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Is there a shortage of qualified mobile execs?

Interview

Finding execs with mobile experience is not easy

Revelations of discrepancies in the official biography for Yahoo’s newly hired CEO Scott Thompson highlight how difficult it is for companies to find qualified leaders who can lead them to the mobile Promised Land.

When Yahoo hired PayPal president Scott Thompson as CEO earlier this year, at least part of the executive’s desirability for the Internet brand was his experience in mobile. However, Yahoo may have been so eager to find someone with mobile experience – which can be a challenge these days - that it failed to see a discrepancy in Mr. Thompson’s resume, an oversight that is now embroiling the company in a highly visible and damaging scandal.

“There is certainly a shortage of great senior-level talent,” said Matt Mooney, managing director at executive search firm MPI Search, Atlanta. “I would say it is a severe shortage.

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“Mr. Thompson’s track record of success, his exposure and experience in the mobile world, those were attractive things,” he said. “That was a big part of the attraction of why Yahoo would hire a guy like that.

“Clearly, he is a bright guy and to get knocked down for the wrong reason, it is a tragedy on all fronts.”

An elite group
As mobile continues to grow, an ever-broadening group of companies are looking to build mobile strategies. However, as Yahoo’s experience shows, it is not always easy to find someone with all the requisite skills and experience to lead a push into mobile.

While Mr. Thompson had the desired mobile and leadership experience as the head of eBay’s PayPal unit, published summaries of his background reportedly included a computer science degree he never received.

Part of the reason why there is a shortage of qualified mobile executives is that the demand is so great.

“It is hard to find an industry that isn’t focused on mobile,” Mr. Mooney said. “Almost every search we do has some element of mobility.

“In the senior ranks, there is so much demand, companies are looking for people to have that proven leadership and an understanding of the mobile ecosystem,” he said. “The shortage is more acute at the senior levels.”

Companies interested in hiring a specific executive with mobile experience are also likely competing with several others who may be interested in the same candidate.

Therefore, companies need to be able to show that they have a compelling mobile story and a chance for success in order to attract qualified candidates.

The shortage also exists at the middle management level but it is not as severe, per Mr. Mooney.

“It is a challenge for companies in the sense that it is a highly competitive war for talent in the mobile ecosystem,” Mr. Mooney said.

“Because there is a shortage, candidates can sit back and be very selective about these opportunities,” he said.

Transferable skills
As a result of the shortage, some companies are being forced to place executives with little direct mobile experience but skills that are hopefully transferrable.

However, putting someone without direct mobile experience into a leadership role may slow a company’s transition to mobile.

“The people I am placing for some companies that are trying to get into mobile have very little mobile background,” said Jerry Bernhart, principal and direct and digital marketing search firm Bernhart Associates, Owatonna, MN. “That doesn’t mean that aren’t capable of managing a group that is focused on that channel.”

In the case of Yahoo and Mr. Thompson, it appears no one took the step to check up on his resume. Cutting corners in the hiring process sometimes happens when a company is facing challenging times, such as Yahoo has been, per Mr. Mooney.

As a result of this oversight, the board member in charge of the hiring committee has said she will step down and an investigation is underway as to why no one pointed out the discrepancy in Mr. Thompson’s official background.

Improving situation
The good news for companies is that the shortage of executives with mobile experience is not as bad as it was a few years go. This is because as mobile expands, more people are gaining experience across a variety of industries.

A few years ago, recruiters looking for candidates with mobile experience were hard-pressed to find qualified candidates outside of the wireless carriers.

Also helping to improve the recruitment situation is that as mobile moves to an application oriented environment and the focus is not so much on infrastructure and devices, it can be a relatively easy transition for a candidate to move from the digital realm to mobile.

“Because the breadth of mobile has increased so much, you can find someone in finance with mobile experience and plop them into a Yahoo or Google,” MPI Search's Mr. Mooney said. “The transferability of talent to move laterally from one vertical to another is much better today.”

Associate Editor Chantal Tode covers advertising, messaging, legal/privacy and database/CRM. Reach her at chantal@mobilemarketer.com.

 
Related content: Strategy, Yahoo, PayPal, Scott Thompson, MPI Search, Matt Mooney, Jerry Bernhart, mobile marketing, mobile

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Comments on "Is there a shortage of qualified mobile execs?"

  1. David Eads says:

    May 10, 2012 at 11:03am

    This is why we're in business. There are very few senior resources on the market with real mobile experience.

    Business is booming because organizations around the globe need someone to help guide them through the rapidly changing and critically important mobile landscape.
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