C-Level Job Demand Surges In Second Half 2020

Dec 7, 2020

While the pandemic can be blamed for a C-level hiring slowdown in private equity during Q2 2020, analysis by top-20 retained executive search firm ON Partners points to a rebound in the second half of the year.

Published in Pitchbook – During the first half of 2020, the private equity market – like nearly every other – suffered from the impact of the global pandemic, resulting in a significant slowdown in hiring at all levels, from the C-suite down.

But beginning in the second half of the year, industry and proprietary data from ON Partners point to a significant increase in executive-level hiring activity, including among several C-level positions such as CEO, CRO, CFO, and CTO.

According to Jeff Hocking, a partner with ON Partners with more than 20 years of search experience who serves private equity and major software companies, “While there’s no question that the pandemic has taken its toll on the executive hiring market, our work with private equity clients during the second half of the year has increased dramatically. We’ve been predicting that PE firms are well-positioned to take advantage of the market post-COVID, and the steady rise in hiring certainly supports that.”

A number of data points support this shifting tide in executive hiring. ON Partners experienced a 71% increase in opened executive-level search roles from Q2 and Q3 2020. Based on current projections, the firm expects an even higher level of increased activity through the full fourth quarter of the year.

Significant Increase in C-level Searches


Search activity across C-suite positions experienced a significant uptick starting at the end of the second quarter. Among the ON Partners data showing the increase in C-level hiring from Q2 to Q3 2020:

  • 600% increase in demand for CEO executive searches;
  • 266% increase in demand for finance and accounting executive-level searches – and specifically, an increase in demand of 66% for CFO roles;
  • 100% increase in demand for sales executive-level searches – and specifically, a 150% increase in demand for CRO searches from 1H 2020 to 2H 2020; and
  • 20% increase in demand for IT executive-level searches, including CTO, CIO and CISO – and specifically, a 10% increase in demand for IT-related executive searches from 1H to 2H 2020. In addition, the firm saw a 200% increase in CTO executive searches from Q2 to Q3.

Google Searches Shed Light on Hiring Activity


Analyzing Google search data around overall key executive search terms tells an interesting story, showing a 12% increase from April – meaning more people searched these keywords moving into the second half of the year. And while the trend this year has been lower than 2019 month-over-month numbers, ON Partners’ activity vastly outweighs the overall market demand for executive search, using Google as a key indicator.

In addition, in reviewing certain keywords within executive search that span sectors, functions and geographies, the growth rate were higher from Q2 to Q3 – an 18% increase between April to June and July to September.

Added Hocking, “The level of search activity in the second half of the year has been very encouraging, and with PE firms sitting on $2.5 trillion and ready to invest in the post-pandemic economy, all signs are pointing to a busy 2021.”

Read more about ON Partners viewpoint on the private equity recruiting market here.

About ON Partners

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, ON developed a series of experience-driven tools designed to help clients and candidates, including an executive assessment and onboarding guidetips on how to interview virtually; and a collective forecast from ON consultants about what to expect post-pandemic across several industries, including supply chain, eCommerce, private equity, telecom and telemedicine, software and life sciences.

ON Partners propels an organization’s mission by building C-level and board leadership teams. Founded in 2006 by like-minded consultants as a values-driven alternative to the multi-service global firms they were leaving behind, ON delivers a better executive search experience. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists seven times, the firm is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S. For more information, see our results here.

About ON Partners

Since 2006, ON Partners is the only pure-play executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams. We rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work. Our approach includes present partners who engage with their clients from the first brief to the final decision, individually crafted solutions that are unique to each client, and an easier experience all around. Named by Forbes as one of America’s Best Executive Recruiting Firms and to the Inc. 500/5000 Lists nine times, ON Partners is consistently ranked among the top 20 retained executive search firms in the U.S.

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