Managing relocation of talent

Being head hunted can be an exciting experience but the reality is that the opportunity will almost never be on your doorstep. Here, Sean Ridley analyses the approach to managing the relocation of your talent. 

Having studied and worked in various locations both in the UK and abroad, reference to ‘home’ has always been a fluid notion to me. At each step along the way, I have grown very fond of the then present locality – fond enough to happily call it home at the time, but during my professional career in particular, I have not fully settled until now.

I live in Brighton on the south coast of England, and twelve months following my arrival I have no intentions to move again. It’s a place that sucks you in, intrigues you, entertains, questions your morals and then spits you back out a more wholesome person.

To support a lavish lifestyle a block away from the beach, I spend the working week managing talent pools in the pharmaceutical industry. As an International Head Hunter I provide my clients the right candidates for any given role.

The candidate – your talent

There are two types of candidate: the one whose technical abilities and experiences match up to the job requirements; and the one whose personal situation would allow for relocation. This is the challenge that each job provides me: finding those who are both types, and it’s never as easy as you might think.

“…imagine being approached by a complete stranger over the phone and have it suggested to you that your career would take a much improved trajectory if you upped and left tomorrow.”

For any given job, locating where the talent is likely to be found is the starting point. Establishing contact is next, building rapport thereafter. Selling the opportunity to that individual is crucial, but the master obstacle – the crux of my work – is convincing that person it’s worth leaving what they have and what they know.

I only occasionally deal with candidates who are actively searching for work themselves. Clients don’t need my services when they’re receiving direct applications. I target successful employees, high achievers and those who are fully enjoying their work. This combination represents the type of profile most desired by the client.

In this scenario, these people only act opportunistically. And only if it’s a really good sell. The job itself must be the perfect position for career development and then the key factor – location.

Home is home

Home means a lot to most people. It’s where you grew up and still live, or where you have bought a house, or where you have fallen in love. Whatever the reason, home is home for at least one really important reason. So imagine being approached by a complete stranger over the phone and have it suggested to you that your career would take a much improved trajectory if you upped and left tomorrow.

“One key factor is the ability to listen, and not just talk…. This is central to managing the talent…”


Managing that situation is difficult and easily done poorly.

One key factor is the ability to listen, and not just talk. To a lot of recruiters, the job too often is about the quick sell, the manipulative monologue, a numbers game or simply the money. Prompt yourself to speculate what you would think of your own questions and what emotions they would invoke. This is central to managing the talent you have done so well to track down in the first place.

Take Basel as an example

Basel, Switzerland is the drug development hub of Europe – home to the Headquarters of Novartis and Roche, as well as a plethora of other pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Therefore, much of the time I am suggesting people should move there. It’s a beautiful city, picturesque, clean, conveniently located at the borders of France and Germany, multicultural and thriving. An easy decision it seems.

Figure 1: Basel – a lovely city but would you give up your home to move here?

Except it’s far more complicated than that. I ask myself all the time: Brighton to Basel –would I do it? I love Brighton and you would find my passion for the city overwhelming if you had the chance to quiz me in person. I challenge anybody to try it one day – but here’s where I come across the problem of managing my candidates. Almost everyone feels like this about their own home town.

Do your research and be prepared

However, there are ways to overcome this loyalty. The trick is firstly to know your stuff. Read up about the location of your client, visit them, experience it for yourself. Find out what’s good, what’s not so good (and keep it to yourself) and what is a unanimous selling point. Then build that rapport, talk openly and honestly, listen to what matters to that person. This could be over one phone call, but likely over many. If there’s a reference to a hobby, do some research and determine how it could be fulfilled in the job destination. Such simple thought processes, but so often overlooked.

The most common hurdle to encounter is that of children. Often spouses’ jobs are flexible, but relocating children is far more delicate. It’s here where your ability to empathise is most required. If you’re without kids, like me, one must accept that nothing else is more important, and that you must abide by this thinking. Only then will you be able to continue the negotiations.

“…control is the Holy Grail of recruitment…”


It’s vital to apply common sense at this stage. Toddlers who don’t yet have a grasp on their native language will not have any trouble doubling their learning exploits; however, teenagers with upcoming exams will undoubtedly be unimpressed with a proposal to move schools and countries – that is if the parent even chooses to take discussions that far. So the moral is to be realistic about the family situation and gauge the candidate’s desire and drive to proceed with an application before looking into client-sponsored relocation support for the family.

This aspect of relocation – practical and financial support from the client – will likely be pivotal in maintaining control over the candidate. Ultimately, control is the Holy Grail of recruitment and it should be sought after from the very first approach. Good control of the entire process will allow successful management of your talent when the prospect of relocation is broached.


About the author:

Sean is a GMC (UK) registered Doctor who has paused his medical career to pursue other ambitions. Currently he is applying himself within the recruitment industry on behalf of the pharmaceutical search firm Stelfox. In his spare time, he enjoys travel and tennis.

He can be found on LinkedIn here.

What advice can you offer on successful relocation of talent?