Mark Foster, Director of Strategy Recruitment at Hanson Search, chats with us about trends, skills, and the growing role of the strategist across industries
What drew you to recruitment and specifically strategy recruitment?
I fell into recruitment by accident. I finished university and on meeting a recruiter to discuss career options, they introduced me to the idea of recruitment and I was offered a job working for them.
I was immediately attracted to the role because I thoroughly enjoyed meeting people, finding out their passions and career goals. I loved the idea of getting someone a job and the constant change in my day-to-day.
I worked in marketing recruitment for a while before I really dove into strategy recruitment. I had never heard of McKinsey, Bain or BCG, but when I started to learn about them, I was fascinated by what they were doing. It really impressed me.
When a client comes to you looking for someone who is going to impact the entire future of the business you can't help but be intrigued and excited to work with them.
What attracts a strategy candidate to a company?
It’s just as much about the role as it is about the company. Strategists know what they want to do. They are very intelligent people and before meeting me they generally work in a very secure environment. If they are going to move, they won’t be pushed into a role. They must be ready and it has to be right.
Strategists are all about change, development, and making a difference. There needs to be a desire for change or specific growth within a company or division for a strategist generally to be interested. They need to be able to visualise how they will make an impact.
It is rare that I speak to someone in strategy who wants to work within a team and simply continue along the path that was set for them. They look for roles that will excite and motivate them, offering them a long-term & short-term challenge.
What strategy roles are in high demand?
Strategy as a whole is in high demand across all levels from consultants and analyst through to heads and strategy directors. All types of business, from your global players through to start-ups, are searching for strategy talent. Within a start-up, one of the first things they look for after getting off the ground is bringing in a strategist to help them scale in two, five, ten years.
What strategy skills are in high demand?
When you’re working with strategists, you know that you’re getting someone intelligent with core commercial strategic and analytical ability.
What sets a candidate apart is their EQ. A strategist with emotional intelligence will be able to fit into the commercial business and translate their strategic insights and plans to the wider business audience in a comprehensible way. That’s an increasing valuable quality.
What are the big trends in strategy right now?
The startup and digital world is recruiting heavily in strategy. Fintech is a big growth area for strategists too. Even more traditional companies are starting to look at the way start-ups are leveraging strategists for growth and emulating that.
In ten years' time, how do you see the strategy sector evolving?
When I first started recruiting in strategy, a lot of the time strategists were placed into the central team. Now you see them at every part of the business. They are less centralised – more spread throughout different teams.
We are starting to see strategists as a much more individualised role instead of a department with crossover within the business.
One thing businesses will always want to do is grow and evolve. Strategists will always be crucial to that, now and in ten years’ time.
About Mark Foster
Mark Foster is an expert in headhunting and sourcing strategy and marketing talent. With over 15 years of experience, he represents top-tier strategist from the likes of BCG, Bain, and McKinsey throughout the UK and Europe. From strategists with a few years of experience through to board-level, Mark has made appointments within corporate strategy, M&A, business development, and operational roles. On the marketing side, Mark specialises in senior level roles, from Marketing Directors to CMOs. Mark joined Hanson Search as a Director of Strategy and now leads the Cambridge outfit, working in close conjunction with Hanson Search London.