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Stephen Spielberg’s Address Book

Updated: Jun 1

Imagine you are out for an evening stroll in Pacific Palisades and, lying under some shrubs near the sidewalk, you see a leather-bound filofax, almost hidden from view.  You pick it up and, with rising astonishment and excitement, realise that it belongs to Stephen Spielberg.   It contains his calendar, to do lists and his address book, listing hundreds of his contacts in Hollywood.   Could this be your ticket to fame and fortune?

The legendary marketing guru Seth Godin used to ask, “If you stole Steven Spielberg’s address book, would it help you get a movie made?”.  His answer was, of course, ‘no’.   His point was that even if you had the phone numbers and names of all Spielberg’s contacts, calling them up wasn’t likely to get you very far in making a movie.  The data has no value without his experience, trust and connection.

These days, all the address books have been stolen: LinkedIn has given everyone access to all the people.  Anyone with a LinkedIn account can now easily identifying which people are in any job function, company or sector.   So, in theory, everyone can be a headhunter.

Ten years ago, the barriers to entry to set up an Executive Search firm were very high: you needed a proprietary knowledge base of the market you wanted to headhunt into, as well as a robust research process to help you to identify potential candidates, with highly trained and experienced telephone researchers.   Nowadays, though, everyone has the knowledge base. You can hire a new graduate to mine names from LinkedIn: they simply do a keyword search, identify 100 people currently doing that job, then call them all to see if they would consider a move. Hopefully six or seven will say yes, and there is your short list.   So, in recent years, hiring firms have been tempted to use agencies offering ‘Retingent Search’, or even to do their own in-house ‘search’.

But, in practice, as Richard Bandler used to say, ‘The Map is not the Territory’.   Hiring the right candidate relies on much more than just calling a list of names harvested from LinkedIn.  Without trust and connection, many people will not accept the call in the first place.   You still need a robust process to evaluate candidate suitability and fit;  the experience to know what good looks like, and relationships with senior contacts willing to give honest confidential references.

Just as with Stephen Spielberg’s address book, the data in LinkedIn is worthless without experience, trust and connection.

Which is why we are confident that there will still be a market for our proprietary Best-Fit Search™ process for the foreseeable future.


Last edited 22nd December 2020


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