The effect of Covid-19 on the number of executive candidates

3rd Jun, 2020

Patrick Minne – Director, Engage Executive Talent

Two weeks ago I wrote about the effect that Covid-19 was having on the timing of executive recruitment by non-profits.  Since then I have had a number of conversations with charity board members who are trying to gauge the extent to which the pandemic has inhibited the appetite for potential candidates to consider moving to new roles.   I reply that we have, indeed, seen fewer queries from candidates who currently occupy public sector roles, as they sit tight in jobs with better perceived job security.  That’s not the case for candidates from the third and private sectors who are more used to variable job security even in permanent full-time positions

There are three main points I try to get across in the current context. First, the timelines involved in filling an executive position will often involve a successful candidate needing to give three months’ notice.  At the risk of stating the obvious, if you were making a job offer today (it’s the third of June as I write), they won’t be in post until September.  That’s even before you consider the timeline required in the lead-up to the job offer. You have to sign off updated Job Descriptions and Person specifications; compile a detailed application pack; allow for a search phase that includes the approach to passive candidates as well as public advertising; and schedule up to three stages of interviews and assessments.  In addition, we’ve lengthened our own standard search phase at Engage to account for the longer lead times needed to reach passive candidates through our third party intermediaries. (Passive candidates who are now largely based at home take longer to get back to you).

We already have robust processes for interviewing remotely during the recruitment phase, so the second point I try to impress on employer organisations is that they need to focus as much on planning the logistics that surround the induction phase for new recruit, as they do for the recruitment process. For front-line service-oriented organisations, there is a case to build in contingency time for that induction phase to take longer than usual, given the uncertainty around what social distancing will look like in the workplace.  That has the potential to slow the journey to full operating capacity of any new senior manager or chief executive in the crucial, early part of their career with the new organisation.

Lastly, I try to answer the hardest question that’s been asked of me for the last few weeks: “How many fewer candidates will present for our executive post because of Covid-19?”.  While it’s impossible to compare apples with oranges, I can at least point to the number of enquiries and application downloads for all executive positions we’ve recruited for, from just one of the online channels for which we have data.  Comparing the quarter to date in 2020 with the same period last year, the average number of application pack downloads actually inched up by 1% while the average number of job-page viewings increased by 96%.  It’s not flawless science by any means, but it does at least corroborate our anecdotal sense that we’re seeing as many candidates as before.

So if you’ve hit the pause button on your executive recruitment, do factor in the lead times required before you have your new postholder in the hotseat, plan for the ongoing challenges posed by not just getting them recruited but getting them inducted, and bear in mind there is still a wide pool of candidates interested in what your organisation has to offer.  Online or in real life, we’re always ready to help match the best candidates to the most important roles in the third sector at

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