Executive search experts detail how they're recruiting the best talent in a post-pandemic world

Jul 12, 2021 | San Francisco Business Times

After a year of working remotely, many executive search firms are finding that hiring and placing top executive talent is very different in a post-pandemic world. Executive talent can be located anywhere, many firms are realizing, and with large companies leaving the Bay Area, they are also searching for executives in other parts of the nation and the world. Access to technology and video conferencing can make any executive feel like they are in the room with their team without a laborious cross-country move. Here’s what some of the Bay Area’s top executive search firms said about the changing world of hiring.

What impact did the pandemic have on talent availability? 

Tony Leng, Managing partner, Diversified SearchGeography has played less of a role. Executives are now considering opportunities that were not previously on the radar because they could not move and companies have been searching in areas where they may not have a geographic presence. Companies can also look for candidates in more affordable areas of the country if they can work on a remote basis. Incoming executives will need to travel during the early period of their tenure to develop personal connections, but after that most people are comfortable working on a remote basis using technology and don't see the need for being in the office together every day.

Keith Giarman, President of private equity practice, DHR International: Talent availability during the first 12 months of the pandemic was mixed. Some candidates felt compelled to help lead companies in distress it through difficult times while others took care of themselves and were willing to make a move to a new opportunity or company. Many others saw risk in making a move during the pandemic given the uncertainty of the overall health and economic situation. Overall, we felt the pool of available candidates was reasonable, perhaps a bit lighter than usual. As we now make the shift towards return to work, talent availability has become more constrained, with many companies looking for new leaders. This puts strain on the talent market, giving the best candidates options for what roles they consider.

What advice would you give to companies looking to expand their executive teams? 

John Younger, CEO, RecruiterShare: Cast a wider net to identify top performing executives for each role, and be open to having them work remotely.  Your next superstar lives in Orlando or Cleveland or Chicago or some other area outside the San Francisco Bay Area. Have a clear idea of how you are going to quantitatively measure each executive's talents to create and manage high performing remote teams. Be flexible about when and how they meet the established and mutually agreed quantitative metrics. Carefully consider the fit with each executive through the lens of a distributed workforce and their online presence.

Jana Rich, CEO, Rich Talent Group: Focus on expanding the diversity of your executive team and board by adding more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ leaders. But make sure to do so in a thoughtful way. These communities want to trust the company (and the recruiter) in terms of their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and know that they’re not just “checking a box”—especially after the year we’ve all just had. So consider questions like: ‘What commitments have we made about diversity, equity, and inclusion for our organization? How are we tracking them? Are our DE&I goals tied to bonuses and incentives? Have we invested in ERGs?’

 

What new types of questions or demands are recruits having of potential employers?

John Younger: One of the primary questions is about how flexible the company is about having the executive work from home most or all of the time.  Companies like Spotify with their "Work From Anywhere" policy have a distinct advantage in attracting higher caliber executive talent than companies returning to the traditional office requirement.  Simply put, many of the highest performing executives are more technology savvy, know how to manage high performing remote teams and are not interested in returning to a traditional work-from-the-office every day arrangement.

What impact will remote work have on executive placements going forward? 

Stacie Blair, CEO, The Pacific Firm: ​I am working on four positions currently and they all allow for remote work. It is much easier to attract people with this flexibility.  Whereas before I had to focus my search locally, now I can look nationally for the best talent.  It is making my job much easier. I think remote work will have a long-lasting positive impact, making it much easier for companies based outside of the Silicon Valley to attract technical talent. I expect that companies will locate themselves – their HQ office – in less expensive cities rather than places like San Francisco where the cost of doing business is outrageously high. Companies that allow for remote work or hybrid work will have a recruiting advantage over companies that don’t.

 

Matt Slepin, Managing partner, Terra Search Partners: I think it will have a deep effect. Some people will now be able to forever work remotely, which expands optionality for employers and employees alike. Some will have two or three days per week in the office which again expands optionality and enables companies to hire people who would have otherwise had non-sustainable commutes or would have had to relocate. Now, with only a few days of that miserable commute, companies can solve their people requirements with different options.

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