Fabulous Finex!

Finex 2010 was a financing mining exploration conference held at the Royal Geological Society in London. It was organised under the chairmanship of Dr. Bob Foster of Stratex, who set the tone early with an upbeat and good humoured introduction which was replicated throughout the two day conference.

The great and the good were all there with academics, eminent brokers, economists and financiers presenting a collectively rounded programme which occupied all topics eloquently, objectively and completely. The rules disallowed blatant promoting (there were a range of sponsors and a small fee for entry), which further enhanced the speaking standard.

There were many cautionary tales and success stories from commodities to jurisdictions – Bob and his team deserve the highest praise for putting together a great conference. By the way, the mining schools were on hand with undergraduate exploration geologists looking for summer placements, feel free to respond to this with a comment if you are interested or get in touch with the schools direct.

Check out the “who’s who” of speakers:

  • Dr Adrian Boyce – Manager, NERC Isotope Community Support Facility, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre
  • Bill Scotting – Exec VP, Head of Strategy, ArcelorMittal
  • Dr Bob Foster – CEO, Stratex International plc
  • Cedric Chehab – Head of Commodities Research & Strategy, Business Monitor International
  • Charles Gibson – Sector Head, Mining Research, Edison Investment Research Ltd
  • Charles Kernot – Director, Metals & Mining, Evolution Securities Ltd
  • Dr Charlie Moon – Programme Leader, MSc Mining Geology, Camborne School of Mines
  • Chris Watling – CEO & Chief Markets Strategist, Longview Economics
  • Dr Chris Hinde – Editorial Director, Mining Journal, Aspermont UK
  • Christopher Hall – Mining Consultant, Grant Thornton
  • Claire Dorrian – Senior Manager, Product Management, AIM
  • Dr Clive Hallett – Principal, CRT Minerals; Project Manager, MIRO (Minerals Industry Research Organization)g
  • Dr Duncan Large – Consulting Geologist
  • Fergus Anckorn – Technical Director, AMEC Earth and Environmental (UK) Ltd
  • Gabriel Didham – MD, Objective Capital Research Ltd
  • Graham Brown – Group Head, Geoscience & Exploration, Anglo American
  • Dr Hazel Pritchard – Director, Exploration & Resources BSc, Cardiff University
  • Hugo de Salis – Principal, St Brides Media & Finance Ltd
  • Prof. John Ludden – Director, British Geological Survey
  • John Meyer – Head of Resources, Fairfax ISL plc
  • Prof. Laurence Robb – Univ. Oxford; Director, Savannah Gold Ltd
  • Liv Carroll – Senior Business Analyst, Gemcom Software International Inc.
  • Michael Lynch-Bell – Partner, Global Mining & Metals, Ernst & Young
  • Prof. Neil Phillips – Univ. Melbourne; Phillipsgold Pty Ltd (SIR JULIUS WERNHER MEMORIAL LECTURE)
  • Nigel Jackson – Chairman, CBI Minerals Group
  • Paul Dewison– Research Manager, Bloomsbury Mineral Economics
  • Phillip Crowson – Hon. Prof., Univ. Dundee; former Director, London Metal Exchange
  • Richard Chase – Managing Director, Ambrian Partners
  • Roger Goodwin – President & Group Finance Director, Griffin Mining Ltd
  • Dr Sacha Backes – Investment Officer, Oil, Gas, Mining, & Chemicals, International Finance Corporation
  • Dr Stephen Henley – Deputy Chairman, PERC (Pan-European Reserves & Resources Reporting Committee); MD, Resources Computing International Ltd
  • Tanya Costello – Associate Director, Control Risks
  • Dr Tim Williams – Director, Global Mining and Metals, Ernst & Young

Context for a great recruiting process

The company must recognise that the recruitment process is a partnership with the head-hunter and opening a shop window to the company; therefore:

