We recently sat down with Cora founder Izzy Boland to talk about anything and everything it takes to service the world’s richest households.
Cora is a premier luxury recruitment service that works with the world’s most affluent private households, family offices, and high-end brands. Founded over a decade ago by Izzy Boland, Cora is dedicated to delivering superior service to its international clientele. With offices in the UK and France, Cora recruits only the best staff for a variety of roles within these exclusive establishments.
From household managers to chefs, personal assistants to nannies, these highly trained professionals are required to meet exacting standards and provide an incomparable level of care.
The rigours of working for the wealthiest families and organisations can be demanding with long hours, high expectations and constant scrutiny. However, recruiting through Cora offers certain benefits for potential employees including unique experiences, travel opportunities and contact with influential people which provide an unparalleled career path.
In addition, Cora also helps employers ensure their staff turnover rate remains low by providing suitable candidates who have been rigorously vetted and meet all necessary criteria.
Due to its discreet approach and attention to detail, Cora has become renowned as the go-to provider for exclusive hiring solutions over the past decade. Clients benefit from unrivalled access to the finest talent while job seekers can feel secure in their choice of employer knowing they have been selected by a reliable agency with a proven track record. By consistently delivering excellence across both sides of its business Cora has established itself as one of the leading players in this highly competitive market.
So, to find out more, we recently sat down with Cora founder Izzy Boland to talk about anything and everything it takes to service the world’s richest households.
Can You Tell Us About Your Journey In Founding Cora And How You Got Started In The Private Recruitment Industry?
The journey to founding Cora really started in the luxury chalets of Val d’Isère where I worked for nine years following a university degree. My intention had been to go into the Foreign Office, but in the course of an initial ski season, I fell in love with a rugged French man and a landscape and lifestyle I couldn’t bear to leave.
Whilst running one of the early 24/7 Butler Service Chalet Companies we had to go through the full recruit of chefs, housekeepers, butlers, chauffeurs etc and it was my first introduction to the idea that you hire according to a brand aesthetic – the staff needed to reflect the brand and lifestyle that the clients were buying into – young, dynamic, good looking, charming and slick.
On returning to London in the midst of the financial crash I found a job working as a recruiter in a Kings Road, Chelsea agency – providing PAs into boutique finance houses and private homes, and it was off the back of these two experiences that I went into Private Staffing in 2013 after the birth of my first child, working alongside another agency for a while before becoming entirely independent in 2016.
Cora has grown organically over the past number of years – in the main because we have built very strong relationships with our clients (who tend to be multi-property owning) and who have then recommended us to associates and friends. What I can’t stress enough is that there are opportunities within this industry for a rewarding, challenging and very interesting career, where no two days are the same and which can take candidates around the world, and we are passionate about it as an industry.
What Sets Cora Apart From Other Luxury Recruitment Services And How Does It Stand Out In A Highly Competitive Market?
For the most part, Private Client recruiters start in one particular industry sector – be it supplying Butlers to events, chalet staff to Alpine tour operators or Nannies to Notting Hill Families. From this, they tend to grow to encompass other industry sectors. What sets Cora apart is that we recruit for the individual, the Family Office, or the luxury brand.
Rather than being one sector specialists our strength is building very close relationships with our clients, developing a complete understanding of their lifestyle or brand and then recruiting in a 360-degree manner around them. By knowing them so well we are able to have a unique handle on what personalities and backgrounds work in their particular set-up and can apply that to all areas of their recruitment.
Dual language speaking, Oxbridge and public school educated and with lifestyles that mirror many of the clients we work with, we tend to have an empathetic understanding of what their needs and requirements are.
Can You Elaborate On Cora’s Thorough Screening Process For Candidates, And What Kind Of Checks Are Conducted Before They Are Offered To Clients?
We hold a license to run a DBS check on a candidate and will do either an enhanced or basic check dependent on the needs of the client or the role. In addition to this, we will also go through written or verbal references dating back through at least their last three roles – or five to ten years if they have moved around a bit. Global issues such as the pandemic have meant that the last few years have been professionally quite unstable for a lot of candidates and movement isn’t something that clients like to see on CVs.
Aside from taking up written and verbal references we also go through candidates’ social media handles which tend to give quite a good insight into their own lifestyle choices and flag up anything that might not be so welcome to the client. After these checks, we then pass their references onto the client for them to take up as well.
What Are Some Common Traits Or Qualities That Successful Candidates Tend To Have, Especially In Serving The World’s Wealthiest Households?
Resilience and a sense of humour! The best candidates are polished, discrete, professional, warm and welcoming. Someone who takes immense pride in their work and who will instantly put you at ease and make you feel that nothing is too much trouble. At the same time, they need to have cool heads and be quick at thinking on their feet.
Looking at the part is also very important. For the most part, clients like to surround themselves with things that reflect their lifestyle choices – and this applies to their staff too. Being fit, healthy and well-groomed is essential.
