Home / Making the most of transferable skills – The link between HR and executive search

Making the most of transferable skills - The link between HR and executive search

By Olivia Sharp. Published on 17 January 2017

I’m an HR generalist at heart, specialising in business turnaround and acquisition, and have recently joined the executive search team here at Eton Bridge Partners. It might not seem like a perfectly logical move into the world of executive search, however, while working with Eton Bridge Partners on my own job search in recent months, and previously as a client, I had always found Eton Bridge to be a place where deep personal relationships and great client service are paramount, and that fitted well with my own values.

When an opportunity to join the HR practice here came up, it presented a fantastic chance for me to specialise in identifying the best possible talent across the whole HR spectrum, broadening my exposure to different industries and specialities, and creating great partnerships between employers and employees. I’ve also been delighted to find that many of my existing skills are indeed transferable.

In my view, both HR and search practitioners share core skills that enable them to perform most effectively for their partners: they need an ability to read people and organisational culture quickly; to ask great insightful questions to get to the heart of a problem; to build trust and meaningful connections with people and to translate high level requirements into timely (and fast) delivery.

Having operated in senior HR roles in industry, I understand the challenge of driving change through organisational complexity. It is also a fact that one person’s strategic HR function is another’s purely transactional, form-filling team.  For me, great HR is about driving the most commercial value from the only company asset that has discretionary commitment – people. Creating business performance and profit through people is not a simple equation, and finding the right person for an organisation’s position on the spectrum between transactional textbook HR and genuine transformational, motivational HR is critically important for success.

Organisations move back and forward along this spectrum depending on multiple factors, such as financial performance, regulation, government policy, external competition and technological breakthroughs, and the very best HR people adapt and flex to this ever-changing landscape. A great HR partner can do this at speed, subtly and at exactly the right time, acting as a passionate provocateur, challenging the organisation to change and learn as it goes. I think a great executive search partner needs to be able to do the same.

This transition from HR practice to executive search is for me, however, about more than just a career step. I have always had a keen interest in diversity, inclusion and mental wellbeing, and working at Eton Bridge Partners is an opportunity for me to learn and share my understanding of these factors, as well as championing change in organisations in how they think about, and create, a diverse and agile workforce.

From a personal perspective, my recent period of maternity leave has opened my eyes to the realities of many of the issues I have championed in the past. Of the women I met and shared my maternity leave with, almost every mother has had a request for flexible or agile working refused or has been placed at risk of redundancy during her break from work, and as a result many have chosen to give up work entirely or have had to enter into an acrimonious debate with their employers about employment rights upon their return. I’ve also experienced the very real trauma of a difficult birth first hand, and felt the impact of that on my own mental health.

Very few employers are prepared to truly support new parents with this enormous transition, missing out on an opportunity to bolster the emotional loyalty between employee and employer and in doing so, add real value to their organisation for the longer term.

I’m looking forward to bringing my own personal experiences and expertise to the team at Eton Bridge Partners, building on the great knowledge we already offer to our clients and candidates alike. It is so important that we build great personal relationships with our candidates to make sure we offer them tailored advice wherever they are in their own careers, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to do that here, as well as helping organisations find ways to make an agile and flexible workforce work for them.


Olivia Sharp


Olivia specialises in executive search for our HR Practice. Her background in HR, gained in various senior HR positions in a FTSE100 organisation, combined with her extensive general management experience, gives our HR practice a unique offering for clients and candidates alike.