Executive recruitment is a task that draws on every ounce of my intuition and emotional intelligence, as well as my industry know-how following a decade of experience in Southeast Asia. Let me guide you through “My Method” of executive search in more detail, with reference to a recent and challenging assignment for a foreign multinational.

By Maya Nguyen, Partner Page Executive


Page Executive has around 300 consultants scattered across the globe. Each of us is a passionate connector and part of an ever-expanding network. But we’re also individuals with our own styles. My approach to executive search is deeply rooted in trust, transparency and emotional intelligence. Let’s explore each of these in turn.

You can’t have a solid recruiter-client-candidate relationship without trust. It allows us to navigate through the uncertainties and complexities of the executive search process. I always aim to be upfront about the potential roadblocks and detours ahead with my clients. I also put my heart and soul into earning the candidate’s trust, making sure they feel confident and secure throughout the process.

Then there’s transparency. As a recruiter, it’s my job to provide clear and open communication at all stages of the search process. At the outset of my assignments, I often play the role of an advisor, exploring in detail the different paths available to the client and discussing every angle about the best possible route to recruit a leader. This approach guarantees that all parties are on the same page, driving informed decision-making and fostering a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

Last but not least, there’s emotional intelligence. This is perhaps the most underrated yet crucial element in the executive search process. It’s about understanding and acknowledging the emotions, motivations and concerns of both the client and the candidate. It’s about sizing up candidates based on their soft skills, not just their technical know-how. It’s not just about what the candidates know, but who they are as people — their fire, their drive, their sense of purpose.


The focus on emotional intelligence and intuition doesn’t imply an improvisatory approach. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a stickler for structure. Agility and versatility? Absolutely. Winging it? Never.  Agreeing on a structured process with both the client and candidate and sticking to it ensures a smooth and efficient executive search.

The importance of adhering to the timeline can’t be overstated. Failing to do so can quickly lead to chaos and frustration. That's why accountability is key. I commit to meeting all my deadlines and encourage the client to do the same. Also, I make it a point to agree on the number of interview rounds and the lead time for each process upfront.

Once the clock starts ticking, the goal is to find the best available talent within that timeframe. Waiting forever for that unicorn candidate is simply not practical. It's essential to be realistic and choose from the pool of candidates that are actually available right now. This approach involves assessing both active candidates and those on the fence, all while keeping an eye on the budget and cultural fit. Again, this is where executive intuition comes into play — once you’ve found the right person, you just know it, and can quickly put aside any notion of the “perfect” candidate.


Let me walk you through a recent assignment that illustrates my personal approach to recruitment, as outlined above. The client was a multinational manufacturing company, a pioneer in sustainability and ESG, known within the industry for “walking the talk.” They were looking to hire a managing director to run their Vietnam operations. The ideal candidate would be seasoned in managing change and transformation, as the company was preparing to revolutionise its product offering.

Making the challenge even more interesting, was that this would be the company’s first external hire in Vietnam following a recent M&A. Therefore, the new managing director would be critical in shaping the company’s strategic direction for the next decade.  


Having recruited for the Vietnamese market for eight years, I was no stranger to complex searches. Yet this assignment would stretch my capabilities in new and exciting ways. My expertise lay primarily in the consumer sector, specifically FMCG and retail, however this new client’s industry was an entirely new terrain. This was a manufacturing facility specialising in a niche product, and there weren’t any obvious rivals in the region I could scout local talent from. 

This assignment highlighted the value of having local connections for a global executive search outfit like Page Executive. Our local knowledge gives us a critical edge in navigating cultural nuances and understanding local markets, which are fundamental for success in global recruitment. 

Notwithstanding these in-built advantages, we still need to work hard to win over our clients. When I initially connected with the client, they were sceptical about working with an executive search firm. They were used to promoting from within and were wary of taking an unfamiliar approach. This scepticism was a hurdle but also an opportunity to showcase what Page Executive and I really bring to the table.

