I’ll be completely transparent: prior to joining Lucas Group, I was a bit skeptical about executive search. The few executive recruiters who had approached me for senior positions in the past knew very little about my industry, fashion and retail, and lacked the deep expertise to build cohesive teams. They were “head hunters” focused on the bottom line and cared little about a company’s vision or how to build synergistic teams. Since joining Lucas Group, however, I’ve seen a new side of recruiting dedicated to people, product and process. I’ve witnessed first-hand how highly specialized executive recruiters leverage their extensive contact base and deep industry experience to bring top talent to the table who would otherwise never consider an offer.

The Perfect Match: Building Teams & Partnerships

Specialized executive recruiters do more than just “fill a position”– we consider how a candidate can meet a client’s future needs and how that client will support a candidate’s professional trajectory. Recently, I worked with a multi-billion dollar design holdings company searching for a new Design Director to elevate their lifestyle denim brand. I connected the President of the Contemporary Sportswear Division (mid-tier) with an exceptional candidate who worked for an aspirational/luxury denim brand. I knew the candidate might be a “reach” for my client. I also knew the candidate might not be satisfied working for a non-luxury brand.

My challenge: helping both the client and candidate see the value they brought to one another. Working with the company’s president, we created a new role, “Creative Concept Director”, that the candidate was thrilled to accept. In this role, the candidate will maximize her ability to forecast key design trends and the client benefits from a very skilled “aspirational” denim designer, elevating the brand.

An industry-insider-turned-recruiter does more than just source hard-to-find talent. This recruiter works behind the scenes to assuage concerns, craft a perfect offer, and bring everyone to the table. If you are considering working with a recruiter to fill a talent gap at your organization, selecting the right recruiter makes all the difference. Keep the following in mind:

  1. Experience and connections. Many recruiters like to boast about their “big networks”, but network size is just part of the puzzle. An equally important component is network depth. How long has the recruiter known these industry contacts and how have they worked together in the past? I’m lucky to have worked with talent at the top of their game as well as talent that’s just starting out. I’ve served as Chief Merchandising Officer, SVP of Merchandising and VP of Design and Merchandising. I’ve also mentored students from YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund and currently serve as a portfolio critic for Kent State University. I stay in touch with my former coworkers and the graduates I’ve mentored, which makes it easier for me to bring this talent to the table.
  2. Comfort and confidence. If an executive recruiter called you out of the blue about a job, how would you respond? Part of this response hinges on whether you take the executive recruiter seriously. Does this executive recruiter have the LinkedIn profile and professional experience to back up his or her work as a key executive in the industry? Recruiters know if they want to tap the highest caliber candidates, it’s not just about the network; the recruiter’s professional background matters, too. I’ve led all functions within the design, merchandising and marketing industry. Candidates frequently tell me they call me back even if they “never work with recruiters” because they feel confident that I understand what they do and are comfortable with me supporting their future career growth.
  3. Candidate quality. Hiring managers may not realize that recruiters might speak with 50+ candidates but only present the very best three. I have been on both the candidate and client side in the fashion industry. I know exactly what a client needs and only deliver the perfect match. People are a company’s greatest asset in the creative world and there’s much subjectivity that goes into building a strong team. Finding that cohesion and synergy can be tough, and this is where industry experience really makes a difference. Working in tandem with a client to craft a team is an amazing partnership. I know the team we create will be comprised of the best talent and uniquely positioned to drive the company’s future success.

Have you worked with a specialized recruiter to source talent for fashion or merchandising jobs? I invite you to share your experience in the comments below or contact me directly: HBrick@lucasgroup.com