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Interesting Trends in Executive Search – Some That You May Not Expect

I recently had a conversation with Terry Price, our new CMP Senior Consultant, about what interesting trends in executive search he has seen over the past five years. Terry knows what he is talking about. He just joined our CMP team after a very successful twenty-year career as an Executive Search Partner at Spencer Stuart, one of the world’s largest and most respected retained executive search firms.

Terry was responsible for helping mid-size firms to Fortune 500-level corporations fill their key C-Suite and board-level talent. He has interviewed thousands of senior-level executives over his career across a wide range of industries and professions. He also has had the unique vantage point of seeing what type of talent organizations truly value, why some candidates succeed while others fail, and what key factors determine the success of a new leader in an organization.

We Need to Redefine What the War for Talent Is

The “war for talent” is written about so much in all of the HR publications. The conventional wisdom is that there are more top jobs than there are candidates. Terry offered a differing view by saying that there is a big shift taking place from where there was once a surplus of C-Suite opportunities and not enough talent to what we have today, which is a surplus of available talent. The implication is that organizations are tightening up the position specs for their open roles and are becoming more selective. They are also showing patience to find the exact match and will not compromise on considering candidates who they do not see as “A players.”

If you are an A player – there is a war. For the rest of us, there is a surplus.

Assessment is Driving C-Suite Talent Selection

As organizations become more and more selective in their talent evaluation, they are increasingly looking to their executive search partners to provide them with candidates who have been thoroughly evaluated for culture fit and leadership temperament, and lacking any potential derailers that could shorten their tenure.

Terry saw this trend as the evolution that took him from being an executive recruiter to now being a leadership advisory consultant. He saw how executive searches will now routinely include personality and cognitive assessments as critical elements in the selection process, and how taking a data-driven approach helped him deliver candidates who onboarded more successfully and had longer, more successful tenures with their organization.

Terry believes that assessment, especially for culture fit, is so important in evaluating C-suite candidates today that it now needs to be an essential part of any successful search. One of the big drivers in this change was that Spencer Stuart observed that the biggest reason for the CEOs failing in their new roles was culture fit. He recommends that the assessments used in a search engagement delve deeply into identifying the most common derailers of executive performance – being overly bold, having an overly large ego, failing to learn the norms and values of the organization, and being overly results-driven – so that they identify how well the executive candidate will fit into the company culture.

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Board Seat Roles are Increasingly Demanding, and the Required Skill Set is Changing

Terry saw how board seats, once a comfortable way for executives who have retired or who are in the latter stages of their career to get paid for a high prestige/low pressure role, have now become very demanding. The responsibility and accountability for a board seat are now very real, and the time commitments have increasingly grown.

The board selection process has also changed as organizations are now more and more looking to fill their seats with executives who possess deep experience in business transformation and change management, and keen digital insights. Terry said that finding senior-level candidates who possess these skills can be somewhat challenging since the candidates with these skills may not have the requisite seniority at an executive level. This is where organizations are having to find a balance (where previously they would only consider C-Suite talent for their open seats).

Corporate boards are also very actively seeking to build out the diversity of their boards. Terry said that this was true in the search assignments that he managed. A recent Harvard Business Review article  mentioned that organizations need to rethink their director-selection criteria

Female and non-white directors now joining corporate boards have notably different backgrounds than their white male peers. They are more likely to be serving for the first time and less likely to be current or former CEOs. New women directors tend to have more finance, technology, and consumer experience than male directors, according to Spencer Stuart’s 2018 Board Index. To recruit more diverse candidates, boards have had to cast a wider net and focus on skills and experience rather than the titles candidates have held.


It was great having an in-depth conversation with Terry Price and learning what are the top trends in executive search today. The increased use of assessments in executive search matches the CMP Talent Fit Solutions strategy where we take the guesswork out of hiring through our high-definition recruiting and predictive and efficient assessment.

About Terry Price

Terry Price

Terry recently retired as a Partner with Spencer Stuart in their Dallas, Texas, office. Terry had a 20-year tenure of assessing/placing executives in over 500 search assignments, primarily focused on Board Director, CEO, and C-Level positions in the technology sector. He also acted as mentor/coach for the firm’s Technology practice. Terry was the winner of 7 Lou Reiger Quarterly Awards, which recognizes the top consultants for the firm. Before Spencer Stuart, Terry held President/CEO roles with Sensormatic Electronics and AmeriSystems.

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