The fact that Drew Railton, managing partner at Caldwell Partners, calls his career choice an accident imbues his success as an executive job search agent with an exquisite sense of irony. “I didn’t even realize that recruiting was a career option,” he said. “I just fell into it.”
In fact, he was recruited into it. Twelve years ago, after turning down a job with Telus, he was convinced by another recruiter to join a boutique Calgary firm. After learning the ropes, he jumped to a larger firm; then, nine years ago, he joined Caldwell, Canada’s largest executive job search provider.
Caldwell boasts a huge list of corporate clients around the world, mostly executive boards and CEOs who are looking to find a very specific skill set, experience base and personality for senior executive positions.
“We look for very particular qualities,” said Railton. “We look for people with, for example, 20 specific experiences and a certain set of attributes. Then we pitch to them and convince them to move to where the new job is.”
For Railton, the key to working successfully with clients is trust. And the honesty, he said, goes both ways. “Most of our clients aren’t necessarily sharing their frustrations with their outgoing CEO. But they’ll share it all with us.”
That honesty is critical, insisted Railton, who said he often has a better idea of what his clients need than the clients themselves. “We have a really impressive track record of finding that needle in a haystack.”
There are times, said Railton, when after hearing everything clients have to say about their particular situation, he can provide them with someone who not only meets those requirements, “but also has some other attributes that satisfy things that they haven’t even thought of.”
Providing that kind of extra service has earned Railton the type of seniority that usually only comes after many years in the business. “This is not a business that traditionally has a lot of youthful leaders. I was the youngest partner when I joined, and I’m still the youngest partner today.”