How Has COVID-19 Changed C-Suite Recruitment? The Trends You Need to Know

Jason Hanold
4 min readApr 7


The landscape of C-Suite executive recruitment is changing once again. The COVID-19 pandemic created many challenges for both recruiters and job seekers, leading to new trends emerging in the way C-level talent is acquired. The new normal will take a while to fully develop, but it is already a changed landscape for C-Suite recruiters.

COVID-19 disrupted operations across the board for almost every company in the world. This disruption included the recruitment process for C-Suite executives. Candidates for open positions were unable to travel and conduct face-to-face interviews. Instead, interviews had to be conducted remotely. This was a major change in the norm for C-Suite recruiting, but it turned out to be a temporary one. Or did it? The pandemic sped up a number of already existing trends in C-Suite hiring. Here are a few:

Looking for Meaning

A sea change in attitude was already underway among the younger generation of executives looking to move up the corporate ladder. Instead of being motivated exclusively or mainly by financial considerations, younger people increasingly looked for a corporate culture that matched their own values and beliefs. The younger generation was more interested in finding a position with a company they felt would give them a greater purpose in life. They were looking for something to be passionate about.

Employees voluntarily leaving their jobs was another emerging trend that the pandemic helped along. For decades, it was rare for executives to leave a job without having another position already lined up. This changed in the years just prior to COVID. Related in a way to the desire for fulfillment in their lives and careers, younger people left their jobs in search of something more. This greater churn of younger executives affected the C-Suite recruiting process in that there were now fewer internal candidates for open positions, forcing companies to look elsewhere for top talent.

Embracing Diversity

The trend toward increased diversity in hiring was another shift that became more common during the pandemic. Firms were becoming aware of the criticism of the homogeneity of the C-Suite by many internal and external stakeholders. The addition of Chief Diversity Officer as a C-Suite level position illustrates the importance diversity has taken in hiring practices. Diversity also relates to company culture and the increasing importance of that culture to young candidates.

The pool of competitive applicants for the C-Suite is currently unable to meet the demand for the number of open positions available. This has created a market where the jobseekers have a major advantage, and they know it. Finding and hiring top-level C-Suite talent is harder than ever, especially for newer positions like Chief Diversity Officer. This paucity of candidates has empowered applicants to be more selective about what they are looking for in a C-Suite position.

Formally Opening the C-Suite to Hybrid Work

In addition to the culture concerns, many employees enjoyed the greater freedom and flexibility they had during the pandemic to work at home or in a hybrid remote/in-office environment. C-Suite jobs almost always require significant travel and real-time interpersonal interactions both in person and via remote technology, so they have always been hybrid by nature. However, after the pandemic, offices are beginning to formally embrace the desire of jobseekers for remote/hybrid work.

Part of this is necessity. By officially recognizing C-Suite positions to remote work, the number of potential candidates increases tremendously. It allows for consideration of executives that may already have found their home of choice and would be extremely reluctant to move to another city or state. It also assists in speeding up the hiring process, as interviewing can be conducted remotely and more candidates will be interested in positions they don’t have to completely relocate for.

Streamlined executive searches are becoming the new normal. Due to the low number of outstanding candidates, many executives are receiving multiple concurrent C-Suite offers. Getting to the offer stage of the search process quickly gives firms an advantage over their less agile rivals, presenting their desired candidates with offers sooner and potentially stealing them away from firms with a more traditional approach and timeline.

Relaxing Education Requirements

Technology firms in particular are having a difficult time finding C-Suite talent. In the past, many companies looked for advanced education in their C-Suite hires. However, there are only so many candidates who have those credentials from top schools.

Even as the demand has increased, the number of those applicants has remained steady. Without a serious — and seriously unlikely — increase in attendance and graduation at top schools, the candidate pool will continue to shrink. This has caused many companies to expand their search parameters to include candidates from outside the conventional educational pipeline.

In Summary

The world is, if possible, moving even faster than before the advent of COVID. Start-up companies grow quickly and their need for talent in the C-Suite is equally fast. The lack of traditionally qualified candidates has put the power firmly in the hands of the candidates looking to move up to the C-Suite, and this major trend is likely to continue for some time to come.



Jason Hanold

Executive Recruiter, clients NFL, Google, Patagonia, Under Armour, Gucci, Nike, Northwestern, eBay, UFC, Vail, REI, Electronic Arts, Live Nation, #HR #Recruiter