C-suite execs bask in sellers' market

2006

Rising demand for senior executives is giving top candidates opportunities to write their own tickets to the C-suite and leading many to decline attractive opportunities that may have been more appealing in leaner times.

According to Rick Slayton of Chicago-based Slayton Search Partners, all the signs are that we are witnessing a return to a sellers' market in the executive search game.

"The supply and demand dynamics have given high performing executives more career options than they've had in years, and from that perspective, it's beginning to smack of 1999 all over again," Slayton claims.

"The A Players are much more selective about pursuing transition options, but they're also pouncing on the opportunity to get what they want."

Slayton also points to a spate of recent studies that document an increase in executive job transitions and a move by employers to change their pay practices to match a tightening and more competitive job market.

A study from Liberum Research found that executive churn has leapt almost 60 per cent this year, while ExecuNet found a surge in hiring at executive search firms.Mirroring these trends, Mercer Human Resources Consulting found that companies are planning to boost executive compensation.

These reports all provide evidence of an accelerating war for executive talent, Slayton said.

The pendulum of the executive employment market has moved way over to the candidate

"Candidates, as a general rule, have more power today. For much of the past five years, employers were holding the cards in the executive employment market, because new opportunities were scarce.

"But today, it's clear that the pendulum of the executive employment market has moved way over to the candidate or seller side. The bargaining advantage has shifted substantially beyond equilibrium in favour of the top candidates."

The forthcoming recruiting season will keep corporate recruiters and executive search firms extremely busy trying to market compelling career opportunities to top management talent. It will also have a large number of executives spending more time interviewing to assess more job opportunities, Slayton predicted.

"I think we're looking at a pretty high level of executive-level recruiting activity now, but it will increase this fall. I don't see any downturn in the near future."

But despite the shortage in supply, he predicted that employers will continue to place a premium on "A Players" who have the right mix of professional experience, advanced education and a track record of consistent performance – giving these individuals a commensurate increase in their bargaining power.

He also believes leading employers will continue to create more opportunities for women and minority executives.

But significantly, Slayton also hinted that executive job candidates are increasingly turning their noses at new job opportunities with any company rumoured to have a tyrannical CEO, high executive turnover, or business practices that might remotely evolve into corporate scandal.

As a result, Slayton stressed that employers should to underestimate the importance of their reputation, their brand and their overall workplace experience and corporate mission, because top-calibre management candidates are usually motivated by the challenge of a new job with a growth-oriented employer.

Underlining this, an international survey of more than 500 HR executives by global talent management firm, Bernard Hodes published earlier this month also found that a company's reputation and its workplace culture are its most critical attributes when it comes to attracting top talent.

"Any company that can't effectively articulate its vision for the future and a compelling employment proposition for world-class management executives will find its ability to recruit diminished or hampered until that changes," Slayton said.