1. Be clear internally on what attributes are essential – but be open minded as to the rest, you will be surprised what options may present themselves as a result

2. The company should consider its reputation for professionalism (whether that be current or aspirational) which it will be communicating by its choices and actions in structuring the process, therefore:

· Carefully consider its choice of recruitment partner (and be prepared to be assessed by them for ‘fit’); with this in mind, be informed by them as to what your ‘needs’ might be, as distinct from your stated ‘wants

· Strongly consider awarding exclusivity to a single recruitment partner for senior roles to ensure there is no unseemly behaviour in a rush for results. No everyone in the sector is an angel

· It is critical that trust is established from the start and maintained with all parties. Information should be shared with clarity but with consideration to legal and moral confidentiality

· Carefully consider what steps are appropriate and necessary for a full and incisive process including interviewers, interview stages and manner of assessment. Remember economy of effort – there is no merit in prolonging for the sake of it, if you feel inclined to do so, it may be that you need to examine weak points in the process

· Ensure that there are no conflicts of interest i.e. incumbents or managers who may favour a choice incompatible with the company’s goals

· Interviewers should be trained – your recruitment partner will normally provide this service gratis

· Conduct interviews brilliantly

· All measurements, tests, techniques and interviewers should be appropriate to the level of candidate to be interviewed and the role to be interviewed for

· Be clear in writing what interview expenses will be covered by the company and ensure that this is circulated to each candidate

3. There should be a clearly identified client lead (they must be empowered and motivated to make decisions) to deal with the head-hunter, preferably the recruiting manager

4. The company should consider clarity and openness to be key reputation management issues. It should therefore:

· Clearly definite process timescales; make best efforts to keep to them; let all process stakeholders know as soon as it is clear that it is not possible to keep to them. Clearly define the process, filtering tools, measurements and feedback; let people know what they are committing to

· Have some clearly stated skills and behavioural attributes which you are seeking and share them with your candidates so they know what you are looking for and can provide appropriate evidence – guessing and surprises are for children’s birthday parties

· Be scrupulously and conspicuously fair

5. It is always useful to have an administrator, like a PA, as an administrative liaison for interview slots etc, with access to all the client interviewers’ diaries – and the mandate to commit the time!

6. Unsuccessful candidates should have feedback given to them verbally by an individual of appropriate seniority and involvement to discuss in detail – that may be a commercial manager or recruitment partner

7. Always thank a candidate for investing their time

8. Don’t relax when an offer has been made; consider and cover off: buy-backs from current employers; alternative offers a candidate has received; remember to induct properly and consistently with the recruitment process, ensuring that your senior new starter has appropriate communications, IT, office equipment and briefing without having to ask

9. There should always be follow ups as part of the recruitment process to at least six months after the start date by the company and its recruitment partner to resolve teething issues

People for projects? A bespoke solution

If you are an individual with access to an excellent project or commercial opportunity, perhaps we can help. For several months, we have been looking at project ideas in their infancy, sometimes even with only one individual driving the establishment of the business.

We have contacts all over the world which we indeed use typically to fill conventional search assignments. However, for such projects we are very happy to work with a project initiating individual or team to ‘wrap around’ a balanced board and senior management (when the timing is appropriate) which will be able to assess and promote a project. We will behave as a people partner to the new business in return for equity in the start up business. This is on a success only basis, there is no obligation for either a consultation or our assistance unless specially agreed in writing. If you have a project and are seeking to find the people and funding to go with it, please get in touch privately, we may well be able to help. Likewise, if you would like to privately suggest any refinements or other complementary ideas, please let us know.

If you have an interest in this as an idea as a topic of discussion, we welcome your comments on this page.

