WEAK AT THE TOP: 'Headhunters are people who fail the ethical exames required to become estate agents'

I've turned down a 'competitive package' from a headhunter, but now she wants Denby. He's not the marketing sort.

by Guy Browning
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013


Got in late due to being a victim of HLD (Habitual Lateness Disorder).

As a victim of HLD, it's actually my right to be as late as possible.

In fact, people insisting on punctuality would be discriminating against me and reducing diversity in the workplace. Spent the morning ignoring demands for urgent meetings about business emergencies and personal crises.

My view is that if you've really got an emergency, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a meeting. Got a call from a headhunter, which I took not because I feel the need for a new job (God knows where I'd find another jamfest like the current one) but because I happen to know that she's an absolute fox. Volunteered for an in-depth psychometric profiling session over dinner but she didn't go for it. She's a tough nut, but I'll crack her.


Malcolm Denby dropped by my office for an informal meeting, which is more extraordinary than it sounds. He's IT Director and finds interacting with anything other than a USB port traumatic. I try to avoid meetings at the best of times, but Denby is the motivational equivalent of general anaesthetic. In general, I find that IT people have the social effect of a neutron bomb. When they say something, buildings remain standing but everyone inside dies. I said I'd take him out to lunch principally so I could get two bottles of red between me and him. He said he only had an hour for his lunch break. I suppose more than an hour for these IT guys and they start missing their computer.


Got in late due to Compulsive Hangover Syndrome. Saw Denby arrive in the car park and some kind of Korean sports coupe, which I swear was called an Enema. He joked that it was his new car for pulling babes in. I didn't want to point out that the engine in his 'sports' car couldn't pull the skin off a rice pudding. Got another call from the headhunter saying she was desperate to fill this job, which she promised had a competitive package.

Headhunters are people who fail the ethical exams required to become estate agents, so I was naturally a bit dubious. Turned out the package was competitive in the same way that the Italian army was competitive. I said I could help her go through some CVs over a bottle of champagne or three but she wouldn't have it.


Lunch with Denby, which I was dreading. Denby announced that he had something important to say. That would be a first, I thought. When Denby speaks, people crash and find themselves frozen solid, totally unable to function.

I ran through the shocking and important things he could say. 'Our systems were all running smoothly' was a good bet. But then he announced he wanted to leave IT and join marketing. If he had said he was undergoing gender realignment I would have been less shocked and a lot less worried. I immediately started telling him how important IT was and what a waste of time marketing was. He agreed, which was a bit annoying, but he said there was a lot more totty in marketing. I couldn't fault his logic there. Called headhunter later and said I had a candidate for her but she'd need to have dinner with me to clinch it.


Board meeting. We were just discussing how to bury our results in some dodgy accounting when Denby burst into the room. There was a shocked silence, because he seemed to be wearing a one-piece black boiler suit. He'd also had his thick glasses surgically removed and looked like a new-born rat.

He announced that he was packing in IT and becoming a marketeer. Eight heads swivelled in my direction. I swivelled in his direction and Denby said he was joining a red-hot company as its marketing director with a very competitive package. We finished the meeting very happy. Bill Peters volunteered to take over the IT function, Sir Marcus told him he would then not be doing two jobs and I made a quick call to book a quiet little restaurant for me and my own competitive little package.


Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Mike Ashley: Does it matter if the public hates you right now?

The Sports Direct founder’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has drawn criticism, but in the...

4 films to keep you sane during the coronavirus lockdown

Cirrus CEO Simon Hayward shares some choices to put things in perspective.

Pandemic ends public love affair with Richard Branson et al

Opinion: The larger-than-life corporate mavericks who rose to prominence in the 80s and 90s suddenly...

The Squiggly Career: How to be a chief strengths spotter

When leading remotely, it's more important than ever to make sure your people spend their...

"Blind CVs don't improve your access to talent"

Opinion: If you want to hire socially mobile go-getters, you need to know the context...

The highs and lows of being a super-achiever

Pay it Forward podcast: techUK boss Jacqueline de Rojas and Google UK's marketing strategy and...