Though similar, executive search is separate from traditional recruitment. It requires recruiters to go above and beyond to access and engage with top-tier candidates. With the entire future of the business potentially resting on the shoulders of the new recruit, companies must invest heavily in reaching and securing the best talent.
With top-level executives in high demand, C-level staff can effectively take their pick of where they want to work and under what conditions, making executive search a rather challenging process. Unlike traditional recruitment, in which candidates are generally actively seeking a new role, executive search involves approaching executives at the top of their game. These individuals are typically already occupying high-profile roles, potentially with rival companies.
Examples of C-level corporate roles
C-suite roles are top executive positions within a company. These high-level managerial roles are referred to as “C-level” because the job title typically begins with a “C” for “chief.” Examples include:
- Chief executive officer
- Chief information officer
- Chief knowledge officer
- Chief security officer
- Chief data officer
- Chief operating officer
- Chief compliance officer
- Chief technology officer
- Chief human resources officer
- Chief digital officer
C-level executives command high salaries since their workload can be extremely heavy and involve decision-making at the highest level. To reach the C-suite level, individuals usually spend years gathering experience within their relevant field or working for a particular company.
In large companies, C-suite executives often work closely together within a senior executive team, making joint decisions on a variety of different issues regarding the governance of the company, including finance, operations investments, and customer-centric issues. C-level execs collaborate to decide the best strategies for important issues affecting the company.
When recruiting for C-level positions, employers generally look at both educational background and work experience. In addition to graduate degrees providing them with a solid foundation for business leadership (for example, a master’s in business administration or equivalent professional degree), C-level executives typically have multiple years of experience working in executive roles.
Challenges in recruiting C-level roles
A recent report noted that 3.6 million executive leaders retired in 2017, creating room for the next generation of business leaders to move through the ranks. As millennials move into leadership roles, they are bringing with them big changes, moving away from traditional top-down corporate structures and creating a more transparent, collaborative corporate culture.
Recruiting top-tier C-suite staff requires a more sophisticated approach than ordinary recruitment typically employs. Successful C-level recruitment requires employers to apply advanced recruiting methodology and know-how since individuals already occupying the highest-level leadership roles are unlikely to leave their job lightly. Nevertheless, employers need to reach qualified, experienced, skilled professionals capable of driving the business forward.
In the past, C-level executives rose through the ranks within a particular organization, but according to Brenda Trenowden, Lloyds Banking Group’s former managing director, C-suite execs are no longer required to “serve their time” like they used to. Trenowden explains that today, spending your whole career at one company could work against you since many organizations seek out individuals who have broader experience, are more versatile, and are technologically proficient.
One of the greatest challenges a company faces in filling C-level positions is competition from industry rivals. Executives at the top of their profession know their value; they know that they are in demand and can not only pick and choose job offers but effectively set their price in terms of salary and other employment benefits and rights.
In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, many more C-suite executives will be seeking out roles with increased flexibility, enabling them to work from home to achieve an optimal work-life balance. Other points of contention may be bonuses, retirement plans, holiday allowance, health benefits, and share options.
Another significant challenge facing employers in many industries is the ever-increasing skills gap. With older generations retiring and many younger individuals not yet trained or prepared to make the transition, candidate pools that in many sectors were already quite small are shrinking faster than ever.
Many forward-thinking organizations have sought to tackle this problem by promoting diversity, effectively widening their reach by changing corporate culture to include marginalized demographics such as women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, and people from ethnic minorities. Research shows that diversity drives growth in terms of widening a company’s market of potential customers, helping brands to promote engagement across a full spectrum of different demographics. Many of the world’s biggest corporations have invested heavily in eliminating unconscious bias from their company culture, thus boosting diversity and inclusivity, and increasing performance and productivity in the process.
When recruiting top-level staff members, many organizations enlist the help of an executive search firm, benefiting from the knowledge and understanding of trained professionals with a rare set of skills and expertise to help them reach the right prospects to fill C-level roles. Executive search is a vital process in business development that secures top-tier executives to lead the company, increasing growth and profitability.