In response, I adopted an advisory approach, guiding them through the benefits and process of external executive search. I talked them through the different paths available, helping them see how they could find the right talent to steer their Vietnamese operations. I encouraged them to consider the potential value an external hire could bring — fresh insights, diverse experiences and the ability to see their business from a new perspective.

I also emphasised our collaborative approach at Page Executive, which draws on our global business’s vast resources. I explained how this approach enables us to cast a wider net, reaching into markets and sectors they may not have considered. This openness, flexibility and ability to see the big global picture is what I believe really makes us stand out.

In addition, my comprehensive understanding of the Vietnamese market and culture reassured the client that I could find the right profile for this role — even if that meant extending my search far beyond the borders of Vietnam and Southeast Asia.


Referrals played a vital role in this search, showcasing the muscle of Page Executive’s global network. This particular client was initially introduced to me by a colleague from PageGroup in Austria. And the ideal candidate was actually a referral from one of my previous placements. 

This person was based in Europe. Their background wasn’t exactly in the same industry, but they had the skill set I was looking for and seemed to get the ins and outs of the sector. When I first talked to this person, my executive search sixth sense started tingling: they were full of curiosity and brimming with confidence, and I could picture them thriving in Vietnam. As always, I did a little mental exercise, imagining myself in the shoes of the people who’d be reporting to them. Could I see it working out? Absolutely.

Still, I was asking this candidate to take a huge leap of faith. As is the norm with these kinds of searches, everything was hush-hush. All the candidate knew was that they’d be working at a manufacturing facility in Vietnam. I was asking them to uproot their life and move to a faraway country they knew little about. But that only made me more determined to win the candidate’s trust. Safe to say, neither I nor my colleagues at Page Executive got into this business for the thrill of making quick, easy placements. 

Naturally, the candidate had plenty of questions — about life in Vietnam, the nitty-gritty of the contract, the financial side of things and where the company was headed. I had to wear multiple hats — one moment, I’m a head hunter; the next, I’m more like a PA; then, I’m acting as a translator and even as a primary school scout — all to ensure the candidate had the guidance and reassurance they needed every step of the way. This versatility, agility and need for spontaneity are aspects I thrive on in executive search. No two days are the same and neither are two candidates; it is this diversity and dynamism that brings such fulfillment to my role.


An anecdote from my recent assignment illustrates how executive recruiters can use their intuition and experience to tip the scales in their candidates’ favour. In this particular search, I believed a face-to-face meeting would showcase my candidate's qualities best. Despite the client's office being an eight-hour round trip away, the candidate agreed to drive there for the first interview. Not only that — they also took the initiative to dine with the client post-interview and even stay overnight at their own expense. This extra effort demonstrated their dedication and offered the client a first-hand view of their character.

Executive roles demand complex individuals who combine technical skills with strong personal attributes. My intuition had suggested that a remote interview might not fully reveal these qualities in my candidate. The in-person encounter proved this right, allowing the client to appreciate the candidate as a leader whose values resonated with their company culture.


My journey with this particular candidate reminded me that intuition and cultural awareness aren’t just valuable in executive search — they’re indispensable. And the higher the stakes, the more you need to lean on these skills. This wasn’t just about filling a position. It was about finding the right person to lead a significant strategic shift in a niche industry within an emerging market.

I took away another valuable lesson from this experience — every executive search is different, and to succeed, you need to constantly innovate and adapt your strategies. When a search seems daunting, keep telling yourself the right person is out there. They may be the person you’d least expect in a market you’ve never explored. But with patience, persistence and that all-important sixth sense for talent, you can find the perfect match.

To be clear, my approach to executive search is not the be-all and end-all. It’s the strategy that works for me, formed by my unique experiences and insights. This, I believe, is the true strength of Page Executive. Our consultants are encouraged to craft their own methods, shaped by their nuanced understanding of local markets. 

The talent is out there — and we know how to find it.

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