Executive Search Reflects Turbulent Times

By Published On: January 14, 2022

Executive search has always been a reflection of the macrostate of the supply chain industry. Are there more positions open than candidates to fill them? Is the talent keeping pace with the technology? How will elongated supply chains impact the talent pool needed to adequately and efficiently link them? These are just some of the questions facing executive supply chain recruiters every day.
One observation from SCM Talent Group executive recruiter, Emily Unger, is that candidates may not be actively looking but they are actively listening. In other words, they realize that this is a candidate-driven market. Unger says that more than half of the candidates she speaks with are adopting this premise of listening but not “looking.” Candidates seem happy at their current positions but are absolutely intrigued and listening to other opportunities to potentially grow their career.

How has Executive Search changed

Executive search across industries and supply chain functions has always been a roller coaster. Examining just the last 4 years, the trade war with China created a ton of upheaval in the market. Tariffs with other nations injected more uncertainty in the production, manufacturing, and transportation sectors as waters were muddied by who the US was and wasn’t doing business with. These factors impact executive search in supply chain because it places emphasis on different candidate attributes that are emphasized more in stable vs. chaotic times. Also, there was more of an emphasis on language skills and cultural familiarity with Asia and Asian markets than now. 
Tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, trade wars, raw materials shortages, friction between nations, and rapid but uneven technological advancements have all contributed to supply chain disruptions. Supply chain executive search involves sourcing talent and leaders capable of forecasting potential disruptions and identifying solutions. Finding supply chain leaders and executives is no longer just about filling the role with someone who checks a list of skills, experience and qualifications on a job description.  They need to be a highly strategic and adaptable thinker because you never know when a global pandemic might hit and completely change everything.

Post-Pandemic Executive Search

It is a known quantity that supply chain disruptions in one part of the world can create substantial downstream disruptions two hemispheres away. The industries and functions of the supply chain world are no strangers to rapid shifts in every aspect. Transportation slowdowns, shipping lane disruptions (Suez Canal anyone?), and unforeseen labor shortages all impact and have impacted supply chain operations. But the Covid19 Pandemic brought almost every aspect of the supply chain grinding to a halt. This stoppage rippled across the globe and the impacts are still being felt today.
In the midst of the Pandemic, Unger observed that they went from almost zero work to too much work. “It seems that the supply chain was the first to return from a sourcing standpoint. It was clear that employers needed to add high caliber talent to augment their beleaguered teams and figure out how to shape the coming months of the pandemic.”
In the supply chain executive search world, the delicacy and fragility of the supply chain is being exposed in a post-pandemic employment world. Executie Recruiter Emily Unger talks about the “scarcity” of candidates and the chaotic nature of supply chain recruiting in such a disrupted and candidate-driven market. Unger also points out that while it might be a “candidate-driven market,” she can see how those who continue to struggle to find supply chain work could be upset by that moniker.

Employer Innovations

Along with a candidate-driven market comes the Great Resignation. Americans are quitting their jobs in record numbers. On December 8, the Washington Post cited 4.2 million Americans quitting their jobs in October 2021. The article also discusses a wave of early retirements in addition to the resignations. This retirement is causing a “brain drain” in the supply chain world, as older employees with institutional knowledge retire leaving an informational void for younger workers to fill.
The number of open supply chain positions is steadily increasing as supply chain recruiters continue to work at capacity. Unger also cites a need for employers and hiring managers to be more flexible in the hiring process and with compensation packages. 
Candidates are often being courted by multiple recruiters. Hiring managers should take heed and expedite the hiring process. If you like someone, make them an offer. You may not find someone else. The typical vetting process takes too long in a market like this. 
Timing is everything and especially now. A candidate that’s not interested at this moment could be in 60 days. Employers should keep this in mind as they start the executive search process. Also, more and more candidates want the option to work remotely at least part-time. Full remote positions and work-life balance has become a priority for the post-pandemic workforce.

2022 Supply Chain Executive Search

Unger sees the next year as one where candidates may lose some of their leverage as the market volatility eases. Because the supply chain has always experienced disruptions it has also experienced recovery. What goes up must come down, as they say. However, some things have changed for good.
There will be more of a focus on strategic over tactical skill sets. Creative problem-solving skills are paramount to being able to quickly pivot between strategies. Analytics tools and data-driven forecasts will also become even more prevalent in the field.
Unger also says that executive search in 2021 has been more difficult than in 2020 because of the ripple and lasting effects of the pandemic. Closures and delays have created more urgent and immediate problem-solving issues. People need immediate help to fill positions built to deal with immediate needs. While employers are looking ahead and trying to forecast future needs, they’re being faced with urgent issues that require immediate attention and assistance.


Anyone coming into the supply chain space will have to be a creative problem solver. They will have to understand and grasp the fact that a career in a pandemic supply chain world requires a new set of skills. Gone are the days of basic shipping and receiving. Amazon and Walmart are innovating first, middle, and last-mile fixes on a daily basis. While they have the capital capacity to do so, smaller regional businesses can also implement creative problem solving by hiring creative problem solvers. 
One thing is for sure: there will always be disruptions in this space because there always have been. But, innovation, automation, and talent shortages are creating exciting new recruiting and placement opportunities for anyone who wants to level up in supply chain.

How to Hire Supply Chain Professionals

With supply chain hiring projected to bounce back, we have created a guide comprised of tips, tactics, and strategies designed to help organizations improve their ability to attract, hire and retain supply chain talent.