Interviewing for board recruiters

Before

  1. Make sure your process, attributes and filters are appropriate to the level you are recruiting for. They reflect directly on you
  2. Define your interview process up front and let people know what they are committing to. Keep to this and the timescales you set out
  3. Have some clearly stated skills and behavioural attributes which you are seeking and share them with your candidates before you interview them so they know what you are looking for – surprises are for children’s parties
  4. Be clear on what are essential attributes, but be open on the rest, you will be surprised what options evolve as a result
  5. Communicate the dress code, even for video conference

During

  1. Have your essential requirements documented simply and clearly. Be clear on what are essentials or deal-breakers, but be open on the rest, you will be surprised what options evolve as a result
  2. Try to put candidates at ease, you will find out much more; show respect and be polite; never interrupt or argue
  3. Remember that interviewing is not natural for either side and nerves can affect anyone, no matter how senior
  4. Prepare carefully. Try to interview at a time of day when you feel at your best and ensure that you have had a chance to take a rest from the day job beforehand. You must not seem rushed or exhausted
  5. Avoid using negative words. Practise talking in a positive way
  6. Smile occasionally and appropriately (even if you are only on the phone) – it makes a huge difference
  7. If you are on a video conference, when speaking, look into the camera (make sure you know where it is!) and glance occasionally at your audience for your cues – it is much more engaging to attempt eye contact. Gesture and move normally, as long as you don’t move around in the frame excessively – animation is good. Think about your background (visually) and ensure there is no background noise. Remember mechanical noises particularly are amplified by AV equipment
  8. Don’t use ‘in house’ or cliquey language or jokes – it excludes outsiders
  9. Try to avoid referring to money face to face as it is an emotive subject, particularly for the candidate. Use you recruitment agency referrer as an intermediary if there is one
  10. Always respect information shared in confidence, confidentiality agreements and implied confidentiality
  11. Work within the laws of the relevant jurisdiction(s), keep records as required and anticipate the need for visas etc. including evidencing for compliance purposes
  12. It is critically important to RESERVE JUDGEMENT and properly evidence any opinions you develop
  13. Everyone thinks they are body language experts – they are often wrong, so don’t over-interpret, be positive and upbeat throughout
  14. Give clear, positive feedback to candidates who have flattered you by committing to the process, it is good for your reputation (even if they are not right for you, you can show appreciation for their skills). Refer to ‘good points’ and clarification or ‘improvement points’ rather than negatives.
  15. You are choosing a senior employee – they are seeking a mandate in the job, ensure that you establish these as being categorically mutually beneficial
  16. Remember that candidates who do not get the job will be either advocates or critics – make sure you influence that outcome in your favour, it is a small world and a smaller sector

Using agencies or head-hunters – to search or not to search….?

When choosing a recruitment company, it is a good idea to consider carefully what you want from the relationship and choose a recruitment company to suit your circumstances.

Agencies

Clients (companies seeking to hire) often tend to work with contingent agencies when filling mid- or low-level positions.  Agencies generally rely heavily on their ability to generically process in advance a large number of candidates and therefore concentrate on mainstream roles to template the processing effort.  They seldom work on an exclusive basis, therefore it is not rare for a client to work with a large number of contingent recruiters on the same assignment at the same time, in order to maximise the volume of candidates’ (job seekers’) CVs they receive.  Contingent agencies do not get paid until the placement is made, and thus the cost and risk of conducting the search is shifted almost entirely to the agency or agencies.  Moreover, contingent agencies often work with clients on a lower percentage fee basis relative to retained search firms, as they are mitigating their risk by swiftly filtering (often solely using their IT systems) a large number of pre-screened candidates.  Agencies typically have a scarcity of people to fill roles (which are often relatively high turnover) and therefore operate in a ‘candidate driven’ market and consequently try where possible to use an advertised or ‘Selection’ methodology to attract candidates and to increase their brand reputation and recognition.

