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Fergie’s Retirement and Pointless Job Briefs

By May 9, 20133 Comments

Most of you will be aware by now that football’s most cantankerous, cheating, boorish, red-nosed, successful manager of all time has announced his retirement from management.  Imagine, if you will, that you were the recruitment consultant commissioned by the Manchester United board to conduct an executive search assignment for finding his successor.

Pretty sweet deal, no doubt about it.  How much will they be willing to pay for his successor, do you think?  Maybe 80k per week?  15% fee on that and you’d take some beating on the office whiteboard for that Quarter…

This would be the nuts of the job brief given to you, as many have suggested was the board’s cast iron wishlist while planning ahead for this day:

  • Successful track record within elite European competition
  • Demonstrable success on the field with major honours and trophies won
  • Proven ability to manage big egos among the playing staff
Watching another game of football yesterday morning in a client’s office, I mentioned that it looked like David Moyes was going to get the job.  Everton’s manager ticks not a single box of that previously espoused wishlist, and my viewing companions all disagreed.  Being recruiters themselves, they should surely have experienced what was to come, though.

How many of you in recruitment have taken down a detailed job brief from a client, only for them to turn around a fortnight later, once you have been sending through perfectly-suited candidates in vain, to tell you they have found someone themselves?  It’s happened to us all of course, but what is often the most galling in these circumstances, is when you find out that the person they have managed to find themselves (enabling them to adopt the smug air of self-satisfaction, “hey this recruitment lark is easy” type stance) doesn’t even remotely match the original job brief.

What they are, though, is pretty much exactly the same kind of person as the one they were looking to replace.  The opportunity for a fresh approach, a new direction, a chance for change, is spurned in the face of the dependable, tried, tested.  It’s the risk free option and many of you will have stood by helplessly, beseeching your clients in as humble a way as possible that this isn’t what they originally asked you to find, but the decision will have been made, the fee lost, your time wasted.

Amazingly enough this is exactly what happened overnight in one of the world’s highest profile succession planning pieces of recruitment of all time.  Many assumed that someone like Jose Mourinho would get the job, for he does indeed tick all of the boxes above, including staunch Man Utd fan and Aussie rec-to-rec Luke Collard.  But no, they did indeed plump for David Moyes in the end.  No European experience.  No trophies won.  No ego-maniacs in his dressing room which was assembled on a shoestring budget.  An admirable manager, no doubt about it, but very much the safe choice, the board bowing to Fergie’s wishes once more as he seeks to replace himself with a carbon copy of himself 20 years earlier.

Remember this next time you’re sitting in front of a client taking down a detailed job brief.  Be a true consultant to their business and make sure they are truly committed to the brief they are telling you, especially when they tell you they are going to chuck an ad on SEEK themselves “just in case” too.

Mind you, I doubt Moyes’ agent is complaining too much right now.  Probably the easiest piece of negotiating he’s ever had to do.
Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Craig Watson says:

    Mid Table mediocrity for ManU next season now! They should have stuck to the brief…

  • Adam Napper says:

    I disagree entirely Jon – United are by far the most successful team in England (albeit maybe not Europe at present) and as you word it, do not need a fresh approach, a new direction or change.

    Moyes as a character fits in perfectly with United’s ethos of professionalism, investing and nurturing younger players and having the approach of ‘no one man is bigger than the club’. That has flowed through United pre-Ferguson – since Sir Matt’s days. Appointing Mourinho would have been a cataclysmic error – a complete clash of approaches and egos – the guy is admittedly a talented manager, but would not be there for more than 2-3 years and that is not United.

    So on the face of it, yes, they have appointed a manager that does not have the credentials on paper … but those of have the credentials on paper are not United men. They have gone for ‘cultural fit’.

  • Paul says:

    Missed the point entirely. This aint about footbal. Well done Jon.