Excerpted from The New York Times:
Shawn Banerji’s services do not come cheap. A top headhunter, he typically has several searches under way at once, each of which can cost the companies that hire him a six-figure retainer.
In April and May, when the coronavirus pandemic shut the economy, he had just one executive spot to fill. Now he has five new assignments, as corporate hiring has rebounded in June.
“I’m feeling bullish,” said Mr. Banerji, who works from Stamford, Conn., and New York and places executives in tech-oriented roles at major companies. “I don’t think we’re going backwards.”
The turnaround at Mr. Banerji’s firm, Caldwell, echoes a broader reawakening in hiring for professional positions, according to interviews with headhunters, recruiters and executives at staffing firms. Human resource departments are beginning to consider filling open jobs, and recruitment is picking up for high-level corporate posts.
But the recovery is uneven. More than one million new jobless claims continue to be filed each week, and certain industries are far outpacing others in the rebound from the trough a month or two ago. Jobs in technology, health care, financial services and consumer packaged goods lead the way. On the other hand, the headhunters and others say, hiring by retailers, apparel makers, airlines, hotels and academic institutions remains moribund.
And it remains a disorienting time for many veteran corporate employees. Even as hourly workers at restaurants and other businesses are called back, salaried employees find themselves in an unfamiliar landscape.
Also unclear is whether white-collar workers will want to return to crowded downtowns or dense office environments. Many have become used to working from home using digital networking platforms, just as they are shopping online rather than going to the store.
These shifts in professional and consumer habits are powering the demand for executives at the companies Mr. Banerji serves. He has searches under way for roles such as chief digital officer, chief technology officer and head of engineering.
“Companies want to transform and adapt to the digital landscape,” he said. “They’ve gotten religion as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in terms of technology. They don’t want to let a crisis go to waste. This was going to happen, but it’s an acceleration.”
The financial services industry has long been an early adopter of technology, and Mr. Banerji is seeing a similar willingness to adapt to changed consumer and employee behaviours in areas as varied as health care, groceries and consumer packaged goods.
“This is about how customers want to be serviced,” Mr. Banerji said. “This whole work from home thing has also changed the landscape.”
Mr. Banerji sees sources of weakness as well as strength. Apparel makers have been more cautious, along with the construction industry.
“There’s still a large degree of uncertainty,” he added. “It’s greed and fear – things are fluid.”