Originally published on Forbes.com
In the executive search business, we are finding that it is taking longer than usual for executives to transition and find a new job. It’s frustrating and challenging 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 of how corporations are hiring and retaining talent. Understanding those patterns 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 quick 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 is having a profound impact in how corporations hire. It is 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.
Ensuring 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 essential elements to a quick learning curve, a fast start and short term success.
III. A “micro” cultural fit – The broad cultural fit focuses on 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 a 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 standpoint of an executive it is not about right or wrong, good or bad, it is simply about fit.