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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Right People For the Job

A long list of names lurks on the desktop of Luc Jones' computer -- some will no doubt be considered too boring, others too insincere, or perhaps lacking in worldly experience.

Jones' job is to scan the database to find the right match for his clients, relying on a wish list as a guide.

As matchmaker for companies seeking to fill their top-ranking positions, Jones has to plan a strategy that defies the cultural tendency to stick with the familiar -- a distant cousin, a friend of a friend -- even if it means forgoing talent.

As Russian companies seek to compete with multinational companies who have long been using such services, Jones, and others in the field, have been reaping the benefits.

"As the market becomes more sophisticated, companies realize that they actually need an experienced specialist rather than just a friend who they trust," he said.

The Antal International partner readily points to the phenomenon that seems to steer more and more business his way: "The market is growing much more quickly than candidates are developing."

Jones, 33, was a teenager when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power, and he said he remembers watching as Russia was gradually portrayed in a more positive light in the British media. In his undergraduate studies, he took up Russian language, and economics, fascinated by the "mystery wrapped in an enigma" quality that ranks high on the list of reasons many other Westerners plant themselves on Russian soil.

"I've always been interested in international business," he said. With Russia in particular, though, the driving force was -- simply put -- curiosity, he said, adding that he often wondered: "Why is this country closed? What are they hiding from us?"

After earning his bachelor's degree in economics and Russian/Soviet studies at the University of Portsmouth a little over a decade ago, the Cambridgeshire, England, native, who grew up in Tavistock in Devon, taught English in Moscow as he developed his Russian language skills.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Keeping up with the news and understanding the markets is vital, says Luc Jones.
He spent about a year teaching before applying for a job as sales executive for International Trade and Exhibitions Group, and not long after, was organizing its Moscow motor show. His main selling point as he lured companies eastward: the vehicles would sell for more in Russia.

He was promoted to become ITE's Moscow project manager, coming up with new shows, but when the 1998 crisis hit, ITE wanted him to return to their London offices. Through the expat community, he met various company executives, including from Antal. He had seen the agency's advertisements, so when they offered him a job in their Polish office, he accepted. He didn't speak any Polish and he said he knew nothing about recruitment, but the company assured him that with his background in marketing, and his ability to survive Moscow, he would do fine. He spent two years in Warsaw, becoming sector manager, and after returning to Moscow in 2002 he was tapped to become partner.

Now, he is advising companies on whom they should hire to make their key decisions. He bristles at the title "headhunter," saying it conjures up images of an aggressive pursuit that he does not consider to be an accurate picture of what the job entails. He stresses the phrase "direct search" and the word "recruitment."

"Luc is very well known throughout the market," said Tremayne Elson, managing partner at Antal. "He's a good ambassador for our business. He's a whirlwind of energy and he can work a room like no one else that I know. He's a dynamo."

Jones said succeeding in the recruiting game required a combination of energy, drive and common sense.

"I would say having a good knowledge of the markets is important," he added. "Read the Financial Times so when you go see a customer, or a potential customer, you know what is going on."

For foreigners looking for a job in Russia, there are a few things necessary for getting hired: "You've got to speak Russian and you've got to be in Russia at the time," Jones said.

Jones' former colleague Nick Rees, now commercial director of another recruitment firm, Staffwell, criticized Antal for using the same employees for both sales and search, rather than having some consultants focus solely on searching, and others on sales.

Still, he added, "Luc is a brilliant salesman."