Is Your Goose Cooked if a Headhunter’s Been Hired for Your Job?

You’ve been promoted to a job on an interim basis and perhaps promised a strong shot at that role on a permanent basis.

Your company has just hired a search firm to handle the “permanent” placement.

Are you at risk?


Or maybe not.

That’s the situation that Yahoo interim CEO Ross Levinshohn finds himself in with the news reported by Kara Swisher that blue chip executive search firm Spencer Stuart has been hired by the board to handle the firm’s CEO search. [Disclosure: I've been placed into a senior HR role by Spencer Stuart earlier in my career and am currently being recruited by Spencer Stuart for a SVP of HR role with a publicly traded company.]

Yahoo, you may recall has turned over two CEOs in the space of a year, and the board has been slammed with criticism for a variety of issues, including a lack of due diligence in executive selection. The board (and apparently whomever did their CEO search) failed to uncover that the most recent Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson,  lacked a degree in Computer Science that was carried on his official bio. Thompson resigned under pressure for that omission.

Under that sort of back story, the only board that would not hire someone to conduct a search would be one short of smarts, and long in seeking investor lawsuits.

Spencer Stuart will do a thorough job. If my recent experience with them is any indication, they’ll detail in-depth past work history, including something as simple as degrees held and times granted. Hiring a firm like Spencer Stuart gives the search professionalism and reliability; hiring Levinsohn as an internal hire, given all the CEO turnover, seems from the outside like a no-brainer.

Yahoo in its current state is not exactly a prized landing for most execs; hiring an outside search firm confirms that assessment, and confirms that Levinsohn is the right person to hire.

What it’s about in one word? Validation.

While it’s seldom that someone’s a lock, Levinsohn’s route to the fulltime CEO role is his to lose, not someone else’s to pick-off. The public statement to employees by Yahoo Chairman Fred Amoroso that he hoped Interim CEO Levinsohn gets the role is a pretty good indication of where this search is headed.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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