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Mumbai: The miseries of job hunting have hit those who sit in corner offices too, with openings at that level getting scarcer in an economic slump.

To cope with the growth slowdown, Indian companies are hiring fewer people for C-suite jobs, tweaking their pay structures and squeezing more work out of them, said headhunters.

Hiring of chief executive officers, chief financial officers and chief technology officers has declined 10% and their pay now includes more stock options and higher variable pay component, according to some of the headhunters Mint spoke to.

“Though (hiring is) down by 10%, the requirement for CXOs is still prevalent, but specifications of who fits the bill have changed. The compensation structure has changed and the time taken to evaluate and zero in on a candidate has prolonged," said R. Suresh, managing director of Insist, a boutique executive search firm. There are fewer support staff for top executives too, he said.

“If there is a head who has multiple deputies to do the job, now companies are evaluating if only one person can do the same," added Suresh.

(Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint)
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(Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint)

According to a Naukri.com survey released on 11 September, hiring for leadership roles requiring work experience over 16 years has declined 8%.

Companies are also reducing incentives, or restructuring compensation, with greater focus on variable pay linked to performance. Emphasis is placed more on performance pay, more deferred payments and performance milestones. According to Kunal Sengupta, senior client partner at executive search firm Korn Ferry, linking variable pay strictly to performance helps firms save cost during a slowdown. “When businesses are slow, you tend to be careful about who should I really be paying or who should I not be paying and how can I cut cost," he said.

Companies across sectors are seeing the trend, with manufacturing, infrastructure and financial services affected the most. Many companies are also weighing whether they need a CFO at all, or whether they can promote an existing financial controller to handle the role, Suresh said. Or, If they hire a CFO, whether the person can handle an additional portfolio as well.

According to Anshul Lodha, regional director at executive search firm Michael Page India, incentives and stock options have fallen significantly as companies try to save costs.

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