The Art of the Match

Apr 25, 2019

By Seth Cohen

Someone recently compared what we do at Eleven Canterbury to an elite matchmaking service. The observation took me by surprise and I immediately argued that we are nothing like an online dating service! My colleague pointed out that he had said “elite matchmaking service”, not “online dating service”. A key distinction, and the comparison suddenly began to make sense. I decided to run with it through the whole matchmaking process we go through at Eleven Canterbury.

For those people who just want to date around, the online dating world provides ample opportunities. Similarly, for those people who are just looking for a job to pay the bills, and companies who are simply looking for generalist employees, there are plenty of online job sites that will help them find each other.

Like an elite matchmaker I think that the art lies in working at a higher, more personal level, aiming for a very specific outcome. And like people who have grown weary of the casual randomness of online dating and turn to a matchmaker, the clients and the experts we work with are not interested in casual dates; they are looking for serious relationships.


Before a match can be made, we build in-depth profiles of both our experts, and clients. Building profiles takes time, open communication, and trust. I believe that the best way to do this is the old-fashioned way, by sitting down, one on one, and talking, asking questions, and listening carefully to the nuance of the answers. In my opinion this is the most critical step in any matchmaking process, and it’s the difference between personally getting to know and understand a person or having a computer set an algorithm based on standard questionnaires.

Our experts come to us with impressive resumes and many have either retired from their first, successful, career or are interested in pursuing new ventures.

However, there is much more to them than the hard skills that are listed on their CVs. We not only know where they’ve worked, what their accomplishments are, and what unique skills they bring to the table; we know, and often help them discover, what they want to do next, what type of culture they want to be part of, what type of impact they would like to have, and with our global contacts, we can even help them figure out where in the world they would like to be placed.

We take exactly the same approach to build profiles for our clients, the companies who are searching for executives to act as consultants, fill C-suite positions, or join a board of directors, and the law firms who are searching for expert witnesses within specific industries. Like our expert’s profiles, we go deeper than job titles and descriptions. Often when a client first comes to us, they may not know precisely what they are looking for. Once we start the conversation, we help them discover the nuance of who, exactly, will successfully fill the position. For example, if Company A is looking for a CFO in the automotive business, we have to know more. Does the company build cars, or are they designing the next generation of electric vehicles? Do they need a consultant or an interim CFO? What is the culture of the company, are they global and will there be a lot of travel, will the expert need to speak several languages? Only when we’ve run out of questions and can easily describe the position they are looking to fill do we consider the profile complete.


Now comes the fun part. Company A comes to us in search of Expert X. We dive into our network and identify all of our experts within the industry who have the right qualifications for the position. Then we take a deeper look to determine whether the experts will fit in with the culture of the company. We continue to hone our list of candidates down, analyzing their soft skills and personalities before we take it to the next step. At this point I, or someone from our management team, will get on a Skype, Facetime, or phone call with the expert to feel them out. Is the position of interest? Is the goal of the company one that the expert feels is realistic and attainable, and is there a synergy between what the client and expert are both looking for?

Much like an elite matchmaker, I’m looking for that special something between two people, that hard to name chemistry that will make the client and expert click. And that’s where the secret sauce comes in; gut instinct. After all of the boxes have been checked, what does my gut tell me? Is it a match? Does the expert not only have the hard skills required to be successful, but do they also possess the soft skills and the chemistry to truly succeed? If I can answer yes to those questions, and if I have a strong, positive feeling about the match, the connection will be made.

As anyone who has ever been on an online dating site will tell you, when their matches start showing up it becomes clear that the site doesn’t really understand who they are and who they’re looking for. An algorithm can get you close, sometimes. But in reality, there’s nothing like being introduced by a person who has taken the time to get to know both you and your match.


At this point, it’s time to step back and let nature take its course. Now it is up to the expert and client to get to know each other, establish an open channel of communication and trust, and discover whether or not they have the shared vision and values that will make the match a 100% success. As with all relationships this too is a process that will take some time.

Online dating, like online job sites, rely on science and technology and you wind up wasting a lot of time and kissing a lot of frogs. I like to think that what we do for our clients and experts at Eleven Canterbury, like the elite matchmakers my colleague compared us to, is more of an art and eliminates the frogs!

Seth Cohen is the Managing Partner of Eleven Canterbury. He was a member of the Group Managing Board and Head of Group Offshoring at UBS AG.

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