How Covid-19 is reshaping the executive job market

This interview was done by the Esade Careers team

We sat down with Edward Parry, director of Catenon Worldwide Executive Search, to talk about how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting hiring processes and reshaping the global executive job market.

Do Better: How is the Covid-19 pandemic affecting recruitment processes?

Edward Parry: The Covid-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on hiring processes. Our firm works with executives from around the world and we are seeing how various countries have put positions on hold that were not essential due to the crisis – around 10% of their vacancies.

Since the pandemic started, we’ve been running executive searches mostly in France, Russia, Germany, Canada, Spain and Luxembourg across different disciplines. Our executive searches during this period have been related to engineering, finance, IT, banking, R&D, as well as marketing and digital positions. The hiring process is becoming more complex, especially for candidates who are based outside the country where the client is based.

Various countries have put positions on hold that were not essential due to the crisis

How complex?

We have the case, for example, of a couple of positions where we had final candidates who initially did remote interviews, but then they needed to meet the client in person to complete the hiring process. These are obviously complex situations, especially in international recruitment processes. We have to wait for things to change and travel restrictions to ease, but the message we get from clients, in terms of positions, is to keep doing business as usual to a certain extent.

What are the most and least affected sectors?

We work with executives and businesses across all sectors. To start with the negative, we all know that one of the sectors that is being severely hit is tourism. We are extremely strong on that front and everything is very much on hold right now. We’ve been helping each of our directors to come up with strategies, but we are aware that reactivation of the executive job market in this sector will happen slowly, in stages.

The automotive industry, obviously, has also been hit heavily, as well as airlines, real estate and retail. All of these sectors we normally work in are on hold, but we are lucky to work across other sectors that have not been affected or are even booming due to the pandemic.

Coronavirus travel restrictions
Reactivation of the executive job market in the tourism sector will happen slowly, in stages (Photo: R. Rorro/iStock)

Such as?

In the executive job market, businesses or sectors that have not been affected include project-based work (where governments have given out contracts to providers), long-term projects for infrastructures (for example, we are recruiting heavily for the rail sector), or the pharmaceutical industry. Other sectors that are booming are 3D printing, robotics, construction, energy, technology and IT, packaging, ecommerce, chemicals, emobility, gaming... All of these sectors are essential and actively recruiting right now. They might not be doing all of the projects they had, but they are allowed to be recruiting and we are helping them to fill the positions.

What would be your advice for people looking for employment during the Covid-19 pandemic?

My answer here may probably not be too different than two or three months ago: make sure that your digital footprint is good, clean, relevant, and up to date. If you are thinking of making a change, you should be looking at other people who were in the position that you would like to be in. Clean up your profile and include the right words to make sure they can easily find you.

Now is a really good time to be involved in networking, even though it is remote. Also, be active and don't be frightened to initiate something if you are passionate in a particular topic. To sum up, networking, having a good digital footprint, gaining knowledge of the industry… This Covid-19 pandemic is a good opportunity to do your homework.

Job market recovery will be a slow, gradual process, and it will be focused on the most critical positions

When do you anticipate a rise in employment?

This is a very hard question. We don’t really know... All we know is that it will be a slow, gradual process, and it will be focused on the most critical positions. For example, the financial sector is going through really difficult times for obvious reasons and recovery in this sector will take longer. However, in other sectors such as sales and marketing we anticipate things will get better over the next few months, although it will still take some time to recover, at least a year.

How will talent attraction strategies change after Covid-19?

I can only talk about what we do. The way we have worked for the last 20 years has always been digital – we have always done remote interviews with candidates wherever they are, and everything has been online. So, for us, it is not really a change, it hasn’t really affected us.

For companies, I think it can be quite positive because traditional businesses are realising that they either change, or they will stop existing. Things are speeding up and becoming more digital in sectors that used to be more traditional, such as the pharmaceutical industry. We are seeing a lot of change and that’s a good thing.

Traditional businesses are realising that they either change, or they will stop existing

Technology has been key in all business management processes. It is clear that jobs are going to evolve towards teleworking, but what other changes could we witness in the near future?

If we think about technology and the impact it has in recruitment processes and in companies, one thing is clear: remote work is here to stay. Also, artificial intelligence is increasingly being used in companies around the world. There are very mixed reactions in the market about using AI in businesses – many people are unsure about this technology. But on the positive side, according to some studies from Unilever, using artificial intelligence has increased gender diversity and ethnic backgrounds in businesses.

In terms of hiring opportunities, social recruitment is becoming very common, especially with technical and IT positions, through platforms such as Twitter. Another fact that is speeding up this change is the gig economy, with a freelance market that is increasingly growing.

Our clients are asking us for executives who are able to transform

What is the market currently looking for? Any particular skills being demanded?

Our clients are asking us for executives who are able to transform. They are looking for executives who can change with the company, the sector and the needs of the business. They have to be adaptable, multifunctional and strategic. Today skills such as learning agility and transformation are more important than ever. The people who are not able to move at the speed of the company will have problems. You need to learn to embrace change.

So, in a job interview, you should talk about projects you have successfully done, not just your academic accomplishments. You can talk, for example, about how you manage to achieve goals, and your initiative. Think about examples of real situations where you are proactive, creative, move forward, and achieve results. If you adopt this mentality, you’ll increase your chances of getting a job in these uncertain times.

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