Why Executive Placements Are More Competitive Than Ever

Melissa Henderson February 28, 2018

For companies hiring and those looking for C-suite and board positions, it is a challenging time. Yes, it works both ways. That is because there are pockets where demand for executives outstrips supply and others where the market is oversaturated.

Who Is Hot?

Based on my experience with executive placements, you will be highly sought after for C-Suite and corporate board positions if you fit into any of these buckets:

  • A CFO with a proven, successful track record in private equity portfolio management
  • Have experience in technology and innovation
  • Have served at the helm of a corporation that has flourished under your guidance
  • Have thorough expertise on cyber security

Boards are seeking cyber security specialists more than ever before because they recognize their responsibility to protect their organizations from risk. This accountability was made abundantly clear after the 2013 holiday hack of Target’s payment system.

Despite early warning signals, Target associates sat by as malware stole 40 million credit card numbers. After Chief Executive Officer Gregg Steinhafel responded with little more than puff-speak, he was forced to resign. This demise and other high-profile resignations due to similar breakdowns in security were a new beginning. Senior board members could no longer shift the blame for cyber breaches to lower level employees in information technology. They needed to up their game to safeguard their organizations and customers.

Who Is Not So Hot?

Executives have to overcome many challenges in the corporate world. One of the toughest hurdles they may encounter, however, is outside the corner office — finding themselves relegated to the sidelines with no leadership role to play.

Chief marketing, operating and administrative officers are confronting this issue as they compete with a large pool of talented individuals.

With unemployment rates hovering just above five percent, this may come as a surprise. Low unemployment numbers can mislead us into thinking that it is easy to find a new position today. The job gains, however, have been concentrated at lower levels of the corporate ladder.

Corporate consolidation has driven this shrinkage of opportunities at the top. Also, each time a company morphs and absorbs another, there is churn in the C-suite. As executives look for new homes, their resumes and online profiles battle for attention.

Adding to the glut of talent, a large number of military officers are now seeking corporate positions. This influx is happening because of the military drawdown and the high number of baby boomers in the armed forces who are reaching retirement age.

Sadly, hiring managers often have difficulty understanding how an officer’s skills translate into a civilian role. For instance, the corporate world may not appreciate the logistics skills of the general who orchestrated the movement of all the fighter jets to Iraq for the invasion. This communication barrier makes the officer’s search for a position more difficult.

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

Frequently, the problem is that it is hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when culling through hundreds of resumes. If managers had more time to dig into a general’s background, for example, they might recognize the skills that their company needs.

Even in-demand CFOs may have trouble finding a new position because she is competing with 300 to 400 other CFOs. She may be the star, but on paper she could look very similar to others who do not have the same accomplishments.

Winning the Race to Hire and Be Hired

So, what can you do if you are on the wrong side of the demand equation?

If you are a hiring manager looking for a hard-to-find professional to serve on your board, and you have been searching for months, you might question how you are going about it. Are you using the most effective resources? Perhaps you’re using an executive search…because that’s the way you have always done it.

Has it worked? How long has it taken?

If your search results have been lackluster or your searches have left critical positions open for several months, you might want to consider other alternatives. Consider bringing the talent search in-house. If you put an internal professional in charge of talent acquisition, they can use LinkedIn as a database, source leaders through their own network, and consult with an executive placement firm to see who they might have on hand.

If you are an executive competing against many others for the spots at the top, make sure you develop a strong value proposition. Assess the market to determine which companies are good fits for you. This upfront work will save you time in the long run. Then, work your network online and off. Also, consider consulting with a firm that specializes in executive placements along with executive recruiters with whom you have a good relationship.

It’s Time to Rethink Executive Placements

Whether you are hiring executives or looking for an executive level position, it is time to rethink how to go about it. That’s because no matter which side of the fence you are on, finding the ideal match is challenging. Scanning through hundreds of look-a-like resumes may not be productive for hiring managers. And it is hard for executives looking for positions to ensure their resume stands out. So, those in the hiring seat and professionals seeking leadership positions need to challenge the way they have been doing things. If it is not working, it is time to try something new.


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