Recruiting CEOs during the pandemic

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Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant, interviewed by


Recruiting CEOs during the pandemic. What a head-hunter is paying attention to

The external context generated by the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged leaders around the world. The pressure on their shoulders has increased because they have had to deal with a myriad of situations, some of them new, that require quick fixes. They must not forget to be close to people, to show empathy, to communicate transparently and to be flexible both with their teams, as well as with their partners and collaborators.

Although they are accustomed to the lack of predictability characteristic of the business environment, this situation was different, starting as a health crisis which subsequently affected society and the global economy. Among the things leaders should not lack can be named clarity, a permanent and specific communication, as well as a long-term vision, even when we are referring to online collaborations. For this reason, the approach to an executive search process is extremely important for a company that is looking for a suitable head for the organisation’s profile. Managers, through their role, are also the ones who must prove their responsibility, both for themselves and for the teams they lead. Therefore, a recruitment process for a CEO is essential for a company.

What does a recruitment process mean for a CEO? 

We discussed with Stela Ciupercea, Consultant at Signium – Stein & Partner, a German company with over 25 years of experience in Executive Search and Human Capital Advisory to see what a recruitment process means for a CEO in Romania and in Central and South-Eastern Europe, what is taken into account, what criteria does the company have in achieving the profiling of a good candidate.

 The recruitment process for a top management position (executive search) is a complex one, because we are talking about roles that have a direct impact on the long-term performance of their employees and companies. Regardless of the country, the approach for an executive search process is more or less similar, says the representative of Signium – Stein & Partner for

“To begin with, we need to understand very well the client’s need, to sketch together the most suitable profile. This depends a lot not only on their expectations, but also on the internal strategic challenges, the external context, the entrepreneurial or corporate environment of the company and what stage the organization is in when hiring a new CEO – maybe it’s a mature company, which is strengthening its market position or one going through a transformation process, and the examples can continue (…) There is no pre-established “recipe”. – Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant 

How recruitment processes have changed during the pandemic 

Recruiting a CEO can be a real challenge, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic commenced and all the selection processes moved online. However, adjusting to the remote working and continuing the activity in the digital environment was not foreign to the specialists with experience in the labour market. In an executive search process, Signium – Stein & Partner’s experts rely both on directly contacting candidates considered suitable for a management role, and on a solid database, built over the years, which they can access from anywhere, as well as on their personal network, aspects that have not suffered since the beginning of the pandemic.

“On the other hand, the interview stage was different, as well as the presentation of the candidates to the decision-makers within the employing company. These were organized almost entirely online, compared to previous years, when direct interaction and face-to-face meetings were indispensable. – Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant

Stela Ciupercea says that although these processes were easily facilitated by technology, she noticed a greater reluctance from the candidates regarding the positions that involved travel or even relocation.

How should a CEO’s resume look like? 

Regardless of the position for which one applies, the CV represents the candidate’s photo, which ends up in the hands of a recruiter, to be read and evaluated. The situation is the same for a CEO. She/He must carefully write her/his CV, note down the information related to the experience gained, professional skills, qualifications, and studies, to create an image that is authentic and as clear as possible for the person reading and evaluating it.

“The focus should be on the responsibilities, but especially on the achievements she/he had at each stage of her/his professional career and show the direct contribution to the performance of the teams and companies which she/he worked with or for. If a CEO wants to take a step towards another industry, it is important to list details about previous companies, for example the business model, number of employees, level of responsibility, direct reporting, the evolution of the organisation during the period in which she/he was in charge of the company “, notes Stela Ciupercea.

As for the appendix of a CV, it does not have to be a long one because the large number of pages will not make the CV more interesting, the relevance of the content being what matters.

The domains in Romania with the most applications on top management positions

From the application perspective for top management positions, in Romania, the most dynamic industries are currently IT&C, FMCG, Retail and Logistics. At the same time, the Real Estate and Construction sectors were attractive from this point of view, especially because the local market created more opportunities for transactions during this period.

“Most executive search projects have been conducted in areas such as FMCG, Production, Private Equity and Technology, and at the level of positions, there has been a significant increase in recruitment projects for CFO (Chief Financial Officer) roles, compared with previous years”, explained Stela Ciupercea, Signium – Stein & Partner Consultant

The specialist also says that although 2020 was an unpredictable year, the demand for executive search services in Romania remained at a similar level compared to previous years. Last year, about 20 companies appointed new executives to lead companies in sectors such as FMCG, Pharma and IT&C.

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