Can You Share Any Interesting Or Unique Requirements You Have Come Across From Clients During Your Time At Cora?
We have worked for some years with an international client who breeds show dogs. They hire a dog nanny per hound – someone who can administer training, medicine and grooming to their charge as well as travel around the world with them to various shows. It is key that they have some veterinary training, but also that they look good – they have to visit the fashionable cafes of the French Riviera with the client and need to look the part.
We have also worked with a client who needed to know the measurements of their new team members three months prior to them starting work on their yacht. The uniform was made by Prada and apparently, they needed a 12-week lead time to work on them alongside their other business.
One of my favourite clients collects modern art, and they are very specific in the look of the team that works there. The client likes them to reflect and mirror the art that hangs on their walls and for this reason we have a very tight list of requirements, which – for obvious reasons – we couldn’t openly advertise.
How Does Cora Handle Cultural Differences And Specific National Requirements For Its Candidates, Such As The Need For Female Staff For Female Principals From The Middle East?
It is illegal for us to place any adverts that would suggest a bias towards candidates based on sex, religious background, racial ethnicity, or age. However, there are times when clients do have a certain need for specifics and Middle Eastern Principals fit this category. For obvious reasons it would be unethical to put a male into a female Principal’s retinue so it is our job to go through all interested parties in a role and take out those that won’t be right for an individual circumstance.
For the same reason, we can advertise for a yacht position to be “female owing to cabin arrangements” i.e sharing with another female. We quite often find that clients (particularly international ones) don’t want certain staff speaking their native language – so that they aren’t privy to private conversations in the household, or the car for instance. It is our job to whittle down what their requirements are so that during the screening process we remove those who aren’t going to be appropriate.
What Do You Think Is The Biggest Challenge Facing The Private Recruitment Industry Today, And How Does Cora Tackle These Challenges?
Currently, the biggest challenge in this sector is a scarcity of candidates – and this is a common thread across the board of hospitality recruitment. Whilst it is easy to use Brexit as a reason as many of the domestic workforces were international, Covid had a very large part to play in this. During early to mid-2020 many people rightfully decided to return home, to be with family during lockdowns, and either found that work was easier to come by in their own countries or decided to leave the hospitality sector.
This has led to a large hole in the candidate base – particularly in roles such as housekeeping where we have tended to be reliant on a foreign labour force. On the flip side, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent sanctions of pro-Kremlin Russians has meant that there are fewer senior management roles at the top end of the salary scale, both in the UK and further afield where they have traditionally had holiday homes.
How Does Cora Stay Current With The Changing Demands And Expectations Of Its Clients, Especially In The Ever-Evolving World Of Luxury?
By keeping up a close discourse with our clients, and particularly the Chiefs of Staff, Private PAs, and Family Offices we are able to keep ourselves abreast of shifting trends. A growing trend at the moment seems to be the purchase of an island or island property which is being turned into private art galleries, perfectly framed by the exquisite landscape around them. These properties are almost bridging across Private Member’s Clubs and Private Homes, and therefore the staff therein need to have a very slick hospitality-led focus.
There has been an uptick since covid of clients also purchasing beach houses which are used for much longer periods of time than previously. COVID-19 lockdowns prompted a spend on luxury lifestyle toys, including yachts and further homes. A client with a property in the South of France is now likely to have secondary and tertiary homes in perhaps Thailand, the Balearics and on a Greek Island. The top end of the market has exploded since the world opened up again and the wealthy are looking to enjoy life to the full once more.
Can You Tell Us About A Particularly Memorable Placement That You Have Made Through Cora, And How It Has Impacted The Household Or Client?
Gosh – I think every placement should impact the household and client (in a positive way). Any new employee should add value to an existing team and be recognised for that. However, I do personally find that placing that first key management figure into a new household – a client purchasing their first property in a new location tends to be the one that has the most impact.
It is their responsibility to build the core team, welcome the client into their new home and introduce them to the best and most sought-after spots in the area – be it a new townhouse in London or NYC, or a waterside villa in Mykonos.
How Do You Balance The Privacy Concerns Of Clients With The Need To Thoroughly Screen Candidates, Especially When It Comes To Social Media Checks?
The privacy of our clients is tantamount to everything we do. For some, we don’t advertise roles but use our network. For others, NDAs are signed before interviews. It is our job to ensure that any candidates sent over to them have been thoroughly interviewed and screened. There are rare occasions when we get it wrong, but I like to think that we do, 99% of the time, get it right.
There is greater difficulty screening candidates when they have signed NDAs for previous clients – this makes it harder for us to do a full reference check on them as their previous clients don’t want to be contacted.
Can You Share Some Tips Or Advice For Those Who Are Looking To Work In The Private Luxury Sector, Either As An Employee Or An Employer?
For those already working in hospitality we would suggest making sure that their most recent roles are in establishments that are at the very top end of the market – be they 5* hotels, Superyachts or luxury chalets/villas. This makes the transition easier for them – and also gives their CV gravitas. For those starting their career, we can’t recommend working starting off in this vein more highly.
