helps define you? Helps define how you choose to do business? 

Jeff Beacham: Yeah, that's a great question, Mike. And, yeah, the, the gratitude journey that I've been on has more recently, been through a number of, online and interactive gratitude challenges, with our friend, Kevin Monroe. But it's something that I've been looking at over the last five or six years, following some, some personal challenges I'd gone through at the time. And you know, I just started to look at life. You know, really with a different lens. So I guess this, this happens to most people as they get a little bit older, you start to look at what's important, in life. And you know, we're not here for very long, are we, you know, so we have to, you know, make the most of the time that's given to us and try and prioritize, things that are going to be meaningful. They're gonna add value to us and the people around us. So from a, from a business point of view, with authentic resourcing, you know I do start every day with a pause, to, to think about what I'm, what I'm grateful for, you know, in, in business and in life in general, because what I find is that it sets me up for, you know, a positive day, you know, when in big, in business we have challenges whatever those may be, whether the reminder change or, or a catastrophe. Sometimes it's, it's easy to focus on the negative element of the situation, but by, by having gratitude and expressing gratitude for the good things that we have and, and the, the things that we, that make us happy and that we're fortunate to have, you know, generally puts me in a real positive frame of mind, straight from the off. And, you know, almost gives me a bit of a safety net during the day, because inevitably there are going to be some challenges. Most people have different challenges throughout the working day. And, you know, with gratitude, I, I can sort of get by and get through a really challenging day. Just having those thoughts in the back of my mind that there are so many things in my life and in my business, that I, that I'm grateful for, you know, 5 10, 20 years ago. It was just a case of, well, if things go well, they go well. And if they don't, you're going to have a pretty bad day, but with gratitude on my side. It's almost like looking, looking through it a different lens at, you know, each day, really. So it does play a, you know, a big part in my, in my life, but also in my work. And I suppose from a, from a, a client and candidate perspective, you know, I, I'm really grateful that, you know, I get the opportunity to talk to, you know, some really clever individuals, you know, senior leaders, whether they're clients or candidates, you know, every conversation that I have gives, it's a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about how these leaders actually do what they do. How have they developed some progress? How are they adding value to their organizations? And it gives me the opportunity to learn more about the market. You know, my chosen sectors that I recruit for. And, you know, every conversation is it's also part of the life learning experience, you know, and I've also built up some very, very, strong friendships, with clients and candidates over the years at the same time as building my network. So, you know, there's, there's just so many things to be grateful for, you know, within a normal business day. 

Mike O'Neill: Yeah. I really appreciate you sharing what you just shared. We said that we're going to be peaking behind the curtain. What we're seeing is what kind of drives you. You mentioned. By starting your day with that mindset, it might help get through that day, in keeping with the theme of this podcast. I know that the nature of your work is one in which you encounter folks who've gotten stuck. Can you share maybe an example where, maybe a client or a candidate was stuck and what did it take to get unstuck? 

