Executive jobs: It’s not you, it’s not me. It’s just not meant to be.

Business trends and the current recession are forever changing the way corporations hire and retain talent.

These are hard times for finding a new job or making a career transition. The state of the economy and uncertainty has forced many companies to downsize. Yes, downsize. Not rightsize. I don’t hear clients tell us they need to hire 100 people because they are rightsizing. Companies are downsizing and in many cases executing accross the board pay cuts. They have also been forced to rethink their strategic and business plans forcing changes in their talent needs. Requirements and career paths have been forever altered.

In the executive search business we are finding that it’s taking longer than usual for executives to transition and find a new job. It’s frustrating and difficult amid hard times and many executives end up questioning if they might be doing something wrong, if they did something wrong in the past or if they are making mistakes during their job search. No two individuals are alike and while every case is different there is a broad trend on how corporations are hiring and retaining talent. Understanding those trends can help eliminate frustration.

Short term requirements, speed and reaction time dominate the business environment. Corporations need to plan for shorter horizons building organizations that can execute seamlessly and react quickly while guaranteeing profits and long term sustainability.

Time is money. The need for speed and lower costs has made learning curves unbearable in many business environments and it’s having a profound impact in how corporations hire. It’s not about quick learners. They want executives who have been there, done that and can have an immediate impact. Executives with the right leadership qualities for the task at hand, industry knowledge, technical experience and proven business success in a similar environment.

Hire for attitude and build aptitude is now relegated to entry level employees. The trend for executives is now hire for attitude, assure aptitude and guarantee success.

Assuring aptitude and guaranteeing success requires a close match and fit at four different levels:

I. A broad cultural fit - Broad cultural fit includes the business and corporate cultures. The culture and business dynamics of a private family owned enterprise tends to be very different from a public global corporation. A broad cultural fit will help guarantee long term success.

II. The “Must Haves” – What we typically see in a job description: Qualifications, experience, knowledge, technical skills and functional competencies. These used to be very broad and have now become very discipline and industry specific. These are key elements to a quick learning curve, a fast start and short term success.

III. A “micro” cultural fit – The broad cultural fit focuses on a global business and corporate cultural. A micro culture focuses on a regional or site level. At this level it is important to seek a fit in behaviors, leadership and management styles of the immediate team including subordinates.

IV. The task at hand - A position or discipline takes on a different meaning depending on the task at hand. The executive and leadership competencies required for turn-around, growth, a contraction or a stable environment can vary widely. A successful turn-around specialist is seldom the best choice for a stable environment.

A fit at all levels is not easy. Many elements that were once considered intangible are now part of a tangible evaluation process and from the stand point of an executive it’s not about right or wrong, good or bad, it’s simply about fit.


Jose Ruiz is a Principal in Heidrick & Struggles’ Monterrey office. As an executive recruiter he has worked on executive search projects for multinational clients in technology, life sciences, industrial sectors and consumer markets.


About Heidrick & Struggles International, Inc. The world’s premier provider of senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services. The firm’s executive recruiters and leadership experts operate from principal business centers in North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific. In Mexico, Heidrick & Struggles operates offices in Mexico City and Monterrey. For more information about Heidrick & Struggles please visit www.heidrick.com

Views: 69

Comment by Alisa Tazioli on February 4, 2010 at 6:34pm
Great post, reflects my experience as an executive recruiter focusing specifically on General Counsel and other in-house corporate counsel positions.
Comment by Dave Opton on February 5, 2010 at 11:43am
Well said, and the distinctions Jose has made in helping people to focus on the four key elements in the quest for assuring aptitude and guaranteeing success should make sense to client and candidate alike.

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