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“Hunting” for company managers


Posted by Ngoc Thuy Nguyen

over 1 year ago

In order to find a qualified candidate for a bank’s senior executive position, a headhunter might have to spend years.


Ms. Ngo Thi Ngoc Lan, Regional Director at Navigos Search – a mid and high-level human resource consultancy – recalls how she was assigned a difficult first job right after starting the headhunting career a decade ago.

The client wanted to find a business manager for an FDI enterprise. The candidate must be fluent in English and Japanese while working in Hai Duong province. After hundreds of calls to applicants, one qualified candidate accepted the opportunity to escape her previous boring job. However, the next obstacle appeared as the candidate’s husband did not agree to let his wife commute tens of kilometers every day, despite there being a company bus. Ms. Lan even had to persuade the candidate’s family members for the “deal” to succeed.

“It was an unforgettable experience. I had to understand not only the candidate but also their family’s wishes. The only thing I could do is offer the candidate the best job opportunity and provide them with objective analysis so that they can decide for themselves”, Ms. Lan said.

On the other hand, there are cases where the deal is thought to have succeeded before everything turns upside down at the last minute. Ms. Tran Thi Hoan, a senior manager with many years of recruitment experience in the manufacturing industry, still remembers the headhunting job for a foreign project in Thanh Hoa. The candidate quickly accepted the offer as he wanted to return to his hometown.

“However, when the offer confirmation came, the candidate said that he had a girlfriend in Hai Duong with whom he had very strong feelings and couldn’t leave behind. The situation made both of them become aware of their feelings for each other and decide to get married and stay in Hai Duong.” Ms. Hoan said that even though the job failed, she still feels happy whenever she recalls this story.

Executive headhunting is still relatively new in Vietnam.

Finding suitable candidates for senior positions are hard enough, looking for people to fill the highest executive seats such as chief executive officer or plant director is even more difficult as these people are often very reluctant to share information. According to Ms. Lan, one of the most important requirement for a headhunter is to understand the candidate’s job, their needs and to gain their trust.

Therefore, for managerial positions, a headhunter often has to spend 2-3 months to find a candidate and close the “deal”. While for executive positions, it sometimes takes 2-3 times as long. Ms. Lan used to spend almost a whole year to find a CEO for a company or a Deputy general director for a bank.

However, there are also cases where the successful candidate quits after only a short while. A few years ago, Ms. Lan was tasked with finding an executive for a bank at a salary of tens of thousands of USD each month. Due to strict requirements from the employer, it took her very long to look for candidates from overseas via video and phone calls. However, the chosen applicant left only a short while after coming to Vietnam due to cultural and professional differences. Executive headhunting requires patience and prudence in ensuring client confidentiality. Experienced headhunters say that not many people can stick with this career.

There is currently no headhunting school in Vietnam. Therefore, headhunters come from different backgrounds with diverse experiences.

“Headhunting does not require you to have a degree in human resources or business, but to have various professional and life experiences. Only then can you advise someone else on their career path”, a consultancy’s senior manager said.

Besides, this expert also said that mid and high-level headhunters must not fear failure as some jobs might take a whole year and go through hundreds of candidates.

Ms. Van Le started her headhunting career 9 years ago. At the age of 30, she was assigned the task of looking for candidates and clients, understanding the clients’ needs and connect them with suitable applicants. However, during her probation months, she couldn’t match any candidate with any employer. Despite pressure from the management, she asked for an extended probation period due to her love for this job.

Two months later, she managed to persuade a candidate to join a tourist company as a manager after setting up interviews for nearly 100 other applicants. Yet, the parties couldn’t agree on a compensation package and the “deal” failed. This time, Van’s supervisor asked her to choose between resignation and demotion to a lower position with much lower salary. Faced with the possibility of having to give up her passion, she accepted the demotion and continued to pursue this career.

After only 3 months, Van successfully found 3 directors for a foreign company in Vietnam. She is proud to be able to help clients find people who can make real impacts and to have received compliments from the client company’s CEO. She is currently one of the senior managers in the high-level headhunting industry specializing in the FMCG segment.

Source: Doanh Nhan Saigon (