BCKR Events – Stephen Bampfylde – The Headhunter’s Perspective
On September 11th Stephen Bampfylde gave us the headhunter’s perspective on lawyers seeking board positions. Stephen co-founded Saxton Bampfylde, a leading recruitment consultancy specialising in the charity and not for profit sector. For 27 years he has been involved in the recruitment to senior positions across all sectors and in this meeting gave members a valuable insight into the NED world.
Stephen’s opening comments – without wanting to be too blunt – confirmed what we all already know – that lawyers are not attractive to nominating committees because of the following all to familiar misconceptions;
Lawyers have no management skills.
Lawyers are fantastic at advice but not good at making decisions.
Lawyers are used to high salaries and are often put-off by the relatively meagre wages paid by charitable organisations
Stephen suggests using the three ‘Ls’ detailed below when embarking on your search for NED roles:
Learnings: Know your skill-set which might be in property, trusts, infrastructure
Locality: Before deciding to sell your house and retire to the country – consider your local area for job opportunities. In depth knoweldge of your geographical area and use of its services can be a significant benefit. Approach your local hospital, arts centre or school.
Loves: Spend some time thinking about what you would have loved to do had you not been a lawyer. This is your chance to explore. Follow your passions.
He would not recommend pursuing FTSE 100 board positions as they are looking very specifically for general management and financial skills sets. FTSE 350 companies can be much more interesting and you are more likely to be successful gaining a position there.
How to best approach your first foray into the NED world?
Anything that shows that you have taken steps into the NED world – even on a small local basis – will work in your favour. This goes back to locality – schools, hospitals, art centres and universities etc.
It is best to launch yourself into the arena much earlier in your career – which for a time-stretched law firm partners is obviously a challenge.
How can you make in-roads into an arts organisation?
Generally arts organisations don’t advertise. It is very often who they know and the disadvantage of that is that they tend to get more of what they already have.
Don’t be shy about approaching these organisations directly. You would be surprised how few people offer their help this way and how grateful most organisations would be for the offer. After all you offer fantastic value for money.
How do you stand-out when applying for roles with a headhunter and how do you get in to their data-base?
When you write to a headhunter you will get coded by interests and by skill sets
Make sure you are very clear – early on in your covering letter – what you want to do and what you can do. Headhunters have to read every application so the first paragraphs need to say it all.
Use key words that link your wants and abilities as this will affect how you are coded in their data-base.