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Dominic Paolucci, right, president and CEO of Rutgers Canada Inc. in Hamilton talks World Cup soccer with welder Tony Roseiro near the company's tar distillation unit. After 20 years in the automotive industry Mr. Paolucci, who was laid off early last year, was headhunted by the chemical company and offered a job in December.

GLENN LOWSON/glenn lowson The Globe and Mail

When Domenic Paolucci was interviewing for a job last fall, he discovered there had been a profound shift in what employers expect when they hire new leaders.

Mr. Paolucci, who lost his position as vice-president of operations for a building-materials company in an early 2009 downsizing, found the questions he faced were far different than those he'd encountered in a previous job search, in rosier pre-recession times.

"Before, it seemed, management was about maintaining the status quo, meeting targets and getting people to follow orders. Now, status quo is the enemy. There's a sense that if you don't push for change every day, you are going to fail," Mr. Paolucci says.

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An ability to maintain morale was another big expectation.

"There's a realization that you can't continually push the envelope without creating a culture and values that counterbalance the anxiety that change creates," says Mr. Paolucci, who responded well enough to the new employment climate that he was hired in December as general manager of chemical company Ruetgers Canada Inc. in Hamilton. In May he was promoted to president and chief executive officer.

Mr. Paolucci is not the only executive job seeker encountering new expectations. Nor are those the only new qualities organizations are seeking in leadership candidates in the wake of the recession, recruiters say.

Both job hunters and existing leaders should be aware of these shifts in priorities unless they want to be considered expendable, the pros warn.

According to a new survey, many companies are looking for transfusions of leadership talent this year. Nearly one in four companies - 21 per cent - plan to expand their executive teams with new hiring this year. Even more - 56 per cent - are planning to "trade up" by hiring replacements for existing executives they don't believe are meeting current expectations, according to the global survey of 3,636 companies, recruiters and human resources officers by ExecuNet, a networking organization for senior executives. And a poll by networking site found 60 per cent of executives more willing to make a career move now as compared to last year, with another 28 per cent saying they were just as willing to move.

So what are the qualities companies are now looking for in today's leaders? Here's what a roundup of Canadian executive recruiters said make strong bullet points on a résumé these days:


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Organizations are now desperate for growth, and companies are looking for leaders who can show they have the ability to find opportunities and make the most of them. That's different from even six months ago, when the emphasis was on locking down and getting through the economic storm, says Tom Long, managing director of recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates Inc. in Toronto.

"Adaptability" has become a key word in job descriptions, Mr. Long says. "Organizations are looking for executives who can show that they have the ability to bounce back quickly from adversity, adjust course when unexpected things happen, and take decisive action to seize opportunities that present themselves."

Candidates should highlight:

"It's important to be able to give examples of successes you achieved during the recession; that you were able to take decisive actions and make progress at a time when many became frozen into inaction because growth was hard to come by and it was not certain where things were going," Mr. Long says.


Most companies are looking for "quick wins" to help them move out of the difficult economic environment they have been in. That's different from last year, when many companies became risk-averse, says Craig Hemer, a partner with recruiter Odgers Berndtson in Vancouver.

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Executive candidates will be expected to identify what's possible, launch new initiatives and make an immediate positive impact on the organization and its bottom line, Mr. Hemer says.

Candidates should highlight:

"You should focus most on strategic skills and roles you have played. You need to demonstrate [both on paper and in interviews]quantifiable evidence, not generalizations, that, despite challenges, you calculated risk and overcame obstacles and threats, and brought new projects to completion in your previous role," he says.


The buzz phrase at the moment is "tier one candidates." To be considered in this category, executives will probably still be employed - an indication they were considered valuable to keep during a time of heavy layoffs, says Ward Garven, Calgary-based vice-chairman and managing director of global search firm Stanton Chase International.

Candidates should highlight:

Applicants should be able to give a recent and specific example of success at a time when others were floundering and being laid off. Also in high demand is the ability to be a "revenue accelerator" and the capacity to provide "virtual leadership" - that is, the ability to remotely manage teams across multiple geographic locations, time zones and cultures as business becomes more global, Mr. Garven says.


Leaders are expected to be strong motivators during a recovery that is still unlikely to offer perks and promotional opportunities, says Sussannah Kelly, executive vice-president of executive search firm DHR International in Toronto. Because employees may continue to be anxious and frustrated, employers are looking for leaders who can demonstrate good communication skills, who can clearly set an agenda and inspire employees to work toward new goals.

Candidates should highlight:

"You should have examples of how you have consistently built winning teams and motivated people in non-monetary ways during the recession," she says. "Internal candidates are being looked at carefully because companies realize that they have to do more with less. The ability to hire additional staff will be limited until the economy improves, so it is important to be able to describe examples of times in which your abilities to spot and nurture internal talent led to a stronger organization."


"Priorities that most companies are anxious to address this year are issues making the headlines. These include: environmental stewardship, accountable governance, cost control and community involvement," says Patrick Rowan, a partner with recruiter and career transition company Feldman Daxon Inc. in Toronto.

Candidates should highlight:

Job seekers are being asked more questions about corporate social responsibility. Aspiring executives should have viewpoints on energy conservation and the public's perception that companies need to reduce their environmental impact, Mr. Rowan says. At the top executive levels, in particular, candidates should be able to discuss the fact that they will face more scrutiny by regulators and more government intervention in corporate affairs than before the recession, he says.


"In the recovery, organizations want managers who can retain their high-potential staff because, as the economy improves, top staff are usually the first group who start to look elsewhere for other opportunities," says Rick Lash, Toronto-based national practice director of leadership coaching company Hay Group.

Candidates should highlight:

Leaders should expect to be asked for examples of how they have inspired employees with a compelling vision of the future in the face of uncertainty, and how they kept a well-functioning team together at a time when growth expectations and benefits were lower than they might have been before the recession.

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About the Author

Wallace Immen is an award-winning staff writer for The Globe and Mail whose stories about workplace trends and career advice, as well as about cruising and travel destinations around the world appear regularly in print and on-line. He has worn many hats in his career with the Globe, including science writer, medical writer and columnist, urban affairs reporter and travel writer. More

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