The Executive Gatekeeper

Posted on November 13, 2013

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Renu Arora says she knows within the first 10 minutes of the interview whether or not the candidate will make it to her shortlist. After a decade in executive recruitment, she is now on track to becoming partner at global search firm Heidrick and Struggles (H&S). When referred to as a headhunter, she says that her work is not just about recruitment, but also strategic planning. After all, it’s not easy identifying the best in the business and placing them in the region’s Fortune 500 companies. —REENA KARIM

What are the skills required in your line of work?
Patience and tolerance. Our job is all about multitasking, and we have to be on top of everything. We need to constantly learn in our business and develop ourselves. I am an avid reader and learner. So I try to get involved in Toastmasters [nonprofit organisation for development in communication and leadership skills]. I enrol in e-courses on relationship building and on understanding financial statements because it helps to know the lingo when we are speaking to finance directors and CEOs.

Tell us about the talent pool in Thailand.
A lot of Thai companies are expanding globally, and they are looking for people who will think beyond Thailand. The Thai talent pool is not ready for that. They are good at marketing but lack strategic thinking. Thai education doesn’t prepare them for it. Thai people are not mobile either. They are too comfortable here, close to their family. Thai-Indians are the most mobile and aggressive in terms of career progression. Earlier, it was not common to see them in high positions. But now many Indians hold managing director positions in multinational organisations.

How do you choose a candidate?
It is important for me to think  of what the candidate thinks beyond his/her role. That is something that makes or breaks it for me. I have been in this profession for so long that within the first 10 minutes I can tell if the person is going to be a part of my shortlist or not—how visionary are they, how strong are they on their strategy, how involved have they been, the initiatives that they have been a part of and have driven themselves.

What do you think about banker Mervyn Davies’ statement that headhunters should bring more women into the boardroom?
In part of our discussion, many companies do state their preference in gender. We are asked to bring in more men than women. In Indonesia, they want us to hire more women. For those who ask for men, I understand where the client is coming from. You need a balance in your team. You need a balanced view. We do push for more women. We do what is available in the market. In Thailand, for example, the finance talent is predominately women.

How can women prepare to take on more challenging roles and top positions?
Communicate that you want to do it. Women sometimes don’t do that. They are not very forthcoming; they believe that if [they] work hard enough, people will take notice. It doesn’t work that way. The reason men are so successful is because they communicate what they want. Women should do that, too. If you want more challenging roles and responsibilities, step up and ask for it.

Featured in Masala magazine, October 2013

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Posted in: People