Alexandre Paternotte de La Vaillée retires ... and reflects
'In no other profession would I have met so many different and interesting people' alexandre

This autumn AHEAD marked an important milestone in its history: the retirement of Alexandre Paternotte de La Vaillée.

‘For the past ten years, Alex has been one of the pillars of our firm,’ explains Managing Partner Guy Vereecke. ‘My friendship and appreciation for him go back to 1984, when we both started our career in executive search, at that time with Egon Zehnder International.’

‘Throughout the years, lots of clients, candidates and the entire team learned to appreciate his professionalism, his genuine interest in people, his humour and charming personality, not to mention his resilience. Indeed he was the one, who had one assignment with six final candidates refusing the offer, but luckily the seventh accepted. Alex was always willing to go the extra-mile to find the right candidate.’

Before moving into search, Alex (64) had an international career with Continental Bank, after his early years in shipping in Antwerp.  He holds a BA in Law from the University of Lyon, an MA in Economics from the University of Louvain and an MBA from INSEAD. 

"I will particularly miss two things,” admits Alex, “my colleagues, as AHEAD is a warm, friendly and supportive firm, where we care about one another; and of course the excitement at the start of a new assignment and the fulfilment at its conclusion."

‘It goes without saying that we will miss Alex, but by the same token we wish him all the best in the next stage of his life,’ continues Guy. ‘This is a period during which he will definitely use his talents to give back to community.  He starts this by sharing with us now the lessons he has learned through nearly three decades of executive search...’

Working with you has always been a pleasure, Alexandre. We could rely on your expertise and pragmatic approach, always combined with a great sense of humour.
Enjoy your well-deserved leisure!
Anne Verbaeten,
HRM at J&J.
  • I believe that the best hiring decision rests on both objective and subjective reasons. Human chemistry is very important, and I believe that 40 to 50% of the hiring decision should be subjective. It is a very important success factor.
  • Another success factor is frequent interaction between client and consultant, to share/validate ideas, discuss progress, brainstorm, ...
  • As consultants, our interest is similar to those of clients and candidates, who want to have a long term, successful recruitment and career.
  • Indeed, it is extraordinary to think that while sadly only about 50% of marriages succeed, a far larger percentage of hires stay and grow in the company where we place them.
  • As decision making becomes increasingly difficult, the need of using a consultant as a sounding board increases. As a result, successful searches will need a stronger partnership between clients and consultants, with more communication.
  • In times of crisis, the hiring decision is harder to take. Being the interface between clients and candidates, the consultant’s role will increase, as a trusted advisor to both.
  • During my years in search, new professions have been created : Public Affairs, for instance, was very new in the mid-80’s but today is a sizeable part of our work. As business improved in all areas, functions such as supply chain management, QA, etc became crucial. IT specialised more. Pharma companies, for instance, dramatically improved their R&D flow.
  • Today there are fewer springboard jobs such as a Benelux function, to prepare for higher management. The risks are consequently higher both for companies and executives.
  • Internationalization of the talent pool, thanks to the globalisation of the Internet will continue to have a profound impact on the job market.
' Team spirit, altruism and fun are key to a successful consultancy.'
  • The Internet offers information unthinkable 10 years ago. Consultants and candidates are therefore much better informed about the client, its competitive environment and the issues it faces. This brings the recruitment process to a higher, more professional level.
  • There have never been easy assignments, but I believe that standard or straightforward assignments (such as Controllers) will fade away and that complicated searches, seeking new competences, will replace them. The consultant’s art is often in finding the best alternative to the "ideal" profile and talking the client through as sometimes, the "ideal profile" is just that: it does not exist.
  • People management becomes of utmost importance. However, personally I believe that it is a natural skill that cannot be acquired, only improved.
  • Compared to 20 years ago, I noticed with some dismay that the standards of courtesy have markedly diminished. Not returning calls nor answering emails is all too common. I find it both unprofessional and stupid, as courtesy costs nothing and gives a lasting positive impression.
  • I remain amazed by human diversity and the experiences that shape a personality. It is not a setback that is important but what you do about it.

'Interesting people have given meaning to my career'.