Bill Midgley column.
I must have reached an age where those telephone calls from firms of head-hunters no longer happen; not, I have to say, that there were very many of them even in younger days.
These firms, which are retained to find out whether individuals may be interested in what appear to be attractive positions, are often judged by the quality of candidates they persuade to apply for the roles.
It seems a lucrative business from the size of fees charged, and I say that with experience, having in the past been on both sides of the equation. I am not being critical of head-hunters, but what disturbs me often are the actions of potential employers. And this would apply equally to private and public sector.
The practice follows a familiar pattern of explaining what the role is and is usually followed by a request for a CV and in due course to attend an interview. If it is in the public sector, most interviews are not held in the North-East; sometimes in Leeds, but more often in London.
That means at least a day out of action and a not inconsiderable expense in travelling to the capital.
So, it is alarming that following an invitation ( and let's not forget that it is an invitation ( there is then often a refusal to meet any expenses.
It may be that Government feels it can dictate, but certainly private sector companies should beware of following this policy. If it invites an individual to apply for a position then courtesy, and good business practice, should dictate that they will at least cover their basic expenses.
I would not wish to work for any company that would not pay these. This is an oft-heard criticism, and companies perhaps fail if they forget that those who they invite as potential employees, in future may also become significant customers.
Companies quite rightly spend time and effort on building up their reputations, as should Government, but maybe that is a different debate. Short-sighted actions quickly destroy such images. Actions which are often not even brought to the attention of directors and chief executives, who wonder why their businesses are not as successful as they might be. It is perhaps a short term saving which alienates the business leaders of the future.
In the North-East we still need to attract the best skills if we are to drive forward economic regeneration. It is a small price to pay to cover travelling expenses to bring someone north of the Tees, if we eventually acquire the brains that we will so badly need in the future.
Bill Midgley is past president, British Chambers of Commerce.