Those who have worked a couple of seasons on superyachts (particularly those with a heavy charter or owner itinerary) tend to have a core understanding of the demands of working with a UHNW client. Those who have worked in luxury chalets or in the top hotels have an eye for detail and a work ethic that stands them in good stead in a very demanding role.
For employers, we always talk them through the set-up of their household and what their personal needs are before we commence any search for staff. It is important that their expectations are managed and there is an open conversation about their requirements and needs to make sure we all have a clear picture of what they are looking for. There are times when compromise is required, and it is our role to advise on the basis of our experience.
We also recommend that Employers also seek legal advice when drawing up contracts and NDAs for staff to ensure that ultimately their privacy is protected, and work closely with an HR lawyer who specialises in the field of HNW and UHNW households.
What Role Does Trust Play In The Relationships Between Households, Staff, And Cora As The Intermediary?
We have a huge obligation of trust. We know the ins and outs of our client’s private lives and therefore it is imperative that we treat that information with confidentiality. Likewise, we have a duty of care for our candidates. As much as we vet them we also do try our best to vet new clients to ensure that we aren’t going to be placing staff into a household or office where they may be subject to abuse.
This does still happen in this day and age and it is desperately sad to see candidates who have been in toxic households and yet under NDA and unable to do anything about it. As an industry, we do tend to share names of households and clients where we are aware that there has been inappropriate behaviour and bullying.
Can You Talk About The Importance Of Having A Strong, Cohesive And Passionate Team In A Household, And How Cora Helps Clients Achieve This?
One of the strengths of using a sole agency to assist with the recruitment of all lifestyle personnel or a team in a Private Member’s Club for example is that there tends to be a common aesthetic across the board. We as recruiters know the other members of the team and therefore know what personalities, nationalities and skillsets will fit best into the already existing team.
Within any organisation, be it private or corporate, you are dependent on having a cohesive team to ensure the stability of a workforce. If you start noticing that there is becoming an increasing turnover, you will be quickly aware that something is not right and it is at this point the client has an open discussion with us about where improvements can be made.
What Advice Would You Give To Households With High Staff Turnover, And How Can They Prevent This From Happening In The Future?
It is important for the client to be open to constructive criticism at this point. If there is a culture of aggressive management, or if there is a long-standing member of staff that is causing an issue the client must be able to objectively look at the problem and discuss where improvements and/or changes can and need to be made.
It isn’t always easy to accept some of these changes but it is worth remembering that, especially if a client is high profile and in the public eye, their privacy is immediately distilled by a high turnover of staff. A cohesive and harmonious staffing team means that a client’s own life becomes smoother and with less disruption caused by change and that must be held as the ultimate objective.
How Does Cora Ensure That Its Candidates Are Able To Adapt And Fit Into A Household, Both Aesthetically And Morally?
We pride ourselves on working with the best candidates in the business. Those who are experienced in working in the luxury sectors and who have the talent and ambition to succeed. We take on board the requirements of the client – both moral, religious and aesthetic and work as hard as we can to ensure that candidates are matched correctly.
Our role is ultimately like a dating agency – within the world of private clients, and when you are working closely with someone’s personal life it is imperative that there is a mutual understanding and relationship.
Can You Tell Us About Any Future Plans Or Expansion Plans For Cora, And Where Do You See The Company In The Next 5 To 10 Years?
We are focussing on growth in two key areas over the course of the coming year.
Whilst the core of our business has traditionally been within the domestic and lifestyle side we are steadily building a reputation for the placement of more senior Family Office functions. Working alongside our long-standing associates Eagle Headhunters we are launching Eagle Private – providing an Executive Search function focusing on the Single and Mutli-Family Office space and providing a tailored search for all levels of seniority.
In tandem with this, we are building on our existing business in Europe. With an office located within 40mins of Geneva and a secondary consultant in the South of France, we are increasing our client base in both Switzerland and across the Mediterranean coastline of Southern France, from Monaco through to Marseille and further afield to encompass the traditional and new European hot spots for secondary homes.
Lastly, What Is The Ultimate Goal Or Mission Of Cora, And How Do You Strive To Achieve This In Your Daily Operations And Dealings With Clients And Candidates?
Our ultimate goal is to continue doing what we do very well – providing discreet, bespoke recruitment solutions to a portfolio of domestic and international clients who enjoy a luxury lifestyle. We pride ourselves on delivering a very personal service, and on having strong relationships with our candidates and our clients and I want to ensure that in spite of the growth, this core won’t be diluted.
Our other mission is to continue to bang the drum about what a dynamic industry this is – from working as a Travelling PA, a Private Tutor, a Family Office Lawyer, and a Private Yacht Chef, to a Domestic Couple on a stunning Estate there are so many opportunities across the board – well paid, diverse, ever-changing and challenging. We are proud to be in this sector.