Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 1340-1348)



  1340. Obviously we would be interested if there were something like that.
  (Mr Davidson) So would we!

  1341. You talked earlier on about vested interest in another context. Is there any truth in the supposition that it is in your vested interest or a perverse incentive for you to enhance the status and therefore the salary of these jobs because of the percentage you get for your fees?
  (Mr Davidson) In many cases it is a set fee rather than a percentage. Although percentage fees are used more commonly in the private sector, in the public sector set fees are more common, so an increase in salary would have no impact.

  1342. You have covered it a little bit already but what advice would you give to somebody who wanted to be noticed by you? What are the tricks of the trade?
  (Mr Davidson) One thing is to write in. It is interesting that people in the private sector are much more used to approaching recruiters than in the public sector. That is one thing to do. Another thing, as in any other situation, is to network, get out there, be seen as an enthusiast, non-cynical, positive, optimistic and someone who is keen to change things and do things. That is very easy to do actually.
  (Ms Cawley) One point just adding to that is that we are probably more accessible than many of our competitors in that in our advertisements we give the name of the consultant and the direct line and e-mail. People will reply and say, "I am not interested in that job but I saw your number, can I talk about how I make myself known to you?"

  1343. I was going to ask about that because I thought the whole idea if someone made themselves known to you is they were not good enough to be headhunted. I thought the whole purpose of the exercise is the person who gets headhunted says, "I am too important to apply for a job, these people will come and ask me."
  (Ms Cawley) It may be in the old- fashioned, stereotyped, pin-striped suit, working in the City way, which of course we are all against, but nowadays we are just as keen for people to approach us. Clearly they might not be particularly high-calibre individuals in which case we will be terribly polite and say, "Thank you, we will come back to you if there is anything of interest", and they might never hear from us again. However, we have come across a lot of very high-calibre people through informed contacts and people coming up to us at conferences. We attend dinners and networking events for the professional bodies that we each belong to.

  Kevin Brennan: "Headhunters" is not a very good name for you.


  1344. You had better leave the forms then; I do not need a call! Could I just ask one final thing, we took evidence from the NHS Appointments Commission, which is an innovation because here is the taking of a bit of public appointments out into a separate commission, which seem to be doing innovative and outreaching sort of things. Would it be your sense that it would be a good idea to have such a body to do all public appointments so that they would develop the expertise, they would not be the inert body that you describe the Public Appointments Register as being? From your experience of this area, would that be a way forward?
  (Mr Davidson) Certainly there would be some advantages of greater clarity to the community that is involved in these appointments as to what the processes are and who is involved and who is responsible for what, because as it is perceived it can be unclear in that regard. Certainly by bringing some greater coherence to some of the processes major advantages are very likely.

  1345. Do you do those kind of appointments now? Have you done chairs of health trusts?
  (Mr Davidson) We have done some of those in the past but not recently.

  1346. That is what I was going to ask. Have you lost those because of the arrival of the NHS Appointments Commission?
  (Mr Davidson) No, the NHS has been a much more closed shop to recruitment and has more typically attended to appointments from within itself and has tended to use external agency recruitment far less in the last number of years.

  1347. Absolutely finally, so we do not lose anything you might want to tell us, as we are trying to think our way through any improvements to the public appointments system that might be required, is there anything that you could add to that you have not already said in terms of a recommendation or a suggestion? You have made several along the way very helpfully but I do not want you to leave without extracting everything from you.
  (Mr Davidson) We will have an opportunity to reflect on the questions you asked and to submit some further written evidence, which we will take advantage of doing particularly to reflect further on areas where we might elaborate in a more focused way.

  1348. That is very good and particularly Kevin's suggestion that you might give us research on the correlation between successful public organisations and the use of headhunters—which you could publish if it was to your advantage!
  (Mr Davidson) Or squash it otherwise!

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed for coming along. I think we have had a very interesting session. Thank you very much.

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