Agencies or contingent search

A second option (a variation on the first) is to hire one firm and give them an ‘exclusive contingency’ arrangement so that the money is still paid at the end of the search, but there is only one firm working on the search.  This gives the firm the benefit of time to truly focus on quality and the hiring manager is not flooded with CVs.   For more senior non-confidential or mid level roles, a client may start with the contingent search firms for a low-risk look at who is available on the market.  With a role carrying a reputational risk or the need to quickly hire the best possible individuals available, this would often represent an unacceptable compromise on quality and speed.  While contingency search firms offer a service with no money up front, like agencies they will often only work on those assignments that can be executed quickly and do not have the time to focus on high-quality candidates.  This is simply an economic reality.

Executive search

A third option is to pay a firm an engagement fee or commit to a retained assignment.  Retained executive search firms are firms paid on a retainer structure and tend to recruit at a very senior level or where skills are very rarefied.  Almost invariably these firms are exclusive as well and therefore have more resources available to them and also bring a level of professionalism sought by many upper level candidates.  Their corporate brands are less extensively promoted than agencies, as their reputation management is more private and directly with clients, not with potential applicants; this means that they are less eager to advertise roles unless the circumstances require it.  At the retained level, a client would pay an increment to start the search, a payment when candidates are submitted and final payment when the candidate starts.  These are success based milestones and are normally a third of the overall fee in each case.  Fees typically vary from 25% to 50% of the first year’s remuneration package.

Executive search is typically used for filling purely senior roles (it is important that the target audience has some kind of reputation, otherwise the referral mechanism does not work; they also need to be senior enough to be inclined to network internally and externally, for the same reason).  The roles are sometimes confidential by nature, or where there is a difficulty identifying high quality talent in a market crowded by mediocrity, or where there is a scarcity of talent generally.

Search and Selection

Some clients may choose to request a combination of candidate acquisition techniques to include advertising in addition to executive search.  This is most likely when the rationale for applying one method or another is not conclusive, therefore it becomes important to increase the available of candidates using a variety of methods.  ‘Selection’ is another term for advertising roles and sifting the responses into the same talent pool as the search process.  Using both methods increases the workload drastically for the recruitment business, therefore it often carries a financial premium.

Executive search firms

An executive search firm, or head-hunter, is a type of employment company that specialises in recruiting executive (senior) personnel for companies.  True executive search consultants typically have a wide range of personal contacts within the area in question, a detailed specific knowledge of that area, and typically operate at the most senior level.  Executive search professionals are also involved throughout all of the hiring process and beyond, conducting detailed interviews as well as only presenting candidates to clients where they feel the candidate in question will fit into the employment culture of the client.  Retained recruiters work for the organisations who are their clients, not for job candidates seeking employment.  Clients often prefer to work with head-hunter s who have performed in the past for them and by working exclusively and on a committed (retained) basis, the client generally develops a much deeper relationship with the recruiter, and receives a much higher level of service.

Types of executive search firms

There are broadly two different types of retained executive search firms in operation.  Global firms tend to cover numerous different sectors.  Such executive search companies will have many offices all over the world and the consultants will typically be split by which sector they are expert in.  These firms are often publicly listed and may have dozens of offices in major generic business hubs.  Boutique firms tend to be more sector specific.  That is to say that they will cover only one sector and within this sector, they may only look at certain aspects and may have a single office (or very few) whose location is relevant to that sector.

 

Off limits and exclusivity

Search firms generally commit to off-limits agreements.  These agreements prevent a firm from approaching employees of their current clients as candidates for other clients.  Since they act as management consultants working in the best interests of the clients for whom they conduct searches, it would be a conflict of interest to simultaneously remove talented executives from those client companies.  Search firms may decline assignments from certain companies in order to preserve their ability to poach candidates from those companies.  Some large search firms may insist on guarantees of a certain number or monetary value of searches before they will put an entire large company ‘off-limits’.

