Published by: Entrepreneur - 2012


Recruitment of top-caliber executives for key positions in local and global companies shows no sign of slowing down, despite the dire economic situation globally, according to a leading executive headhunter.

In spite of the slight upturn in hiring trends seen recently in South Africa, overall recruitment continues to be sluggish and job freezes continue throughout most of the economy. However there remains a pocket of the market that defies general trends, says Madge Gibson, partner at Jack Hammer Executive Headhunter.

“There is still a relatively stable – if not strong – market, where the demand for execs is still greater than the supply; but this leans toward the experienced, top end of executive management; the rest of the market remains constrained".

“Despite the job markets current hiatus, those with specialised niche and scarce skills will remain in high demand.”

Local and global trends

Gibson says that the phenomenon is not only local, but has been observed globally. According to recent statistics form IRC Global Executive Search Partners, which is represented in SA by Jack Hammer Executive Headhunters, there has been a ‘significant increase’ in new CEO appointments globally.

The IRC newsletter points out that after three exhaustive years of painful cost cutting and restructuring, which has seen companies shrink to their leanest models in a long time, there has been a necessary re-ignition of recruitment at the top ranks.

“With this latest negative economic cycle so close to the last, companies are sensitive to the risk of inertia, which can pose as much of a risk to business as a recession and are beginning to flesh out their management teams. The pent-up demand for leadership change is high enough to continue into the New Year, even with a sluggish economy,” states the newsletter.

Top execs staying local

Gibson says that one positive development flowing from the lessons learnt during the 2009 financial crisis is that top South African execs are now looking locally for new challenges versus overseas. “In good times, a position with a multinational company was often seen as the holy grail. Such an appointment was viewed as one that comes with stability, safety, prestige and opportunity, but with the global economy taking strain, we are witnessing a refocus on the domestic situation, with local emerging as the new ‘lekker’.

“While the economic situation in Europe and the rest of the world remains uncertain, there is recognition by South African corporates that we are on to comparatively good wicket and that despite the tough conditions, the show will go on”.