What is the Future of the Job Search?

October 28, 2020

Do you sit or stand while giving a presentation or doing an interview over Zoom? According to Nada Usina, Managing Director of the global executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, it makes a big difference. 

Nada Usina, Russell Reynolds Associates

Usina is watching recruiting for C-suite roles in big companies change in real-time. People are being hired without ever meeting leadership teams in person, work-from-home perks (like fancy new desk chairs) are trumping luxurious office features, and managers are learning how to communicate with their teams in new ways. 

In a recent interview with InnoLead, Usina shared insights on how the job hunt is going to be affected long-term by our new remote world, and why that isn’t a bad thing. What follows are edited highlights.

You May Never Meet New Senior Leadership In-Person 

The most obvious [change in recruiting has been] people becoming increasingly comfortable doing their interviews in a virtual environment — and in many cases now even hiring leaders in a virtual context. The past few months have accelerated processes which often took months in the past. 

There was a perception of needing to meet somebody in-person, or it was a debate: Would an interview be in person? Would it be virtual? That unto itself might cause a cycle of a few days lost in a process. As a candidate, that is frustrating, especially if you are a candidate who is at the front-end of a process… 

A few months have not changed thousands of years of people interacting in person to all of a sudden everything going virtual. [Hiring a senior role remotely comes down to] figuring out: What is the context, and what can you learn about people through a virtual environment? Are you leaving the final steps for an in-person meeting? Are you placing your trust in others? 

It may not be that everyone has met [a candidate] in-person, but perhaps [a candidate] did a socially distanced walk [with an employer] or somebody [from the employer] had met the [candidate] a couple of years prior. Maybe [a candidate] is very close to the leadership, or the organization has interacted with that person directly… 

We have utilized different techniques through Zoom, including having candidates stand up when they present. You will see different behaviors that come through when somebody is standing versus sitting. … It’s almost equally important to ensure that the person is a connected or effective leader, an effective communicator, an effective strategist, somebody who can execute for results in a virtual environment. 

There may be talent that frankly accelerates through this process — perhaps in person, they might have been even with others, but they are better virtually. … There’s still some subset of companies who will start a conversation or start a search by saying, “There’s no way we’re going to hire somebody without meeting them in person.” Interestingly, watching the last few months unfold, some of those who were the most steadfast in saying that [they will not hire remotely]…are some of the ones who are more quick to adapt once they’ve become comfortable.

You May Not Need to Relocate Near Headquarters

Companies are more open to the idea of the candidate being remote — and potentially [being] remote permanently. That has a lot to do with what is the function, and how does the company operate…

While there are very pragmatic things that can be solved by companies that offer [permanent remote work, there are also practical concerns such as]…making sure they’re registered in the state [in which a remote employee is living] to be able to have employees. … In private equity, where you have operating partners, or in consulting, where you have consultants on site for weeks or months on end, very much [has] changed. 

How effective can they be in those types of environments? Operating partners are all about digging in with the team, digging into the business, establishing relationships that did not exist prior as a third party — which is a little different than somebody who’s going to be a permanent employee. … There are some ways it’s becoming increasingly challenging to do their jobs the way they worked in the past.

You May Get Some Help Building Your Home Office

If you’re looking outside [your company for talent,] you’re not looking for average. You’re looking for better than average. So, where are you willing to flex? … Exceptional [talent] usually requires excessive [compensation], and having that mindset is a differentiator for many companies. We often see that playing out Silicon Valley — how is it some of these top companies attract talent? At the end of the day, in addition to the great cultures they’ve created, and the career trajectory, and range that may exist in those environments…they also have pay to play.

Many companies are already considering…a more holistic approach to employee benefits. It seems like a light thing, but having snacks is lovely, having mental health and wellness [benefits], offering virtual classes, access to not a gym but…one of the more modern [home gym] tools. … Offering those types of [at-home] solutions and benefits as alternatives I think absolutely will matter to the broader positioning of the company [when recruiting the best talent.]

Your Transformation Role May Be More Important Than Ever

If we look at Chief Transformation Officers…we have certainly seen an uptick in that role. It is absolutely at the forefront of conversation with many of our clients — more so than, right now, innovation. What is a Chief Transformation Officer is a pretty wide spectrum — not too dissimilar to the Chief Digital Officer. That pretty wide spectrum can be anything from “Get me somebody who’s a former consultant” to “somebody who has led a project management type of office.”  

The transformation officer is real and at the forefront. [Many companies, while discussing this role, have] said, “Wow, the transformation or digitization or disruption, or whatever you want to call it, in your company is an initiative.” And for many others, it has become an imperative. For those where it became an imperative, we see them accelerating. For those…saying, “It’s an initiative. We can’t deal with initiatives right now. We’re trying to keep the lights on. We’re trying to do the basics, to maintain cash flow…” I don’t want to dismiss the very pragmatic aspects of meeting covenants or whatever else is going on, but if they don’t invest now, our view is they’re going to have a whole lot a whole lot of pain later.


Nada Usina is a Managing Director at Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm. Usina co-leads the Technology Sector. Her clients range from Fortune 500 companies to top sports teams and leagues, as well as venture capital and private equity-backed companies.

This piece is a part of the Fall 2020 special issue of IL’s magazine, which collects advice and insights from 25 contributors. Read the full “Innovation Matters More” magazine.