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Recruitment director: Consider candidates’ personality

Christian Kurt Nielsen, CEO at Mercuri Urval, encourages companies to consider whether a new employee’s personality harmonises with the goals of the company. The recruitment firm is a new member of the Confederation of Danish Industry.
Christian Kurt Nielsen has been Danish Mercuri Urval’s CEO since 2008. He trained in the Danish special forces and is a former tennis player for the Danish national team. Photo: Sif Meincke

Publiceret: 22.03.2017
Af Karen Witt Olsen mail

It’s been 27 years since he was hired at Mercuri Urval himself. Joining the company directly from a position as sergeant at the Danish special forces, Christian Kurt Nielsen brought with him an awareness of the fact that personality is extremely important for the success of a workplace.

“It’s a cliché to say that employees are often hired for their professional competency and fired for their personality. But the cliché is true. I therefore always encourage companies to focus a lot on personality,” says Christian Kurt Nielsen, who is now CEO of the recruitment firm.

“For example, do you remember your favourite high school teacher?” he asks.

“He or she was undoubtedly highly dedicated, a skilled communicator, humorous, imaginative and approachable. But how good were this person’s marks at university? Do you remember that? Probably not. And it didn’t matter, as long as the other qualities were fulfilled. And to put it bluntly, that’s recruitment; finding the person that matches what is decisive for the result,” he says.

We know the companies

Mercuri Urval in Denmark is part of the foundation-owned company Mercuri Urval AB. The Danish department is, however, nearly twice as large as it is in Sweden, where the company was founded in 1967. It is also larger than each of the subsidiaries in all of the 23 countries in which Mercuri Urval operates.

The CEO explains that this is probably because Mercuri Urval in Denmark is closer to its approx. 800 clients, which are a mixture of the largest international Danish companies and several small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“We help the large ones to recruit, assess, and develop their leaders in both Denmark and abroad. They appreciate the fact that our processes, tools, culture and IT - and thereby the quality we deliver - are uniform across national borders.”

“For SMEs, it’s largely about finding the right match between personalities. Take, for example, a classic industrial business in Jutland with 160 employees and a turnover of DKK 200 million. They might have five managers, of whom one is also the owner.

Regardless of professional competency, it’s absolutely crucial for the company’s future that they hire someone who has a personality that harmonises with both the owner and the culture. Otherwise, it won’t work. Here, we can help, because we typically know the company and the owner really well,” says Christian Kurt Nielsen.

What challenges do you face?
“I usually say that our clients’ challenges are our challenges. In general, these are: Finding the right talents for the companies, working to improve leadership so managers do what is required to achieve results and helping management teams to work together better. Right now, Denmark is close to “natural” unemployment, and several of our clients are therefore experiencing recruitment bottlenecks in certain sectors. Here, we try to help by understanding the client’s business and knowing what is required on the HR side to get in contact and dialogue with the relevant candidates.

Why have you joined DI?
“We received a good offer - and the opportunity to participate in DI Global Talent’s international talent conference last autumn. Our agenda was precisely what the conference was about. We got exciting new contacts and new knowledge about the talent agenda that our consultants can pass on to our clients.

What do you expect to get out of the membership?
“In short: network. Getting closer the largest companies and getting more insight into how they think. In our relation to them, we’re suppliers of e.g. an HR department, and here, it’s crucial to know what their challenges are. That way, we have a better idea of how to help. Mercuri Urval is also a member of the Federation of Danish Professional Service Firms and the Danish Management Council and here, we’ve already gained good and relevant knowledge.

Where do you expect to be in five years?
We’ll be solving even more leader recruitment tasks and have increased the number of board members we help companies to find. We’ll also be working with even more companies internationally and have enhanced our leadership development activities.

Mercuri Urval, Denmark
• Founded in 1974
• 115 employees
• Headquartered in Hellerup, departments in Aarhus and Kolding
• Clients are a mixture of large and small companies, approx. 1/3 from within the public sector
• Affiliated with the Confederation of Danish Industry since 1 November, 2016
• Part of Mercuri Urval AB in Sweden. 700 employees distributed across 23 subsidiaries globally.
• “Urval” means selection in Swedish.

It’s a cliché to say that employees are often hired for their professional competency and fired for their personality. But the cliché is true.

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PUBLISHED: 3/22/2017 LAST MODIFIED: 3/22/2017