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Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

C-suite headhunters prioritize emotional intelligence

  • The ability to manage a crisis with empathy as people are going through tough times is vital for the role, say experts
  • The sectors that are aggressively looking for CXOs include pharma, e-commerce, IT, chemicals and retail

MUMBAI : Covid-19 has added new specifications to the list of C-suite headhunters: soft skills and being tech savvy. Till last the fiscal, companies wanted executive search firms to hire high performers, who were passionate, ambitious, deal makers and go-getters. Now, the pandemic has prompted them to look for C-suite candidates with soft skills.

CXOs or C-suite refers to leadership roles, such as chief executive officers (CEO), chief financial officers (CFO) and chief operating officers (COO).

“Soft skills are more important now than earlier. The ability to manage crises, pressure, and teams with empathy, as people are going through tough times, requires a fairly high level of soft skills," said Jyoti Bowen Nath, managing partner, Claricent Partners, a talent consultancy. With consolidation, collaboration and mergers, CXOs need to have fairly evolved soft skill sets as they are dealing with diverse sets of people and complex situations, added Nath. Emotional quotient is becoming more and more important at leadership levels.

C-suite hiring, which had fallen by 50% following the outbreak, was far worse than what was witnessed during the 2008-09 global financial crisis. Now, things are looking up.

Headhunters said companies are unable to postpone critical hiring any longer. And sectors, which are aggressively looking for CXOs to lead their businesses, include pharma, e-commerce, IT, chemicals, active pharmaceutical ingredient(API), industrial products, agrochemicals, and retail.

“Soft skills are now morphed as soft power, which is the power to drive change, to influence and manage crisis one day at a time. Yes, that soft power is being demanded. And, CEOs are displaying they can change themselves to wield that soft power," said R. Suresh, managing director, Insist, a boutique executive search firm.

But with hiring done virtually, how are executive search firms assessing the soft skills?

Recruiters said while earlier appointments would be closed after meeting the candidates, now they are using assessment tools, though not foolproof, as indicators. These include Hogan Personality Inventory assessment, and in- depth interviews by many stakeholders. The number of referral checks have also gone up.

“Referral checks have become significant for many companies so that hiring becomes robust and fool proof. If earlier there were two referral checks, now there are four," added Nath.

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