As Headhunter in Dubai – MBS Graduate Elias Scholz Shares His Experience

Headhunter at graduate of Munich Business School Elias Scholz at the HeronCode office

Elias Scholz’s stay in Dubai did not end with his semester abroad. For about a year now, the MBS alumnus has been working as a headhunter in the Emirate. In this interview, he talks about how he got the job, what his tasks as a headhunter are and what life is like in the megacity Dubai.

MBS Insights: Your semester abroad in Dubai led directly to a position with a consulting firm specializing in executive search in Dubai. How did that come about and was it your plan from the start to work abroad after your bachelor’s degree? 

Elias Scholz: Whilst finishing my semester abroad in Dubai, I was already applying for jobs in the region as I saw a good opportunity to gain more experience and a strong network in this part of the world. I had interviews with Bulgari and Emirates to join them in their marketing department but just before signing with them, Marcos Simonetti, the Co-Founder at HeronCode, messaged me via LinkedIn and asked if I would be interested to join a new consultancy company in Dubai. I googled him and the company and after seeing his impact in the world of executive search, I agreed to a meet him. I was highly convinced and joined the company in January 2022.  

MBS Insights: You’re a headhunter at HeronCode. Give us a little insight into your day-to-day work: What exactly are your duties as a headhunter and what does a typical workday look like? 

Elias Scholz: As a headhunter, I have the opportunity to speak with influential business leaders across the globe every day. Our company is divided into two parts, Stereometrica and Pneumatica. Stereometrica is responsible for business development and relationship building, while Pneumatica is the actual search team filling the mandates. 
I’m part of Stereometrica and my job is to identify powerful business leaders such as CEOs, founders and board members and build a relationship with them to a point that they trust us enough to hire us when they need to fill senior roles (e.g. CFO, Head of Marketing, etc.). To do so, we discuss what’s happening in the market every day with our team internally. During the day, we reach out to our network, build a relationship with our contacts, and discuss current projects, challenges, and needs within their organizations. Once there is a hiring need, we present them how we operate and negotiate a partnership agreement. Our main market is Saudi Arabia at the moment, so most of our meeting happen on the phone or via MS Teams. However, I also had the chance to fly to Riyadh and meet my clients. Sometimes I have client meetings in Dubai as well, but more to build a relationship instead of discussing business. In this part of the globe, people prefer working with people they trust, so it’s our objective to build a strong level of trust with our clients. We have a strong internal policy not to steal anyone’s client so we work collectively to win business.  
Being able to talk to such influential business leaders every day is a privilege, and I learn a lot from them. Our company places impactful executives every day, and I’m proud to be part of such a unique company.

MBS Insights: You have been working as a headhunter for a year now. In your opinion, what competencies and skills do you need to work in this profession? How did your studies at MBS prepare you for your first full-time job as a headhunter? 

Elias Scholz: Executive search is very different from traditional recruiting. It requires a deep understanding of what companies will need in the future and the ability to identify the right candidates for those needs. The process is also much more detailed, as you have to make sure the candidate is motivated to join a new organization, within budget, and would fit into the culture. That’s why, as the gateway between the candidate and the client, we also communicate quite openly about potential challenges and don’t just try to fill the position as quickly as possible. After a while, you start to understand the market dynamics and get a feeling for the type of character that companies are looking for.  
In my opinion, the most important skills to work as a headhunter are strong communication skills, an emotional IQ, and the ability to build networks and relationships with potential clients. My studies at MBS helped me in the sense that I learned to understand the international business world. For my current job, the courses on corporate governance, HR and negotiation were also particularly helpful. I highly recommend everyone to attend Jack Nasher’s negotiation class as his theories and approaches apply to any sales job and even private life. Also, for a career in executive search, I can recommend the book “Headhunter Secrets” by Florian Brach, which gives a good insight into the life of a headhunter.

MBS Insights: When you look back on the last year: What highlights and challenges come to mind regarding your career? 

Elias Scholz: At first, I wasn’t sure if a career as a headhunter was for me. I thought it would only be about HR and not have much to do with business, but I was wrong. In just one year, I have learned an incredible amount about the field and the impact it can have on the business world. Having direct relationships with the most influential business leaders in the world brings many opportunities if you know how to use them properly. Rather than just selling executive search, I try to learn from each contact how they got to where they are, how their company works, and more. So the network goes beyond business, and I can now call some of my clients friends as well. For example, my highlight last year was definitely my first face-to-face meeting with a Saudi client in early 2022. I had this traditional opinion that Saudi nationals are very conservative, religious and reserved. But when I met the grandson of a well-known Saudi billionaire family, I was surprised by his mentality. He treated me like a friend from the start and instead of meeting for tea, we met in a German beer garden in Dubai, ate schnitzel and drank beer.
Of course, every job comes with certain challenges. Especially in the beginning, you have to acquire and memorize a lot of information in order to understand the market dynamics. You also have to deal with the fact that the job is very dynamic and you may sell more one day than another. By dealing with very senior people who get new job offers every day, you also have to learn to stand out from the crowd.

MBS Insights: Apart from the job: What’s life like in Dubai? How do you spend your free time and where do you see the biggest differences to life in Europe?

Elias Scholz: Dubai differs significantly from Germany, both positively and negatively.
One positive thing to mention is the dynamism. People from all over the world live here and make things happen, not least because life is quite expensive and so everyone is trying to build something up. New start-ups are founded every day and traditional companies expand into new areas. There are no borders and no bureaucracy problems that prevent people from pushing their projects through. Even after living in Dubai for 1,5 years, there’s still so many places to be seen as the selection of restaurants, bars and other activities is just mind-blowing. I usually like to spend time at the beach, doing sports or going out with my colleagues for a drink. In addition, life in Dubai is extremely smooth, the infrastructure is just incredible.
At the same time, Dubai is also a bubble and you need a strong mind to deal with the environment and the daily hustle and bustle. To find a good balance and a place to breath between all the action, I like to go to Hatte, about 1.5h from Dubai, for mountain biking, or to Abu Dhabi, where it is also much more relaxed. What’s missing for me is the “normal” life that I’m used to from Germany – just going for a hike in the mountains or driving to another city to visit a friend. That’s why I’m happy to visit my family back home about every three months.
Overall, though, I can definitely recommend coming to Dubai for a while and working here. You will learn a lot and quickly build up a strong international network.

Are you interested in an internship at HeronCode in the area of executive search or do you have general questions about life in Dubai? Then feel free to contact me!