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High Demand for Executive-Level Talent Keeps Unemployment in C-suite Low

August 1, 2011
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While the unemployment rate remains high, so does the competition for executive and management-level talent—especially for chief executives and human resources professionals, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The unemployment rate for chief executives, including chief financial officers, is 2.6 percent, followed by HR managers at 2.8 percent, accountants and auditors at 3.5 percent, and financial analysts at 3.8 percent, according to the BLS’ second quarter unemployment report.

“This demonstrates which positions are most in demand,” said Brandi Britton, district vice president at Robert Half International Inc., which is based in Menlo Park, California. “The outlook for HR is good because as companies are adding staff they need someone to handle those functions like HR assistants and managers.”

But employers are becoming more particular about the skills candidates bring to the table.

For HR professionals, education and experience are important, but companies are placing a premium on demonstrated accomplishments, Britton says.

“They are looking for someone who can show that they’ve helped a company save money, whether it’s by filling positions quickly or identifying trends where the company is spending money in unnecessary ways.”

Perhaps the most dramatic change in job demands can be seen among CFOs, she says.

“CFOs do so much more than they did in the past. They are now CFO and COO. They are very multifaceted.”

Indeed, according to an Accenture study released in January, 80 percent of CFOs said their role is expanding beyond finance to include information technology, HR, production, customer services and marketing.

Attracting these multitalented workers means companies will need to step up their game by investing time and money in management systems and techniques to connect with passive job candidates, said Jim McCoy, vice president of ManpowerGroup Solutions in Milwaukee.

“Employers are responding more quickly to applicants and communicating regularly,” he said. “They will be buying more sourcing capacity, and we’ll see them hiring more researchers to track down candidates.”

In fact, that’s exactly what the Association of Executive Search Consultants predicts in its Member Mid-Year Outlook Report released in July.

“The general management/CEO/COO function is expected to see the greatest shortage of talent worldwide in the second half of 2011, followed by business development and then engineering. In order to keep up with the demand, over half the search firms surveyed plan to hire more consultants and researchers between July and December 2011.”  

 

Rita Pyrillis

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