BlueSteps Webinar: How Does the Executive Search Process Work?

BlueSteps Webinar SeriesThe following is an excerpt from the BlueSteps Webinar, How Does the Executive Search Process Work?

AESC's executive career service, BlueSteps, hosted a webinar to help you learn how executive search works and start creating a strong and strategic network of recruiters. The panel of senior-level executive recruiters, also AESC Members, share their insights on how to leverage executive search to further your career and successfully navigate the search process.


  • Mark Madden, Executive Vice President, Managing Principal, Cejka Search
  • Steve Newton, Managing Director & Area Manager, Russell Reynolds Associates, Inc.
  • Mark O’Donnell, Managing Partner, Odgers Berndtson
  • Ranju Shergill, Partner & Executive Recruiter, Pekarsky & Co
  • Moderated by Kathy Simmons, Director, BlueSteps Executive Career Services

Kathy Simmons: All right, we're going to talk a little bit about current trends and what skills and capabilities executives should be leveraging or developing to help them be a more of an attractive candidate in 2020 and beyond? Since each of you is either in a different sector or a different geography, I'd like to do a bit of a round-robin here. So, I'm going to start with you, Steve Newton, if you'll tell us a little bit about what you're seeing in terms of trends that you feel are important for candidates to recognize?

Steve Newton: Yeah. I'm going to try to answer this briefly but in two different categories. I'm going to use the term to answer your question very specifically, value creation. It doesn't mean that you were necessarily running a P&L in the traditional sense of the term, but what it means is that in whatever role you had, be it a line position or functional area support role, that you can point to very specific accomplishments that you can be frankly proud of. That could be in a growth industry or a retrenchment industry. In both cases, the more specific you can be about what you've accomplished, either alone or with leading a team, will be enormously valuable.

SN: We get queasy as search consultants if you have a hard time pointing to those very specific accomplishments. What I mean by value creation is what did you do to improve the bottom line? It could be an HR policy, it could be an increase in sales, anywhere in between. Be very specific. The other piece that I'd like to just point out is we operate on the basis of four core competencies, strategy, execution for results, leadership, and relationships and influence. Again, strategy, execution for results, leadership, and relationships. Think about those four as you try to describe yourself and what have you done in all four of those areas.

KS: Great advice. Thank you. Ranju, what would you say to this? Given you're in Calgary, are there different trends or skillsets that you're seeing emerge?

Ranju Shergill: Absolutely. Calgary, we've been known for our robust energy sector for decades. In this city and this region of the world, we're seeing a pivot away from energy into other sectors. We're also seeing more and more talent in younger workforces out there. So, when executive searches come up at companies, organizations in our region, they're looking for executives who are a different profile than they've been conventionally. We're now looking for executives who can demonstrate that they're developing new skills and specifically keeping up with technology and digital transformation. We're looking for executives who are active in their networks and their community.

RS: The most marketable executives we work with are those who are more tech-savvy, they're open, and embrace change, they have a heightened EQ, and they show a willingness to roll up their sleeves, and sort of work with startups, or get to know all levels of an organization. They're not so concerned about conventional factors like title or compensation. So, they're truly leaders who can inspire and more importantly relate to the Gen Y and the Gen Z employees that are out there in organizations these days. So very different from the conventional executives that we've seen before.

KS: That's interesting. Thank you for sharing that. Mark O'Donnell, how about you? You're on the other side of the pond from at least where we are here, or I am. What would you say you are seeing in terms of trends and skillsets that are coming to the fore?

Mark O'Donnell: I think very similar to what's been said, to be honest with you. I think what we're looking for here is going to that digital transformation comment. It's not that a CFO, CHRO or a CMO has necessarily done this themselves, but has an awareness of the impact it has on a business and how it impacted on their business, and how it could impact on whatever business that they're going into. It's inevitable that whether you're a B2B or B2C business or a large enterprise that it's going to affect you in some way. So, have they kept up to speed on what's happening in that area? Do they know what's involved and what's likely to happen? I think that's definitely something that a lot of organizations look for across Europe. Europe's fragmented obviously, and some areas are more sophisticated than others but generally, every organization's grappling with that. So, an understanding of what's happening there.

MO:I think the other thing linked to that is the concept of agility. So, how agile and what agility are you displaying? It's something that's becoming more expected because things are changing so quickly. So that's learning agility. So how do you develop yourself? What time you've put into that? There's a curiosity factor linked into that. How curious are you about what's happening? And then your general change agility to be able to change and roll with it. So, I suppose on top of what's already said, I'd echo all of those, but they'd be the kind of two things I'd add in as well.

KS: Excellent. Thank you. All right, let me ask you, Mark Madden, what would you add to the mix?

Mark Madden: This information, it really, really goes across a number of industries here in the United States. The healthcare industry has changed dramatically over the 30 years I've been involved in it, very different from what it was 30 years ago, and leadership has to adjust and change as well. So, all of the things that we've heard up to this point apply now to the healthcare industry, but it's been a little bit more recent. We've seen the need for especially innovation and the understanding of technology and digital innovation.

MM: How do you become a little bit more of a risk-taker in an industry that is not normally a risk-taking industry? That has been pretty stayed in its approach and now you're pulling together two separate ways to deliver care, which used to be separate physicians and separate hospitals? They are now coming together under one umbrella. So, the idea of a leader being able to collaborate and work with those entities and bring it together focusing on quality and value. Plus, this is one industry, again, in the United States here that is so impacted by politics. As those politics change and the funding changes, this is where the agility comes in that Mark mentioned - we have to have leaders that are willing to go down a path to move things forward but also be able to move back and retrench if there's something that impacts anything from revenue streams to policies that will not allow them to keep going in the direction they're going.

KS: Great observations from everyone. I think one of the things that certainly comes to the fore is the fact that most organizations realize, no matter what they consider their core business, at one level or another, they are a technology business. So that and also, I love the emphasis on the agility, I think of being comfortable with ambiguity and recognizing that there is a lot of change, particularly as you mentioned regarding the healthcare industry. There is certainly a lot of ambiguity going on in that area. But thank you all for that very insightful commentary on those different areas.

About BlueSteps

BlueSteps empowers director-level through C-Suite professionals in 70+ countries become better candidates and stronger leaders with the insights and resources needed to build a competitive business plan for their careers. Plus, we connect executive talent with a global team of expert career advisors for one-on-one support when needed. A service of AESC, BlueSteps shares career intel and opportunities you can’t get anywhere else—straight from the world’s leading executive search firms.