How Executive Search and Hiring Have Changed

By Andrew Chastain and Elizabeth Frye, M.D., F.A.C.P.

What a difference a year makes. In the world of executive search during COVID-19, we forge ahead, working in new and creative ways. We know that life is very different for the candidates with whom we connect and the clients we serve.

WittKieffer recently surveyed over 1,000 executives and nearly 180 clients to learn more about changes in the recruiting and leadership landscape.

Read the report: Executive Mobility and Hiring in a Pandemic

Some of the takeaways include:

  • Executives are stretched in their careers. Of the executives who responded to the survey, more than half – in different industries – said that their roles had changed due to the pandemic. Some 30 percent said their jobs have changed permanently. This may not seem surprising, but consider the implications: There are many leaders who are being asked to do work they weren’t previously trained or prepared to do. While many are excelling, CEOs we have spoken with tell us that some executives are struggling to find their place during the pandemic. As COVID-19 subsides, executive teams need to recalibrate and redefine their roles and responsibilities to ensure that leaders’ abilities are aligned with what’s expected of them.
  • Executives are motivated to move. We were struck by the following statistic—95 percent of executives said they’re open to a job change. Nearly 30 percent are “actively” looking. This tells us there is a lot of unease and restlessness among leaders today. We know of executives who have taken early retirement, and many others who are simply rethinking their career goals and priorities. COVID-19 has been a disruptive force, and we believe it has many executives thinking deeply about what comes next in their careers.
  • Workers, and leaders, are going remote – perhaps permanently. Roughly 60 percent of our client respondents noted that they are somewhat open to hiring an executive who would lead remotely rather than relocating to their offices or facilities. This is significant. For executive hiring, it means that relocation won’t always be a primary consideration of employment. We also believe there will be a wave of leaders who will manage their reports from a distance, even once the pandemic has passed. This will have implications for how they lead, team productivity and culture building.
  • Executive search has changed. Video technology is the primary reason. Our survey reveals that video is used in all phases of recruiting and that hiring executives “sight unseen” without in-person visits in now a consideration. This would have been unthinkable pre-COVID, but video allows flexibility in interview scheduling and the opportunity for hiring authorities and search committees to have more “face time” with candidates than was previously possible. As hiring becomes more virtual, it is critical for candidates to present well on video. It also means that organizations looking to hire must take extra measures to ensure they truly get to know candidates.  

The pandemic has launched a grand experiment in how we work, how leaders lead, and how organizations hire. The lives and careers of executives are dramatically different, and will stay that way.  

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