Digitalization of Executive Search


Part 1: Osterus – breaking down barriers to international search

Every executive search team wants to deliver value to its business clients. But the way to achieve that goal is changing as the use of technology grows.

This may come as a surprise because we all know that executive search depends on person-to-person contact and assessment. Indeed, here at Stein & Partner, our main focus is and always will be direct human contact.

Supporting, not replacing, human contact

We cannot emphasize enough how important personal interactions are in our business. They really are fundamental to the service we provide. Besides, it seems unlikely that machines will ever be able to replicate the intricacies of human communication and the high levels of expertise needed for successful strategic appointments.

Nevertheless, we are embracing new technologies that enable us to spend more time on direct contact with our candidates by automating ‘back office’ processes.

This is why we have started working with Osterus, an exciting new start-up based in Berlin. We believe that the cutting-edge solutions this new company is developing could revolutionise international executive search.

Osterus technologies are helping to break down barriers between cultures and countries. This means that talent from any country can be truly recognised and understood anywhere in the world.

We spoke with Julian Herzog, a founding partner of Osterus, for this blog – the first in our series on the digitalization of executive search. He explains the Osterus technologies below, and we hope you find them as interesting as we do!

But before we get into the detail, do be aware that at Stein & Partner we are working with Osterus on tailored solutions for senior positions, rather than ‘off-the-shelf’ tools, based on our vast search experience.

Challenges of cross-border search

Barriers to international executive search tend to start at the university level. “There are so many universities all over the world that people just don’t understand how to assess them,” Julian explains.

By collecting several sources of data into one, Osterus is able to identify certain trends, career trajectories and salary trajectories to help firms find the right people. Interestingly, the sources of data are open platforms such as LinkedIn, Glassdoor and the H-1B visa, the US work permit for foreigners. The German network Xing is also under consideration.

“Many Western companies are blinded and confused when somebody from Asia applies for a role,” says Julian. “They have a hard time making an assessment. So we have a tool where we showcase the career trajectory of a person studying at that university, and which universities it can be compared to in the Western world.”

The benefits that come from this unique analysis of academia around the world are numerous. It can considerably widen the talent pool, lead to more cost effective hires and raise the level of diversity.

The benefits of diversity are well documented and widely considered to include greater creativity, greater productivity and better decision making through a wider range of perspectives. When it comes to a lack of diversity, Julian asks, “There’s always the question: is it really bias or just a lack of understanding?”

The example of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella highlights this issue. “If you look at his CV, it’s not prestigious,” Julian points out.  “His university in India, Manipal Institute of Technology is phenomenally good, but nobody knows it!”

Interestingly, the data on academia that Osterus is developing can also be developed for prospective students. Given the high levels of debt associated with studying abroad, it can help them judge which universities will give them the best value over the long term.

Cost of living comparison

Another useful database that Osterus is working on is a cost of living comparison tool, which will compare every city in Europe, Asia and North America. This will enable HR managers to quickly establish whether they can afford a particular candidate, how competitive they really need to be with salaries, and how to tailor-make salaries and benefits packages.

This data may be particularly useful to smaller companies that do not have access to this type of data internally.

Artificial intelligence to score résumés

Osterus is also developing a résumé scoring tool. As you might expect, this evaluates résumés many times faster than a human and without any bias. What’s different about it is that it also tries to understand the probability of an individual fitting into the company on the basis of the quality of their education. It also makes a quick assessment of how long the candidate is likely to be in the company, based on the probability of them performing too high or too low.

“We’re not interested in the ‘best’ candidate, we’re interested in the candidate that does a good job, and will stay for a long time” explains Julian. “This was something that was never really considered, but something that we can now get data and information on. Then, using data on other platforms, such as LinkedIn, we can assess whether they are at risk of moving on too soon.”

Firmly focused on human contact

With the three main areas of technology described above being developed by Osterus, here at Stein & Partner we’re working on customized solutions for senior hires.

We’re looking at new ways to analyse résumés and give predictions, while also developing custom tools for certain clients. Another development will be to offer due diligence services to build up a database of people who can quickly be authenticated.

Human interaction will always be at the heart of what we do and technology will never be able to replace that. But we do see the potential of technology to enhance our services and hope to develop long and rewarding partnerships with other tech pioneers for the benefit of our clients.

To find out how your company could benefit from new technologies by working with Stein & Partner, please contact: