Recruitment consultant Richard Milsom on the strategies his firm uses to find the leaders of tomorrow.
The construction industry is hungry for change, but it desperately needs to find successors to the likes of Sir Frank Lampl, Sir Neville Simms and Sir Martin Laing.

A new company called Potensis aims to plug that gap by tracking down the leaders of tomorrow.

What exactly is Potensis?

Potensis is part of human resources specialist CDI. It noticed that there was a gap in the market to find candidates for positions between mid-manager and senior manager; on a salary of £40 000-80 000.

What companies is Potensis targeting?

We are looking at firms that are committed to change. Historically in construction, you move from university to site manager to regional manager to managing director. Companies working within that framework will not change at the speed the stock market requires. We want to help them find the dynamic people that can make a difference. Our clients are looking for technical knowledge, such as a civil engineering qualification, but also proven business acumen.

What happens when a firm approaches you to find a manager?

We employ researchers who find out about the client, and the consultant uses that information to set an agenda for the first meeting with the client. The meeting usually lasts an hour or more. We discuss the client's existing business, where it wants to go in the future and what its business strategy is. We then discuss the role and develop a profile of the dream candidate: what qualifications they need; what computer skills they should have; and what they are doing today. We also ask about subjective or "soft" qualities, such as teamwork skills and management style. We top this off by defining what would attract the individual to the recruiting firm.

We put together a report on the company and its strategy, plus a three-page job description. Once the client has checked the description, our researchers start looking for the ideal person.

How do you find candidates?

The researchers identify target organisations, which could be the client's rivals or a company such as Marks & Spencer. They are also looking for business qualifications, such as MBAs.

The researchers produce a list of less than 20 individuals that is sent to the client to check. Anyone unsuitable is crossed off. Then, we approach the individuals in confidence to determine whether they have the basic qualities for the position. Finally, we come up with a list of four candidates for the client to interview.

How do you find out about "soft" skills?

We approach people they work with or for to gain references. We also carry out psychometric testing, which is becoming a popular way of helping to identify the right person for the job.

How do you persuade the chosen candidate to accept the job?

We ask the chosen candidate to do an exercise called "walking down the road". They draw up a description of their current job and a description of the job offered on two sheets of paper. We ask them to talk to a trusted friend or member of the family. They put the two job descriptions on the table for the friend to read but without identifying which is which. The friend is then asked to point to which description offers a new opportunity.

What about those who don't make it?

We inform applicants who are rejected exactly why they were not suitable.

What if it all goes wrong?

If we recruit somebody who leaves the job before a year is up, we refund the total fee. We also offer to find the person's replacement, restarting the process from scratch.

Richard Milsom heads Potensis, tel 01179-250660.