Before I dive into the traits and competencies importance for in this digital age, let me start with what has not changed when it comes to traits and competencies. I call these the ‘fixed testaments’, which have stayed, will stay and should stay.
Flawless past record: It always mattered. It matters even more as the past not only catches up with you much faster now but also lurks sneakily on multiple social media platforms.
- Ability to join the dots: No one will invest time in you to unravel the complexities, the business challenges, the opportunities and the chance you have to make an impact through your role. That has always been a requirement and still is. You, as a senior employee, are expected to have an innate ability to join the dots.
- Work with diverse stakeholders (internal and external): Given the wide span of age that has come to define a workplace, it is extremely important that new senior hires should have had a good track record of working well with diverse stakeholders.
- To perform under pressure: The more you show that you have the drive and the acumen to deliver under pressure, the better: this is a given and cuts across roles and levels.
- Get teams to deliver: You are expected to have a great affinity and respect for your team. A good leader is that who gets the best from his team and keeps them highly motivated and engaged to keep the team going with their best foot forward.
And yet, there are big changes in the offing.
In a journey of a decade, I can surely and safely say that the speed which hiring trends changed in these last six years was at times tough to fathom for all the three key stakeholders, the C troika as I call them - the Consultant, the Candidate and the Client. There is also a fourth C and that is Chaos, an outcome of the lack of clarity and no one knew exactly what was or had to be the contours of a senior hire in this digital age.
The biggest shifts, however, have been in what traits or qualities one looks for in these times. And there has been a big shift in the spaces that embrace all the three Cs.
Here’s my list of the qualities and traits that a recruiting firm looks for in a prospective senior candidate, and it does become the consultant’s responsibility to present candidates that fit these qualities.
These traits, I believe, have become the benchmark when it comes to executive hiring across industries, and the intensity/depth goes up depending on the levels.
Traits that matter now more than ever before
Diversity in experience matters more than having a straitjacketed experience. A few years ago, it was customary to match-make similar backgrounds with jobs. If you had spent ten straight years in one company, in the same role, it was assumed that you would be the best fit for any similar role in a similar industry. FMCG candidates who worked with leading FMCG brands in a certain role had a definite advantage when it came to senior roles in other leading FMCGs.
That party is over. Now companies who look out for senior hires look for diversity in roles and companies. You’ve got to show that you have packed more and done more and done different roles. In essence, therefore, diversity of experience matters, now more than ever.
Speed over Perfection
It’s not the what you do and the how you do but there is a third dimension which has been added and that’s all about being agile, being nimble and being able to take off before you land. Perfection is good to have but speed and efficiency are a must.
Today’s VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world worships speed and gives enough room to learn from mistakes, so perfection is not as sacred as it used to be. Speed is.
Track record in the tough situation
A lot of value gets added to your profile if you happen to be a candidate with a good track record of being thrown into and performing in, tough crisis situations. While earlier it was good enough for you to be stamped as a ‘good resource’ if you happen to have worked for market leaders, now it is about the tough situations you handled while at work. The workplace label matters less than one’s ability to be a survivor through tough times.
Circumstances in professional and personal life
Most companies are looking for that mix in their hires. Great flawless professional track record is good, but what stands out is the depth and quality of your personal journey that impacts or impacted your professional life.
Being good with your own brand of storytelling is more important than recounting the number of awards you have won in your own game. The final hiring decision skews towards those profiles that have shown grit, stoicism, and optimism in the face of some tough situations they have to deal with.
Deep understanding of Digital opportunities
The operative words are digital and deep. This is an imperative that cuts across functions. If you are aspiring for the next top job, then do what it takes to develop and be aware of the digital world, be intuitively aware of the role that digital inclusion has and be fluent in articulating the strategic impact of the digital tools and platforms. Nothing can and has replaced this numero uno ask from across clients for all roles at all levels.
Ability to think and act like an entrepreneur, even if it is the most boring job
Times have changed and today, every role requires you to come with a mindset where you have the ability to think and act like an entrepreneur. You are no longer expected to perform your role and job description. Today, the requirements are clearly outlined in bold: you need to come in not just with a myopic view of doing your role and doing it well. Today’s clients are looking for resources who are experts in relay race instead of sprints.
Questioning the status quo and upsetting the apple cart are good things to do. Watching it go and leaving it undisturbed is not acceptable. The veils of work boundaries are being lifted and it is the person who can traverse beyond the stipulated who is a winner. Folks, who come with a challenger mindset, take it all.
Be resource conscious - don’t want people to blow money:
Being cost conscious mattered and will continue to. The new dimension is to be resource conscious as well: it is expected of you that you will be prudent and do with less when it comes to managing resources. No company, start-up or otherwise, looks down kindly on senior hires who come on board and rampantly start hiring. You are expected to do more with less, and any deviations here are not looked down kindly.
The important and most critical angle is the fact that whatever be the theme of the economy and the trends which get associated with it, there will be a few hygiene traits that will hold true for all key participants who interact with each other.