‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’

Are you counting the days and hours to the weekend to recharge your batteries, reintroduce yourself to the family, or enjoy a spell of ‘chillaxing’? Don’t feel too guilty, you’ve probably earned it.

But equally you may be unaware that while you are rightly winding down for that well earned weekend break, many executives in the automotive industry are quietly and surreptitiously gearing up for potentially the most arduous part of their own week.

Having burned the candles at both ends for their day job (including all that carry over evening homework) they often have only their Saturdays and Sundays to spend developing their future careers. It’s the only free time they can liberate to look for future advancement or a new challenge, or to respond to that unexpected but confidence-boosting tap on the shoulder from a firm which may want to take them on to fill a senior management role.

And that’s where we, as executive search experts at Ennis & Co, come in. We have to fit around that new reality. The world of work has changed massively in recent years. And responding to that means abandoning the traditional 9 to 5 weekdays culture. In the unrelenting 24/7 lives of 21st century citizens it means working flexibly around the needs of senior executive-level candidates contemplating a new chapter in their careers. It means putting the client first – seven days a week, not five.

Top executives in the automotive industry – whether being headhunted for an exciting new post or simply seeking ’new challenges and opportunities’ after being ‘let go’– are not as a rule available to discuss their future careers during the traditional Monday to Friday timetable.

In the modern ‘always on’ connected world of wi-fi, social media, and never-ending e-mails, there is little time to plan one’s own strategic future. Work-related dinners and functions, extensive business travelling and ‘meetings bloody meetings’ eat up what little time is left. As a result it is often ‘Sunday, bloody Sunday’ or Saturday when the real recruiting work is done.

So when clinking wine-bar glasses ring out on Friday night to mark the start of weekend festivities and recreation for millions of employees, the real work for us is only just beginning. Finding, targeting, screening, and selecting suitable candidates for a top motor industry job does sometimes smack of undercover espionage. There is more than a hint of James Bond cloak-and-dagger subterfuge about the whole thing: discreet phone calls, meetings and interviews at secret locations.

Early Saturday morning or late on Sunday, after the children have gone to bed, are the times favoured by prospective candidates. To the outside world it may appear a bizarre environment. It’s like a dating agency for directors and senior executives. Sometimes you have to accommodate odd requests – my strangest meeting was on deck-chairs on a pop-up sandy Thames-side beach in the heart of London. Hiding in plain sight, they call it.

International posts create an added layer of complexity. It’s not really time-efficient nor cost-effective to go half way around the world for an hour or so’s interview. So new technology in the form of Skype over the internet, can play a useful part.
And trust me, you can still read body language on the screen and get a good idea about whether they are really telling it as it is – even continents apart.

With the debate over Britain’s place in Europe intensifying by the hour – and the ‘in or out’ EU referendum vote just days away, it strikes me that whichever way it goes on Thursday June 23, there will be some very senior political figures looking for ‘new challenges’ on Friday 24th. Could be another busy weekend.