Meet The Consultant... With Matilda Beckett

For our next 'Meet The Consultant' spotlight blog we speak with Matilda Beckett, a Consultant and Head of Research at Hanson Search. As a Consultant, she specialises in the Public Affairs and Policy team, as well as supporting consultants across all areas of the market. She also manages our research team. Matilda has supported on a range of roles, including several senior hires, while building strong candidate and client relationships.

How did you get into Executive Search?

Having finished university during the first lockdown in April 2020, I, like many others, had plans to go travelling around Australia and New Zealand before coming back and looking for a job in London. When that didn’t happen, I found a job as a teaching assistant in a London day school as I wanted to keep busy and assumed schools would stay open if there was another lockdown.

When travelling ideas didn’t go to plan a second time, I started looking for roles within public affairs. I didn’t intend to go into executive search, however I applied to Hanson Search because I was really interested in their breadth of work. Throughout the interview process I spoke with various members of the team and gained a greater understanding of their work. I was really excited by the opportunity to work across a wide range of sectors, rather than just focussing on public affairs as initially planned.

Can you tell us a little about your current role?

Currently I am a Consultant in our Public Affairs team and Head of the Research function. As a consultant I focus on public affairs roles at the mid-level both agency and in-house, across a broad range of sectors.

Initially I supported the Consultants/Senior team on briefs in every sector we operate in, but as someone who has always had a passion for politics and public affairs, I knew I wanted to work for that team. In addition, I became involved with training across the business, along with supporting more junior members of the team, which resulted in me becoming Head of Research. This involves supporting and managing the researchers and helping to allocate workloads efficiently across the business.

What talent challenges/trends in the public affairs industry are you currently seeing?

The biggest trend I see day to day is the desire to move in-house. Candidates’ natural response when I speak to them is ‘I want to move in-house and am not really looking to move to another agency.’  However, upon further conversations some – by no means all – end up being open to an agency role if it has an interesting scope for growth, a diverse client base, opportunity to work in a new area, and if the role has more responsibility.

As the war on talent continues, what techniques have you seen businesses operating in public affairs industry use to attract and retain talent?

Particularly at the mid-level, I have seen businesses effectively utilise their more junior/mid-level team members. In practice this provides potential candidates with an accurate reflection of what the day-to-day life in the role will entail. It also gives candidates the chance to meet the people that they will be working alongside, rather than just the senior figures of the business. I think this shows great foresight by senior teams and/or leadership, aware that some of the best people to showcase the business and the role, are those actually doing it. It also gives more junior team members an insight into decision making within an organisation and can help to cement an interest in management positions earlier.

What one piece of advice would you give to public affairs hirers?

My biggest piece of advice would be to do at least one round of interviews face to face where possible. Post covid it’s far easier and more acceptable to arrange a virtual interview - allowing initial conversations to happen more quickly, which is always beneficial in a candidate short market. However, looking forward I think it’s important to remember that the best way to encourage a potential candidate’s interest is for them to meet the people they will be working with, and also experience the wider team/office/culture.

How can companies within public affairs benefit from working with a recruiter for their talent hiring process? 

By its nature public affairs work exists in many forms – civil service, policy analysts, parliamentary assistants, agency work, in-house public affairs teams (to name just a few) – so working with a recruiter can help provide perspective on the strengths and skillsets of different candidates who could fit into a team. This helps to employ talent that may be beyond what was initially wanted and will therefore develop a team that will provide differing outlooks when advising clients on political strategy across sectors.

Where do you recommend candidates look for opportunities in light of a potential economic downturn – inhouse v agency?

By the nature of political work and more broadly public affairs, issues surrounding politics will always exist during any economic climates. I would say there is no one size fits all when making a change. Both agency and in-house roles have their benefits, so making sure that the move is the right one for you and what you are looking for is arguably more important than the type of organisation you join. Agency roles are known to provide a strong skill set that can be utilised effectively in future roles, but they won’t suit everyone.

Posted on 15.02.2023

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