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September 2020

“Executive Search During COVID-19”: Liebich & Partner AG - AW’s member in Germany - discuss how the pandemic has changed the process in Germany

Six months after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Europe, and with no realistic end in sight, Rico Haegele, Dr. Matthias Rode and Juergen Eichhorn (pictured left to right), discuss how executive search has been affected in Germany.

Liebich & Partner, Germany

From the client point of view:
“Companies here are having to cope with reductions in business activity, cash flow problems and short-time working, and this has manifested itself in less demand for our executive search and recruiting services. Completely understandable of course, as there is greater focus on risk-avoidance and an underlying uncertainty towards creating new positions and filling existing positions, unless however, they are strategically important positions where a successor has to be found. Companies have to hold back on investing in consulting services, naturally. But we are noticing huge differences between industrial sectors. Fewer projects are coming from clients in the automotive and engineering sectors but, on the other hand, sectors like IT, FMCG, construction and pharma seem to be booming somewhat, and there is a relatively high demand for qualified, specialized talent. On an international level, economic recovery in most other European countries is slower than in Germany, and firms in those countries are currently hesitant about investing in new management positions here. And, obviously we’ve not been able to visit our clients abroad due to COVID measures, and this has also meant that ex-pat recruiting and cross-border hiring has slowed down considerably.”

From the candidate point of view:
“Many are demonstrating rather inconsistent behavior. With security high on the list of priorities, they are less willing to change jobs, more reluctant to relocate and have also become more critical regarding the conditions of the job and the status of the company. So, as consultants, we sometimes need to invest more time than usual in convincing suitable candidates to apply for a certain position. However, we are receiving numerous unsolicited applications from talent currently working in problematic sectors where there is less or no demand for candidates. So, depending on which sector a candidate is working in, they will be more or less keener to switch. Clients, on the other hand, look carefully at a candidate’s background as they want to minimize their own risk too.”

As regards methods:
“With the huge increase in work-from-home policies, potential candidates are easier to reach and more readily available for first interviews, which of course now take place mainly by video conference. However, the concept of “virtual hiring” does not work here in Germany, where employers still prefer to hold the final interview in a personal, face-to-face environment. On the whole though, we are spending considerably less time on the road and having to dedicate more resources to direct approach methods.”

And the future:
“Demographic change isn’t being affected by the pandemic and so our executive search services will always be in demand. In fact, there will be an even greater need for highly qualified, talent and suitable candidates. The professional and competent services of executive search firms like ours will become more and more valuable to our clients. Recruiting may possibly become temporarily more localized, not only a result of COVID-19 mobility restrictions, but also as companies try to produce on a more regional level, with less vulnerable supply chains and risk. For a short time we might notice a lull in global connectedness. We are also, unfortunately, seeing a reduction in levels of professional training and staff development as a result of more prudent spending policies, and this might negatively affect the quality of future candidates. All in all, there will be higher expectations in the recruiting business that only experienced and specialized executive search firms can fulfill.”

Dr. Matthias Rode, Partner & Regional Director AGILIUM WORLDWIDE EMEA:
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Juergen Eichhorn, Partner

Rico Haegele, Consultant

Liebich & Partner, Germany:

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