Do you really want to exclude quality candidates from C-Level jobs just because they weren’t in your sub-niche?

I talk with lots of CFO’s, both employed, unemployed, employed but looking and consultants (looking for consulting gigs, looking for employment, both, none; you have the idea).  I’ve been hearing a practice that has risen to new heights of myopia, the culling of the application pool because the candidate doesn’t have experience in the employer’s sub-sub niche sector.

So on top of all the other prejudices that are artificially tacked on to the job search process (ageism, degree-ism, certification mania, local/relocation stigma, job specs that don’t match the real job, etc.) we now can add this little ditty.  The worse part, it’s the employing companies that are losing out.

Given: Most companies are similar.  Let’s clarify that statement.  They all have a sales cycle, a cash flow cycle, and budget cycle (whether they budget or not) a tax cycle, ownership, investors, debtor, vendors, customers, products or services and some level of governmental compliance.  Oh yes, let’s not forget they all have employees.  And this is just the short list of similarities!

So what differs?  The industry, the sector and the level of compliance, culture, industry practice and myth.  Is a manufacturer different than a service provider?  Yes, but not all that much; and granted a distribution business is closer to a manufacturer then the service provider, but can a good C-Level person adapt?

c-levelThus Oil & Gas shares all the aforementioned similarities, but compliance and certain tax and accounting issues make it a little unique; the question is how unique?  Is discrete manufacturing all that different than process and is a soap manufacturer really different than a pharmacological manufacturer?  Not really, the difference is compliance.

Now C-Level people are by their very nature are supposed to be smart individuals (why they are allowing all these issues clouding the talent acquisition process is most definitely a quandary).  Experienced individuals; some more experienced than others; as well as some people will be smarter but other more imaginative and innovative.  Let’s call it the diversity of the C-Level pool.

It is that diversity that a company should want.  A new fresh set of eyes on problems that are not constrained by covenants of culture and industry behavior.  Someone who will ask the question why; request a business case be made with the answer, not “that’s how we always have done it/that’s the way the industry does it” mantra.

The C-Level individual also does not need to be a Subject Matter Expert (SME).  That is not really their role.  Their role is strategic in nature.

I was talking to a turnaround CEO, who expertise lay in going into a troubled company and saving it from decline.  He mentioned one company he took over and the response from one of his newly acquired senior managers at a company meeting.  The remark was “You have no experience in this company, sector or industry.  That’s going to hurt you in both managing the company and growing it!”  His response was “I’m the CEO, the strategist, the provider of leadership; you people out there are the SME’s.  If you’re not, then you have the wrong job and we’ll be finding the right SME’s”.

So, why has this new impediment been placed to stymie the growth of business?  Where did the wave start and how will we end it?