Spring 2020

What a difference two months makes.  We’ve seen the hottest job market (and economy) in recent memory radically altered due a pandemic event far beyond all of our controls.  With so much uncertainty in the air, circumstances with high performing talent has also changed.  We’ve spent a great deal of time lately talking with private equity investors, their portfolio company CEO’s, and other business owners to hear how they’re managing their hiring decisions.  Clearly, for those in industries that have been seriously affected, there are more pressing priorities and it will take additional time to recover.  However, those in stronger positions see this as a very good time to recruit critical executives.  We want to share what we’ve learned in the hopes it will provide you some insight and highlight a very promising opportunity despite the challenging environment we are operating in today.       


Candidates are much easier to connect with.  Travel schedules are on hold.  This makes someone who travels extensively very accessible.  Subsequent conversations and interviews can take place faster than normal.


Candidates are concerned with their current situations, weighing new possibilities.  Some have stock awards under water.  Others had hopes for an exit this year, which is now unlikely.  Some are now in leveraged situations with no easy fix.  Many have taken deep cuts in their salaries and have lost key employees due to furloughing.  Everyone knows bonuses are in jeopardy as everyone’s Sales Plan for 2020 has been derailed. 


Candidates are responding to your confidence.   Portfolio companies who have decided to launch  a new search or continue with an existing one signal to the market a great deal of confidence (something that is lacking in many candidates’ current organizations). Investing in your business is a huge differentiator in the current environment.  Candidates find this very reassuring and want to hear about your plans, your excitement about the company’s future, and how they can help you.  They are responding to your call to action.


Flexibility and Adaptation are key.  In this new normal, businesses are having to rethink their interviewing process.  Meeting in person isn’t an option at the moment.  Thankfully, candidates have videoconferencing capabilities in their own home offices and free time.  This allows PE firms and candidates the opportunity to thoroughly get to know each other in multiple combinations (i.e., one on one, or with additional participants) and accelerate their process.  This is a gift.  A great deal can be accomplished and some firms are making hiring decisions without meeting candidates in person.  Others are using the time to assemble their short list of finalist candidates for in-person interviews and site visits, to be scheduled as quickly as they are able to do so.   

Great Businesses thrive with exceptional leadership.  There is a genuine silver lining in taking action now.  You could potentially land an “A caliber” candidate that under normal circumstances would not be available.  Additionally, competition for this talent is lighter as candidates are not entertaining as many prospective opportunities, so it is easier to cut through the clutter and capture someone’s attention faster and much more easily.  Companies with a very compelling Candidate Value Proposition have the opportunity to actively engage and secure this very special type of talent right now.

Authored by Tom Shahnazarian & Kevin Hahn, Co-Founders of Spectrum Search Partners, a Denver, CO-based retained executive firm that specializes in private equity.  If you wish to reach out to us, please write to: tom@spectrumsearchpartners.com and khahn@spectrumsearchpartners.com