Conducting Executive Searches During a Pandemic

When The Loring Group opened for business earlier this year, the future looked bright. Then came the coronavirus pandemic. Steve Caliger, the firm’s managing partner, talks about how his team is navigating the crisis, its impact on the search industry . . . and a silver lining or two.

April 29, 2020 – Steve Caliger opened The Loring Group earlier this year and since then times have changed dramatically for all businesses, including executive search firms. “The reason we started The Loring Group was to deliver higher quality work,” Mr. Caliger said. “Our partners were leaders for technology, banking, healthcare and professional services companies before becoming recruiters. We have deep domain expertise in these industries as well as business acumen most executive search consultants lack.”

Most large search firms have their partners lead client acquisition and then pass the assignment off to junior associates to do the work, he said. “We prefer a model where the senior partners execute the search as well. If your primary goal is the quality of work you do (vs. quantity) why would you delegate the critical process of screening and interviewing candidates that ultimately determines who will be presented to your client? You wouldn’t. Which is why we started The Loring Group.”

2 New Recruiting Guides Focus On Adaptation, Forecasts and Recovery

The nation’s vast executive search community and their clients are quickly adapting to the new realities of Covid-19 – and what it means for hiring in 2020 and beyond.

Hunt Scanlon’s latest executive recruiting industry sector report series will be available in 30 days. Hunt Scanlon Media will offer its two-part ‘Executive Recruiting State of the Industry Report’ focused on the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath. Part 1, ‘Adapting in Uncertain Times’ will examine how executive recruiters are resetting expectations in the midst of an unprecedented interruption to their business.

The part 2 installment, ‘Forecast & Recovery Strategies’ is our aftermath report – and provides critical data to guide your decisions and inform you on forward-thinking recovery strategies. Industry experts from across the talent and recruiting spectrum offer up their wide-ranging opinions, definitive viewpoints, and expert forecasts.

Many expect a significant pause in business, followed by a sharp rebound later this year. We talk to the experts, uncover the opportunities, pick the sectors and reveal how search firms and talent organizations are navigating and adapting in uncertain times. Hear from top talent experts, including: Frederickson Partners; CBIZ CMF; Russell Reynolds Associates; Odgers Berndtson; Options Group; ZRG Partners; Wilton & Bain; Diversified Search; Caldwell; Hanold Associates; True Search; Slayton Search Partners; Coulter Partners; Cejka Search; Solomon Page; Acertitude; McDermott & Bull; Academic Search; Beecher Reagan; Bowdoin Group; Kingsley Gate Partners; Comhar Partners; ON Partners; Perrett Laver; CarterBaldwin; Stanton Chase; Buffkin/Baker; Major, Lindsay & Africa; WittKieffer; Klein Hersh; Furst Group; Invenias; PierceGray; LifeSci Partners & more! Buy Both Reports Now!

Little did Mr. Caliger know when he launched the firm that the COVID-19 pandemic would soon turn the world upside down. For companies everywhere the past two months have been the stuff of nightmares, driving business leaders to seek alternative ways to operate as they try to move forward with no clear pathway to get there.

Finding New Ways to Conduct Searches

For executive search firms this has meant finding new ways to interact with clients and candidates. It also presents an opportunity for search firms as many executives are finding themselves out of work and looking for new jobs. Mr. Caliger and his firm have found new ways to adapt by using various technologies. In fact, he sees some positives in what has become a trying time for organizations worldwide.

“One of the things this pandemic has revealed is that some companies are more agile than others,” said Mr. Caliger. “Leaders who do not think out of the box well during times like this will suffer exponentially and so will their results.” The sting of this shutdown is going to stay with us for a while, he mused. “I believe CEOs and boards will want to make sure they do everything they can to fare better in the future should this type of thing happen again.”

Related: Leveraging Existing Response Plans to Tackle COVID-19

Mr. Caliger recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to share his view on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the search industry, how The Loring Group is going about business, and how the current situation can lead to producing more quality candidates for his clients. Following are excerpts from that conversation.

Steve Caliger

Steve, how has the global pandemic changed how searches are performed?

One of the biggest and perhaps most obvious changes is the use of videoconferencing for interviews instead of meeting with candidates in person. Typically we have face-to-face interviews with candidates before presenting them to clients, which is a big part of how we determine the overall cultural fit. Our clients now have the same challenges interviewing candidates over video vs. in person. Some of the feedback we have received indicates they are struggling with surety to move candidates forward in the process with the absence of the nuances you have when meeting in person.

Have you seen clients delay search assignment or are they moving forward?

A little of both. We had a client ready to start a new search in the middle of March that pushed that out until May and now probably to the second half of this year. We also have a new VP of finance search that just started last week. Some of this has to do with financial impact and uncertainty of how long this may last, and also the preference to interview people in person vs. only video. One of our clients wants to have the finalist candidates interview with the CEO in person, and here in the San Francisco Bay area we are not sure when that will be able to take place. I think ‘compliance related’ positions that are currently open or replacements for things like finance, and information technology areas like cybersecurity and E-commerce are still moving forward.

What long term effects do you think the pandemic will have on the executive search industry? Do you think this will change the way searches are being performed going forward?

One of the long term effects will probably be the ongoing use of videoconferencing. Clients, executive search consultants and candidates are establishing a new paradigm for how interviews are conducted. The convenience factors not to mention health implications associated with video vs. face-to-face meetings will probably change how many interviews, especially early-stage ones, will be done going forward.

Clients, executive search consultants and candidates are establishing a new paradigm for how interviews are conducted.”

Why is now a good time for organizations to be in the hunt for top candidates?

Increased size of the candidate pool! This has been an extremely tight ‘candidates’ job market over the past few years. One of the searches we were working on when the pandemic started was a global VP of finance role for one of the hottest cosmetics companies in the world. On a hunch that the pandemic may have changed things, we circled back to 20 candidates who had originally said no when we approached them six weeks earlier. Five of them came back to us right away as now being interested, and a few more have trickled in since then. The COVID-19 disruption has loosened up the job market, and we think the instability it has created will be with us for a while. If your company is in a position to move forward with new hires, now you may have an increased candidate pool of 20 to 30 percent, which is highly desirable.

What would you like to say to your clients and colleagues during this time?

If your company is in a position to move forward with new hires now, go for it! You have a window with an increased candidate pool that we have not seen in years, and that window will probably close again in six to 12 months. If you are in the unenviable position of having to lay people off, we have executive coaching basics available on our website at no charge that can help those needing to find a new job.

Related: Managing Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor  – Hunt Scanlon Media

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