 

Executive search methodology

Because the client is paying a retainer, the search is highly customised to the client organisation’s needs, with the search professional providing a consultative service throughout the process.  It also recognises that the client also has a responsibility to cooperate closely with the search firm to protect the retainer and ensure that the search firm has a reasonable chance of success.  Executive search firms typically have long-lasting relationships with clients spanning many years, and in such cases the suitability of candidates is paramount.  It is also important that such companies operate with a high level of professionalism.  Retained searches serve client employers rather than job-seeking executives.

Executive search firms often also provide clients not just resumes, with legal market intelligence gleaned from contacts within their clients’ competitors and insightful, consultative information about the market in general.

 

Targeting methodology

Quality oriented search firms work hard at cultivating and continually updating their network of contacts (or ‘sources’).   Some of the best candidate referrals come from people who could be candidates for the job themselves but for any number of reasons are not interested at that particular time.  When a search assignment is awarded the search firm will be ready to start recruiting potential candidates based upon fit with a written or verbal job specification developed in conjunction with the client.   The sources are contacted by a ‘researcher’ and potential job candidates are identified as a result of a recommendation, or a source may put themselves forward as a candidate.  This process establishes an evolving ‘long list’ of perhaps dozens of people.

Another way to identify potential candidates involves search firm ‘research’, which is contacting targeted people in specific companies who appear to fit the job profile in some logical manner.  The better the firm’s network of sources, the smaller the need for more speculative research, which is a hallmark of less specialised search firms.

The job seekers are then qualified and presented in a one off or rolling ‘short list’ (normally four to six people), as previously agreed, to the client by the consultant.  Assessing degree of potential fit of the candidate with the job specification is a key activity for the search firm, since the most common reason a search consultant is engaged by a client company is to save time and effort involved with identifying, qualifying and reviewing potential candidates for specific leadership positions.  Like any specialist, (in comparison to the fees they charge) a good search firm is simply too well connected, staffed and practised to make internal non-specialised recruiters economic.

Job seekers

Job seekers who qualify for senior executive level searches often mistake head-hunters for career transition or outplacement specialists.  They do not actively place out-of-work individuals as, at the top of the pyramid, there are relatively speaking many more quality people than roles (i.e. it is a ‘client driven’ specialism) and therefore economically it would be a show-stopper to spend too much time on individual career consultancy – the client is the company paying the recruiting firm.  It may be worthwhile to contact executive search firms if you qualify, but they are driven by their specific assignments for their clients: they find people for roles, not roles for people.  Executive search consultants can be ‘career makers’ for some individuals, but for most, this will not be the way they will find their next role.

Managing reputations

However, managing a client’s reputation is a critical role for an executive search firm to play and following through on reasonable commitments made to job seekers from long list onwards is important to maintain goodwill for the search firm and for the client.  It is therefore critical that clients consider whether the search firm will enhance or detract from their corporate reputation as they conduct the assignment.  Very aggressive companies will naturally side with search firms and methods with similar hallmarks and so on.

Lunch discussion in House of Commons, UK, 13th October 2009

Lunch discussion in association with Global Rock Exchange, House of Commons, United Kingdom, 13th October 2009

A big thank you to Julian Dawson for hosting a thought provoking lunch at the House of Commons and leading a discussion about the future and structure of junior mining company boards.

A skilled and professional facilitator, Julian invited an open forum debate which identified many questions and concerns amongst corporate officers.

It was of personal interest to hear that despite increased corporate governance, independent directors can still feel isolated amongst their fellow board members. When their experience and views may well prevent strategic or statutory mishaps in the future, it seems a pity we still hear occasionally that these very experienced corporate officers are not used as they were intended. It would be interesting to hear how many Non-Executive Directors think they are fully and correctly utilised.

There is no shame in admitting that the board is not working as a cohesive team. The shame would be in not recognising it and sweeping under the carpet. It is often a relief to introduce a third party to review executive matters.

Julian will no doubt be working with more directors, in the future, to create strength and experience in the content of their board of directors.

Copyright:  Janet Bewsey, jobs4mining.com (published with permission)