Is there an ideal educational background for an executive search consultant? “I don’t think so. I believe it is all about the skill set and experience that you build over time, but first, you must love what you do,” says Marta Rojko, a consultant and the Director of Operations at P&P InterSearch Slovenia in Ljubljana. „Of course, empathy, trustworthiness, strong communication, negotiation, and organization skills are essential, as are adaptability and problem-solving ability. Equally important is being able to read between the lines and understanding people,“ Rojko adds. “I believe you develop a kind of intuition-based approach over time.” As an executive search consultant, it is important to be able to get acquainted with different corporate organizational structures and to understand different levels. Getting to know different industries and segments well is also essential. While their core business is executive search, P&P InterSearch Slovenia also carry out searches for highly specialized experts and offer a range of HR consultant services from reorganizations, optimizations, salary surveys and other analysis as well as management assessments, leadership development, coaching, workshops, etc. „Recently, we have been doing a lot of salary and benefits surveys, as Slovenian companies are increasingly focused on retaining their high-performing executives.” Like most countries, Slovenia is currently a candidate-driven market with historically low unemployment rates and candidates who know their value, Rojko explains.
Slovenia is a very small market
P&P InterSearch Slovenia assists companies from many different sectors with their executive and expert recruitment needs. „For example, over the years, we have had many clients from the financial sector. The Slovenian banking sector is interesting and also challenging, as there are not many banks and most individuals active in this sector know each other. When performing a confidential search project, we need to be especially careful and resourceful,“ Rojko says. The consultants in her firm are not focused on any one specific industry. „The Slovenian market is really too small for that. Our colleagues bring with them expertise from the fields of HR, sociology, communication and PR, psychology, economics, and management,“ she explains. The small size of the Slovenian market is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, according to Rojko, the research part of a search project can be carried out very quickly and thoroughly: „We often reach the point of having spoken to all suitable candidates fairly quickly and can be confident that the market is researched in-depth.” On the other hand, search consultants also reach the candidate pool’s limits more frequently. „We are in communication with our clients on regular basis throughout the project and when we encounter the candidate’s pool’s limits, we discuss which experience or other requirements, such as educational background or language knowledge, may deviate. As the next step and usually the last resort, we expand our searches to countries other than Slovenia,“ she says.
Salary levels can vary greatly
In international personnel searches, Rojko appreciates the straightforward and cooperative collaboration with members of the international InterSearch network. „We recently cooperated with colleagues from Austria, acting as an operational partner for their clients to find a regional sales manager. In doing so, we complemented each other perfectly with our local and regional knowledge and experience.“ Especially regarding salary levels, P&P InterSearch Slovenia was able to offer guidance. „This is one of the challenges when we expand searches for a position in Slovenia to other countries. The salary levels in Slovenia are lower than in Western European countries such as Austria or Germany – making it more difficult to convince candidates to relocate to Slovenia. For that reason, we are more frequently looking for talent in countries with similar or lower salary levels, such as Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, or even Hungary and Bulgaria.“
Migrating talent and candidates not inclined to commute
Slovenian talent has been leaving the country for years to take better-paying jobs abroad. „However, we also experience a great willingness to return. A lot of people only wish to leave Slovenia temporarily and have every intention of moving back at some point,“ Rojko says. In those cases, candidates are often willing to accept lower salaries. „They are aware of the salary levels in Slovenia and accept smaller packages in order to be closer to their family or return back home,“ she explains. In addition, she says, Slovenia’s small size is the reason for another peculiarity: „Slovenians are not prone to commuting. A commute of more than an hour – or sometimes even as much as 40 minutes – is unthinkable for many and is either rejected outright or comes with significantly higher salary demands.“ According to Rojko, some of that is changing, as many companies are offering remote work or more hybrid models. But especially when recruiting for manufacturing companies that have locations in more remote regions, it can still be difficult. „This is not just due to the candidates’ preferences. Recently, a manufacturing client of ours was looking to fill a position at one of their production sites and only considered candidates who lived no more than 30 minutes’ drive away. One of the reasons is that locals are preferred as employees, especially in more remote regions,“ she says.
At the executive level, it is usually a different story
According to Rojko, however, the relative immobility of Slovenian candidates applies mainly to middle management or specialists. „At the top management level, this is not as evident. Executives are more willing to commute and to be present on site or at the office. In most cases, no distance is too far for them.“ She emphasizes that remote work is also not expected by C-level candidates, nor is it something they ask for during interviews. „Managers need to be flexible and on site to really get to know their teams face to face and lead the company.“
Marta Rojko is a communications specialist and sociologist. She has been active as a consultant at P&P InterSearch Slovenia for four years, where she is also in charge of international communication and cooperation and certain personnel searches as well as marketing projects and a part of operations. She started her career straight after completing her studies in a highly technological, development- focused manufacturing company and then moved to Dubai where she worked for 5 years before joining P&P InterSearch Slovenia. P&P InterSearch Slovenia focuses on executive search, but also offers a range of HR consulting services from reorganizations, optimizations, a variety of analysis for management assessments and leadership development, succession planning, outplacements, and more.
Slovenia in figures
GDP: 61.6 billion USD
Economic growth: 8.1% compared to the previous year
Per capita annual income: approx. 29,193 USD
Inflation rate: +1.9% compared to the previous year
Unemployment rate: 4.7%
Employees in the service sector: approx. 70.8%
Source: Statista 2021