The corner office isn’t where most of us sit (if we get to sit at all on the job). For the average worker, senior leadership positions are difficult to come by and something you spend much of your career working toward. That is, if you even want a leadership role; not everyone strives for the responsibility and headaches that come with the position. But for those workers hoping to land an executive role, the outlook is brighter today than it was six months ago.
In the coming six months, 31 percent of employers plan to hire for executive-level positions, finds a new survey from CareerBuilder and Headhunter.com. That is 6 percent higher than the same survey found in October 2011.
What employers want in senior leaders
Not surprisingly, employers are looking for executives to fill roles where opportunities to expand the business and increase revenue are primary goals. Business development leads the list of in-demand executives, with 24 percent of employers looking to fill those roles. Following close behind are information technology at 23 percent, sales at 22 percent, and both marketing and accounting/finance at 19 percent.
Each of these areas of concentration has the potential to drive revenue, improve operations or attract more customers. For these high-level employees who may earn substantial paychecks, finding new ways to increase profits is a logical focus. Yet employers aren’t looking only for people who can directly make money. They want people who can keep day-to-day operations moving smoothly. After all, a productive and happy workplace is one way to ensure business grows.
When asked what qualities they look for in an executive-level candidate, only 20 percent of employers cited a master’s degree in business administration or similar level of higher education. Relevant experience was a prerequisite for most hiring managers, but 35 percent said they are open to candidates who have no background in the industry.
Soft skills matter, too
Although experience and education are important, hiring managers might look beyond those factors because they know a good leader needs some of the soft skills that you can’t see on paper. When evaluating characteristics of potential executives, hiring managers say they want someone:
- Who can solve problems — 62 percent
- Who is adept at motivating others — 54 percent
- Who can act with speed and agility in a changing market — 47 percent
- Who is creative — 43 percent
- Who has emotional intelligence — 38 percent
- With experience in different areas — 37 percent
Who is already in the corner office?
In a 2011 survey on workplace diversity, workers who fell under the “diverse” categorization (including but not limited to women, African Americans, Hispanics, and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) saw a disparity in their pay and career level when compared with other workers.
The new executive-hiring survey suggests diversity is still lacking, according to hiring managers. Of the surveyed companies, 22 percent do not have female executives. In addition, 41 percent of companies do not have executive-level employees who are considered diverse (including African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, LGBT and workers with disabilities).
One promising sign is that 20 percent of employers have workers in senior leadership who are under 30. This could be due to the increasing importance of technological industries and roles in today’s workplace, and Millennials are often the experts or innovators in the field.