Impactful Recruiter: Michael Høstved – Ramboll

Impactful Recruiter:
Michael Høstved – Ramboll

by Lars Martin Haukohl

Michael Høstved, left, and Lars Martin Haukohl during the conversation at IDA’s Respond Festival.

We often talk to “Impactful Superstars” and how they have changed their careers. But we have forgotten the key players in any career change, the recruiters. What are they looking for in a new hire? And how are they contributing to the green transition? Luckily, we just the right guy to talk to.

As part of IDA’s Respond Festival, we got the chance to sit down with Michael Høstved, Recruitment Lead for Ramboll Denmark, and talk about the new realities facing him, Ramboll and the whole recruitment industry. Michaels story, echos that of many others, so let’s start there.

Michael, tell us a little bit about yourself, and your journey. 

Right, first off, Ramboll is Denmarks largest consulting engineering group. We employ 15.000 people worldwide, and around 3.000 in Denmark. As the danish Recruitment Lead, I supervise the roughly 700 new employments we do in Denmark yearly.

I started my career as a recruitment and headhunting consultant, both as an employee and through my own company. But somehow I started thinking that it would be great to work for a company where I could be part of something bigger. I started looking for that and found it at Ramboll, which was also one of my clients at the time – so it was a very easy shift.

Michael Høstved, left, and Bo Grave, Head of Digital Development Ramboll, Lars Martin Haukohl, right.

Do you remember what made you question your career?

Well yes, in my case I had a number of clients that, in my opinion, didn’t produce products of importance in the greater picture. For example, I don’t think jewelry is a strict necessity, at least not in relation to making the world a better place. At the same time, I had Ramboll as a client at my own consulting company. And I could feel how they were working on a very different level. Based on their strong values from the Ramboll Foundation – who owns the company, Ramboll has a very strong wish to make the world better – it’s more than a wish, it’s part of the official value set.

So I decided to shake things up and see if there was a spot for me there, and if I could be part of their mission. I’m not an engineer, and won’t be designing any offshore windmill foundations or robots. But I can still make a difference with the skills that I have, use them in a different context and help Ramboll find the best engineers to help build a better future. So it quickly became a very purposeful journey for me.

In fact, the story about Ramboll is also very purpose-driven. It all started right after the 2. world war when Børge Johannes Ramboll and Johan Hannemann joined forces. One was a pacifist and one was a vegetarian, which was very unusual at the time. That shows that Ramboll is built on some very strong ideas about “doing something”, making the world better – while helping our clients.

Most of the staff are engineers and other technical consultants, but there are also support functions, like my own, where you become part of boosting the whole company. And then we naturally also employ a very broad range of nationalities and personalities.

Børge Johannes Rambøll og Johan Georg Hannemann

We, at Impactful Jobs, are talking a lot about the Millennial generation and their search for purpose in their careers. Are you experiencing that, and how deep and wide is it rooted?

First off, I can confirm your thesis about the millennials. We are doing a lot of student events at the moment, and most recently we held a “student days” events at two of our offices, hosting 250 guests. Naturally many of the questions asked are about what Ramboll is expecting from students and graduates, but now there are also a lot asking “What is Ramboll doing towards reaching the SDGs” and similar – that’s new. Many are now interested in Ramboll because they know that we are working with the SDGs (UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals).  

Also, I’ve recently met a lot of students from AAU in Aalborg, during another student innovation event, where the winning team consisted of five people, with five different nationalities. Simply because international students are looking, and moving, to Denmark explicitly to study sustainability or green energy. So it’s very much also an international trend.

But we also feel the trend internally in the company. A tiny example is when, just the other day, the canteen had occasionally changed the toothpicks from wooden to plastic, making people surprisingly outraged. And to one of the larger initiatives: we are now doing our financial reporting in correlation to the SDGs, which means that our whole strategy is tied to this agenda. More than 50% of our revenue in 2018 had a positive impact on one of the 17 SDG and underlying targets. 

That said, we are in a transition period. We are not perfect, and there will still be many assignments we do, that aren’t aligned as we would like. But, we are ambitious and rigorous in aligning the business towards sustainability. – One of the ways to do that is by hiring the right staff with the right sustainability focus. 

Many of our Impactful Jobs’ visitors, come from a long non-sustainable career or university program, and now wants to change. Do you have any advice for them? What are the first steps and is it possible at all?

I think it’s important to emphasize that we don’t just have one career, we have many. It’s never too late to change direction. I might still be fairly early in my work life, but I have already shifted direction somewhat. So it is possible to realign, and use your skills in a different area – it doesn’t have to be a 180° turn, but often a smaller correction can work.

For example, if you come with a background in the “black” oil and gas industry, we can definitely use your skills. There is still much good to be done within that sector. There are parts of the world where constructing a gas pipeline can be a huge environmental win. It’s important to remember that the green transition happens all over the world, at all technological levels.
For a consulting company like Ramboll, our contribution is then to advise our customers to choose the better, greener solution. 

Another example is that Rambøll is designing roughly 65% of the worlds’ Offshore Wind turbine foundations, so-called jackets or monopiles. The jacket technology was originally developed for offshore oil and gas purposes, but it has now been further developed and put to use in a green context. So if you think your knowledge or skills are useless in a sustainability context, let’s have a talk and you might find a surprising alternative. 

At Impactful Jobs, we are also talking a lot with students and recent graduates, that are aiming for their first job. Many of them describe a situation where they are so focused on the impact and the purpose part, that they are not taken seriously at the job interview. Is there an optimal passion vs. capability point that they should be mindful of?

It’s important to remember that if you are employed as a consultant, you often have a billing ratio to meet, for Ramboll to stay afloat. That’s where reality hits you as a young passionate professional. That means that we are working on the projects we are hired for and accepting, to do. Some of those tasks might differ from our green ambitions, but hopefully, it all adds up in the bigger picture. That’s why we are diligent to tell the whole story of the project you are working on. Even though it might not be you holding that big speech at the UN, you’ll still know that you played an important part. In that way, your effort will be amplified through the big project, and our combined skills.

Coming back to the question; you should definitely show you passion – that’s essential – just remember to think about the business side as well. If your are able to combine the two, that’ll put you in a very good position.

Finally, what are your three greatest tips for people who want to reshape their careers?

As I touched upon earlier it’s:

  1. Remember you can have multiple careers through your work life. Don’t be afraid of changing tracks and investigating how your skills can be used when the world changes.
  2. Remember the passion for your purpose. It’s definitely good to let your passion shine through, just remember to have the business context with you as well. We have many examples of people that have turned their burning passion into a very profitable business.
  3. Find someone to spar with. There are many people you can turn to, to understand a new field. Or, you can call us. Our recruitment team is here to help you see possibilities and explore how we can pursue them together.and a bonus:
  4. Remember that experience is a plus and will give you many more opportunities to change track down the line. Your skillset is diverse, and you can use every aspect of that as a qualification for a different career. Whereas you at the beginning of your career might settle for a stepping stone, the experience will open doors for you later.

That’s it! Thank you so much for your insights, Michael. It’s great to hear the purpose-driven stories from the other side of the table, the recruiter-side. I hope we can help you find some brilliant engineers, consultants, and other staff members to make Ramboll even more purpose-driven.

Remember that experience is a plus and will give you many more opportunities to change track down the line.

Michael Høstved