When a Chief Executive Officer resigns, retires or is sacked, recruiters like to swoop in to dispense sage advice on what the selection criteria should be for hiring a replacement.  Lately, an increasing number of boards are falling prey to a particular piece of dubious advice.  Recruiters may think this advice is clever, board members may feel it makes sense, but based on my experience this recommendation is, as they say in England, bollocks. 

Join me today and I will explain the British slang and why I find this advice so objectionable.   

(c) 2019 JGS + Productions

Welcome back to SelfPerspective, a weekly video blog with information and insight to help you guide your career.  Hello, I am John Self and thanks for joining me while I simultaneously rock the boat and bite the hand that feeds

For all of you talented and capable senior executives who are in the job market, this message is not intended for you so you might want to cover your tender ears until I finish my rant.   

As the executive job market in healthcare and other industries tightens, and as more and more talented leaders are pounding the pavement looking for a new leadership opportunity, too many recruiters and board advisors are erecting false barriers to employment with some ill-advised guidance:  You should only look at sitting CEOs (or pick the title.)

Today I want to focus on the out-of-work executives who cannot get a fair shake because of that ridiculous standard for candidate screening.

Based on my 25 years of leading executive searches, I can tell you without hesitation that advice is bollocks, a British slang word for what we in Texas refer to derisively as BS.  If you are a board member, whether someone is currently employed is the silliest of factors to determine whether they will be a successful executive for YOUR organization. There are plenty of currently employed CEOs, COOs and other senior leaders who have done enormous damage to companies and their employees across the US.

Under the guise of protecting their clients — but more than likely protecting their risk averse selves — these advisors are actually doing their clients a big disservice.   There are some very talented and accomplished executives in the job market today through no fault of their own.  The principal reason being the result of mergers or non-performance related layoffs. 

The recruiters that I have talked with on this subject say whether someone is currently in the position has absolutely nothing to do with their ability to be successful with a particular client in a particular role.once upon a time, long ago, that might have been prudent guidance for recruiting. But times have changed rather dramatically, which is to say there is some exceptional talent on the streets looking for work.

Let me stipulate that if a candidate is out of work and has a spotty employment record, then case closed. A bad CEO can, after all, destroy a perfectly good organization, hundreds of jobs and the lives of employees.  Are there some executives in the market who have absolutely no business running anything?  That issue is off the table.  Yes, that is a fact. However, there are some great leaders who do not deserve to be ignored because some recruiter, or worse, the client,  thinks that not being currently employed in the role is a legitimate reason to exclude someone from a search.

I once had a client in the American midwest who told me not to bring him any candidates who were not sitting COOs.  That was the engagement I was leading — the COO of the flagship hospital.  He was adamant and when I challenged him, he became indignant.  I stopped.  When they slam the door and lock it, you move on but I could not resist one final comment,   “OK, you are the client and I will follow your directions, but does that mean that if you lose your job you do not want me to talk with you about another position?”  

He was not amused but neither were the gods of ironic justice because in three months, before we finished the assignment, he was fired for performance.  

A candidate who is experienced and accomplished but not currently employed as a CEO, COO or what ever position you are trying to fill, is NOT a valid reason for denying him or her an opportunity.  

So once and for all, let us disabuse ourselves of this nonsense. It is so 1980s!