Jeff Beacham: That's interesting. Thanks for, thanks for putting me on the spot with that one. Yeah. So, let's let's see. I've got, yeah, I've got a number of, examples, I suppose, the take a candidate example. So earlier, earlier this year, I was, I was speaking to a candidate who was, was undecided in which way he wanted to take his career. He'd been on the, on the permanent job market for some time. And due to the, you know, the pandemic, the right sort of senior level opportunities were few and far between. And this individual, had sort of, kept himself going for, for months and months with some ad hoc consultancy work. So he had some, some money coming in whilst he was, you know, on the permanent job search, but it, it got to a stage where he was, you know, getting a little bit, disheartened by the, you know, the lack of senior level opportunities. So he was considering whether to, you know, grit his teeth and carry on with that permanent job search or, you know, maybe should he consider, you know, working for himself on a, on a full time, permanent basis, you know, in, in business consultancy. So he was stuck. He was at a bit of a crossroads. And this, I have to say w wasn't a, an individual that was in process for an opportunity I had at the time. There was no sort of commercial benefit in, in what I did or suggested to this individual other than. You know, I'd gotten to know him over a period of time. We, you know, developed a great rapport and, you know, grew that sort of level of trust. And I really wanted to try and help this individual in his next move, you know, and if I couldn't help him into the ideal permanent role, I wanted to see if I could try and help him out in his decision-making. So what I actually did, I, I did a couple of mentoring sessions with him online and through the one to ones that we had I utilized, you know, some deep listening and generative listening skills to, to draw out of this individual, you know, what were the things that meant the most to him? And we sort of discussed the, the pros and cons of, you know, going back into corporate world in a permanent role and the advantages, of, of, you know, self-employment in a consultancy perspective. So I asked him a whole range of open questions and the net result was, I drew out of him, enough information that he was able to make his decision based on things that he already knew. So providing that space for him to reflect on, you know, where he'd been, what his circumstances were and what his likes and dislikes were. And then posing few scenarios to him. He was able to come up with the, the right decision from within. And that was a really wonderful thing to, to see, you know, all I did was sort of hold that space for him and coax out, you know, some of the options and it was a great experience, you know, he was very grateful to me for taking that time to, to listen and to understand and just really give him the nudge in the right direction that he may well have taken in a, in a few months time, I think he just expedited. Where he was always going to end up really. So there's one scenario of, of, helping a candidate, you know, get unstuck, I think on the client side, that's a really interesting one because it, you know, if any client is coming to me to, to head hunt in individual for them, clearly they're stuck there and they're normally stuck for, you know, a number of different reasons. You know, they, they may need to recruit in a hurry, covertly, because there's some sensitivity around, you know, the, the hiring need. They might need some, you know, some additional, capability from outside their organization that they, they just haven't got within the business. They might need some advice on, you know, what the markets, trends are, what the, you know, the, indicative, remuneration packages are? There's so many different areas where clients are stuck. And generally, you know, if they, if they haven't got the resource inside the business, they have to go outside of the organization and, and tap into expert knowledge. So it's something that I do want to, you know, on a sort of daily, weekly basis. There are so many, examples. I think one of the, you know, the, the role that we spoke about earlier, the client who had the reservations about, you know, needing to go to market, during lockdown, and this was a business that had, recruited themselves, and had a replacement for the, for the previous incumbent who altogether working out who suddenly decided to leave. So they, you know, there in a space of 18 months, they had two people in this role. So if they went to market and got it wrong, they would have had a third incumbent within 18 months to two years. And then if it went wrong, they were then looking at a fourth incumbent in the same role within a two year period. So, you know, this is where my experience of the market, came into play, utilizing my network. And knowledge of their specific industry and the contacts that I had to bring a very quick search process, to ahead with an individual that was able to not just hit the ground running, but be able to, you know, look at the team, bringing everybody together and then grow the business as the overall business strategy dictated. So there's always a challenge. There's always a client that's stuck. And it could be that every search assignment is a bespoke challenge, you know, so we have to come up with a bespoke solution for each client. So that's what keeps me interested in, in, in executive search. They're always business critical and they're always urgent. And the client, you know, need a solution like yesterday, but they need somebody they can depend on and trust. 

Mike O'Neill: Jeff we promised at the outset that what we're going to do is peek behind the curtain of executive recruitment. But what you've allowed us to do is peek behind the curtain to learn more about you and how you go about doing what you do. It's very clear to me how is differentiated from others who do the same thing. I cannot believe we're about out of time, but I want to make sure before we wrap up here, if folks want to reach out to you, what's the best way for them to connect. 

Jeff Beacham: Thank you, Mike. Yes, via my LinkedIn profile. My individual profile or the Authentic Resourcing website on the contact page has full details. And they can reach me on www.authenticresources. 

Mike O'Neill: Excellent. We will include both the website, email address and your LinkedIn profile link in the show notes. So folks can look forward to clicking that and reaching out to you. You know, Jeff, you made the comment about the remarkable people you come in contact with and doing the work that you do, that's one of the biggest things I've enjoyed about, hosting a podcast. I get a chance to spend time with folks like you. To get a perspective, to learn that really the way head hunting is done in the UK. It's really not that much different than the US and that we have quickly become, we're all one. And in terms of what kind of ties us together, I just want to say thank you for your availability. I want to thank you for being who you are and how you go about doing business. I appreciate you spending time with us today. 

Jeff Beacham: Mike, I'm very grateful to, to be a guest on your podcast. It's been an absolute pleasure.

Mike O'Neill: Well, I'm glad I also want to thank our listeners for joining us for this episode of Get Unstuck & On Target. Every Thursday, we upload the latest episode to all the major platforms. So if you haven't already please subscribe. You know, life really is too short to let business keep you up at night. So if you've been listening to my conversation with Jeff and you're realizing that something's keeping your business stuck, let's talk. You can go to our website, to schedule a quick call. And so I want thank you for joining us, and I hope you have picked up on. That help you Get Unstuck & On Target. Until next time.

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