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The Executive Talent Market Post GFC –
A Minefield, Abundant With Opportunity

Author: Steve Ludlow - Director, Harlow Group

Opportunity Meets RiskI’m often asked from my clients, “How’s the candidate market?  Is their some good talent out there at the moment?”  Well the market for employers seeking talented executives is very interesting right now.

The past two years have seen many companies let go of top performers indiscriminately due to CFO’s being given the reins who have focussed on cost cutting in order to enable companies to either survive or maintain a profit.  In the recovery, CEO’s are taking back the reins and looking for growth opportunity.  But where has this left Australia’s top performing executives?

Displaced; “I’ve taken this job that I’m overqualified for.  It’s beneath me, but I needed to pay the bills.”

Dissatisfied; “I’ve had to take this job because I was made redundant in my last job and there wasn’t anything else available at the time.  It doesn’t suit me; I just took it because it was a job.”

Underappreciated; “Gee, I’ve battled through this GFC, I’ve been asked to deliver the impossible, I’ve been threatened with my job, I’ve delivered and survived!  Phew…  Has anyone recognised any of this?”

Looking backwards; “This place has lost the positive culture it once had.  It will never be the same; a shadow of its former self.  And all my mates are gone.  Not sure I like this place anymore.”

Lacking direction; “All of the middle management has been culled over the past two years.  This place has no direction anymore.”

Exhausted; “Gee I’ve done it hard over the past two years.  I’m spent and over it.  Time for something new to recharge my batteries.”

Many of these people have felt this way for some time, but have held onto their positions out of fear, concluding: “Elsewhere is not likely to be any better. Any new job may not be secure with the current market conditions.”  So they’ve reluctantly held on to what they’ve got for now.  Many of these executives are now experiencing the effect of the recovery, feeling that perhaps now is a better time to look for that next career opportunity.

The Minefield

Situational & Behavioral Interviewing for the Sales Profession

Two years ago, if someone had a ratio of one job per year in recent times, they were almost instantly dismissed by discerning employers and recruiters, concluding that these people have been pushed out of their positions due to underperformance or just don’t stick around in jobs for longer than a year.  Many of these professionals have continued to job hop throughout the GFC and by virtue of their nature, they are sending you their CV right now.  But the GFC has spawned a new breed of job hopping executives.  Those that were once stable in their career have found themselves with two or three jobs on their CV in the space of two years.  This is due to people being placed in difficult and sometimes hemorrhaging environments and often unsustainable positions where professionals are either highly unsatisfied and leave, or they become the victim of another round of job cuts as the GFC deepened it’s bite on corporate Australia.

So today, as employers and recruiters sift through CV’s, where they once could dismiss the job hopper as… a job hopper, today’s candidate market has changed and the waters have become murky.  Closer attention needs to be given to the ‘job hoppers’, as this is where the gold may lie.  This is where things can get dangerous, as employers and recruiters need to distinguish the inherent job hopper from the displaced, highly capable executive.  Get it wrong and you’re left replacing the candidate a year in; a very costly mistake.

So, is now a good time to be hiring from a ‘talent availability’ perspective?  Absolutely it is.  However a keen eye for talent is required and a willingness to investigate where you may have previously dismissed.  What’s more essential is an ability to question your long-list in a way that enables you to distinguish the rare talent from the rest.  A CV without further investigation in 2010 will tell you far less than it did in 2008.

Now is the time to seize the opportunity to pick up some great talent!


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