What Does the Job Market Look Like for Executives?

No one would deny that it’s an unsettled – and unsettling — job market. But is it an impossible job market? How is the COVID-19 economic downturn affecting executive hiring? Are any companies recruiting, and, if so, what skills are they looking for?

A recent panel of executive search experts, moderated by Dolores Sarrión, an executive coach at IESE in Madrid, offered their take on what they’re seeing among their clients. Here, some of their conclusions:

It’s not all doom and gloom. While many sectors, such as tourism and aviation, are reeling from COVID-19, there are some pockets of optimism. Those include healthcare and pharmaceuticals, logistics, e-commerce and foodtech. “It is very uncertain, and we don’t know where we’ll go 100%, but there are positive things in the market,” said Edward Parry, director at Catenon.

Emotional intelligence required. There are still so many doubts as to how the pandemic will play out that companies are looking for leaders with the emotional intelligence to handle employee relations well. So-called soft skills may be in greater demand. Luís Carvajal, partner at Egon Zehnder, says the qualities their clients look for include: insight; engagement; determination and resilience; curiosity; and humanitarian leadership.

The technical skills and knowledge matter, too. Given that many companies will be required to make major changes to their business models, it’s important to have people who truly know the business. While strong general leadership qualities are important, many searches continue to be very sector- and industry-specific.

Everyone needs to be digital. The sudden and large-scale shift online has made digital skills even more crucial. For older candidates looking for new opportunities, an outdated digital profile dates you. So now is the time not only to update your profile on LinkedIn, but also to take courses to deepen your digital knowledge. Marta Garrigues, a partner at Seeliger & Conde, says she sees firms taking a good look at how much digital savvy they have. “Not so many companies were going so fast with digitalization, and this has been a very hard push for them,” she says.

It’s early for a reliable diagnosis. A real reading of the job market won’t be possible until after the summer, when vacations have ended, most sectors should be back to work and the pandemic will be in another phase. “It won’t be until September that we’ll know what the job market will look like,” says Loreto González, a partner at Korn Ferry.

This post is also available in: Spanish

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