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Rick Pernod talks about his work helping companies headhunt the best analytics executives

Executive search (also known as ‘headhunting’) is the process by which companies seek out professionals to make job offers to, rather than put out an ad and wait for candidates to present themselves. Rick Pernod from Pernod Analytics knows all about executive search and has tailored his firm to help his clients acquire the best possible analytics/data science executives for whatever role that is required.

Rick was kind enough to answer some questions about his business and how it performs advanced executive search.

Hi Rick, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what prompted you to work in executive search?

Before I started my career in Executive Search, I taught creative writing at City College, part of the CUNY system.  I also ran an award-winning literary non-profit in NYC called Exoterica for 12 years. I had reached a crossroad and had a curiosity about trying something new. I had family members in the recruiting business, and they thought I might be good in their line of business. I joined a family member’s firm, Hire Options, and I learned the ropes, what it took to be successful in the field.  Then Adecco offered me the lead in perm recruiting in their midtown Manhattan office.

After several successful years, I was recruited by the firm, Twiller Moore, as Managing Director. At my urging, we eventually shifted the focus of the practice to Data Science. I was lucky to have seen the writing on the wall, plus I had studied in a PhD program at Columbia University and had taken a lot of statistics and modelling courses, which helped with my learning curve. The name of the firm was then changed to Pernod Angelus.

Eight years ago, I decided to strike out on my own, hence Pernod Analytics.

When did you decide you wanted to start your own executive search firm (Pernod Analytics)?

My partner and I had a different vision for Pernod Angelus, so I thought it was time to take that vision and bring on the folks that would be eager to turn it into a vibrant executive search practice. I thought it important to become a trusted partner with my clients—lots of value-adds– and to keep abreast of any techniques or tools that would keep us at the top of our game. I am doing better than I ever have, and after 10 years devoted to data science headhunting, I know my stuff and love my job.

Why is headhunting candidates for analytics roles better than putting out ads?

Not to be glib, but the telephone is one of the essential tools that distinguish a headhunter from your average recruiter. Are you picking up the phone and building your network and database and network daily? Do you have the chops to make cold calls, to penetrate a relevant business and discover those passive candidates? We use content marketing, social media marketing and even job postings in some cases, but if that is all your doing, you are not going to be that successful. The search must be customized specifically for each job, especially if you are doing the number of upper-level placements we do. If I had to, with a phone and a good database, I could still run my business with decent success, even if everything else shut down.

What are the unique ways that Pernod Analytics performs an executive search to ensure quality candidates are recruited?

It is especially important to have great communication with the hiring manager. Job descriptions only tell you so much, and they might be templates or old descriptions they just recycle. We must know who we are looking for, so we need to figure out what the tangibles AND intangibles are for the desired candidate. There is a continuous fine-tuning that takes place as you proceed. Then we go on to define a search strategy –we do traditional headhunting, online marketing, “deep search,” referrals, and anything else we can do to find the best candidates to meet the client’s specific needs for the role. Our interview process is extensive for any candidate we are going to submit—we want to detect inconsistencies, check our database for common contacts to get some feedback on the candidate, and identify potential stumbling blocks to the hiring process. We make sure both the client and candidate keep us up to date with anything that might come up that will impede the process. And then we have proven techniques to negotiate packages and close the deal. Seamlessness is the goal. That is the short answer, but you get the idea.

Can you tell us about your new offering, The Hiring Audit?

Absolutely! This is new this month.  We were recently trained in conducting hiring audits, based on recruiting best practices for existing and prospective clients.  It is one more way we can become the trusted partners with clients that I mentioned earlier.  And it builds up tremendous goodwill. So even if the prospective client does not become a client then and there, it builds up your network and paves the way for potential business in the future.

Tell us more, including how much it costs?

It is a structured two-way conversation between Pernod Analytics and a hiring manager, which is comprised of 3 steps: Information Gathering (Diagnostics), Recommendation Sharing (Prescription), and a Leverage & Action Plan.  We ask questions related to Success Practices in making quality hires.  Based on their scores, we can make recommendations about what they can do to improve the speed and effectiveness of their hiring processes and hiring results.

So many times, clients have been actively searching and not able to make that successful hire in a timely and efficient manner. Our pro-bono Hiring Audit is a way for them to get better and faster results, regardless if they subsequently use our services to fill openings.

The Hiring Audit is done by phone or even better, a video call.  It takes from 20-30 minutes for the diagnostic dialogue step, where we are asking questions to convey information related to various aspects of the hiring process.  It is scored by the client, and once we analyze the results, we come back to them with 3-5 recommendations or changes the client can make that will improve their hiring process and get them better hiring results. The conversation is confidential, and they end up with this valuable tool to help them improve their hires.   I have gotten nothing but positive feedback from clients who have done this.

What are some of the traits of the best recruits for analytics roles?

I recently asked two of my clients just this question.  The first, the Head of Analytics for a giant healthcare company, told me she looked for these essential qualities in a data science candidate:

1) a natural love of numbers and statistics (if she was looking for a data engineer, this answer might differ a bit)

2 a spirit for collaboration

3) scrappiness, meaning great stamina in finding solutions, not afraid of failure

4) curiosity, being a learner for life in a field that is constantly expanding.

The other person, a Senior Director of Data Science for a national storage facility service, named his three sought after traits:

1) curiosity, going as far as to say that it is “hopeless” if they don’t possess this trait

2) wisdom, which comes from the experience you get by applying your skills to solving real-world problems

3) an aversion to taking shortcuts, which end up taking more time and money than doing things the right way

You notice that they both are listing things that are not necessarily teachable.

How has COVID changed the way you do business?

Well, business has certainly changed because of the virus.  Adaptability is the answer to that question.  Perhaps your vertical has been hit hard, such as Retail, and you need to expand your focus to include a vertical that has not been hit so hard.  Mindset is also important here.  If you get into the mindset that there are no jobs, no client wants to hear from me, or I won’t be able to last, then that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Develop new clients, check out jobs that are on the boards currently and put those firms on your prospect list.  Those are just two of the more obvious tactics to take. Try not to become overwhelmed. There are future clients out there!

The Stoic philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, stated that “You have power over your mind-not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

The things that are in our control are our thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, and actions. Everything else is outside the reach of our control.  So, for me, I don’t have control over an event like Covid-19, but I do have control over how I react, and I can choose to live in a solution, not becoming obsessed with external “problems.”

When we realize this, we can accept the world around us for what it is and take responsibility for how we respond to it.  It provides us with the strength to adapt, to innovate, to grow.

Thank you Rick for your time!
You can follow up with Rick Pernod at