Executive search firms face greater obstacles in Turkey than in other European countries. This is the assessment of Fatih Algan, Managing Partner at Ageo International, executive search firm and InterSearch member based in Istanbul. As a country struggling with economic crises and a high inflation rate, Turkey is not an easy place for high-quality and high-priced executive searches. Customers here still rely on traditional recruiting with a success fee model. Retainer models are not as established and there is often a lack of understanding on the customer side. In the executive search sector, on the other hand, about 75% of all contracts go to global players. Considering the hurdles yet to overcome in the Turkish executive search market, Algan particularly appreciates the international InterSearch network. “The numerous partner companies and strong position in the international market help us explain the quality of our services to clients.” The network also lends legitimacy over competing firms, he finds.
Clients still need to learn the difference between executive search and recruiting
One of the biggest challenges Algan faces in his work as an executive search consultant is the fact that executive search is not as established in Turkey as it is in other countries. “Clients often do not understand the difference between executive search and recruiting and tend to hire traditional recruiting firms when the search would actually be in the right hands with an executive search firm.” This often leads to disappointment when the recruiting firm cannot find quality candidates, he said. “Traditional recruiters often do not ask the right questions because they lack management and industry experience” Algan explains. They are often quite young and rarely have the necessary knowledge to fill middle management and “C-level” positions, he adds. Algan therefore sees it as a task for executive search firms in Turkey to educate their clients about the differences and make clear the benefits of working with experienced executive search consultants within a retainer fee model. “The client’s attitude of always choosing the cheapest solution needs to change” Algan adds.
Respect and age play a role
In addition to the classic qualifications that an executive search consultant should have anywhere in the world – business expertise, negotiation skills, communication skills – other factors also play a role in the Turkish market. “Age is very important in Turkish culture. Customers and candidates might not take a younger recruiter seriously,” Algan says. Experience and a certain gravitas are helpful in recruiting, he adds. “Otherwise, someone might not even agree to an interview in the first place” he explains.
Investing in a good executive search consultant will pay off in the long run
Algan cites the example of a longtime client who wanted to start a winery with an attached cheese dairy in addition to his supply company in the automotive industry. They hired Algan’s company to find a manager for the cheese dairy but withdrew the assignment after a newly hired HR manager wanted to take the search into his own hands. “Six months later, I was on the phone with this client again because the newly hired head of the cheese dairy had embezzled funds and caused over half a million Euros in damages to the company. In the end, I found a manager for him who is successful leading the company to this day” Algan recalls. Of course, this is a rather extreme example, but it clearly shows that investing in a good executive search consultant pays off in the long run.
Companies and executive search consultants need to be proactive in finding and retaining talent
Finding qualified candidates in Turkey is no more difficult than in other countries, Algan finds. With Istanbul as a business hub with a population of 15 million, he says the candidates are there, but it has become more difficult to convince them to switch. “Since the pandemic, very few want to leave their comfort zone. And if they do, they are asking for significantly higher salaries. Where a 15-20% raises used to be the norm when switching, 30% is now expected.” Algan explains that it is imperative for both executive search firms and their clients to be proactive in finding talent. As an executive search consultant, he says, one of the most important components of the services provided is finding and contacting the very candidates who are not even thinking about changing their jobs. “We need to show what sets us apart from traditional recruiting firms; what additional value we provide through our profound, in-depth assessment of candidates” Algan says.” On the corporate side, initiative must be taken before positions become vacant. “Through appropriate trainee programs and “talent pipelines”, our clients need to continuously procure new talent.” Even in times of increasing digitalization, when recruiting also makes use of tools and algorithms, Algan continues to see executive search as a “face-to-face” business: “After the pandemic, people will realize that purely digital recruiting is not sustainable.”