The Unique Challenges of Executive-Level Outplacement

You may already offer outplacement services to mid-and-lower-level employees who are exiting your company for one of a variety of reasons.

But what about upper-level executives? Do they need outplacement help? The fact is, they might need it more. But unlike employees who are in mid-or-early career, executives have different needs from an outplacement service, and different goals.

Executive outplacement is job search support for executives who leave an organization for any number of reasons, from M&A to performance shortfalls to housecleaning by a new CEO. Services include career coaching, resume writing, and internet presence management.

Let’s look deeper into executive outplacement, why it’s important, and how it differs from outplacement for other employees.

Reasons to consider executive outplacement

Ideally, an executive departure should be as painless as possible for the company and the executive, and offering outplacement is a big part of that. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • You want confidentiality during an executive departure. A too-public split, especially if it’s contentious, may impact your reputation with top search firms or impede your ability to hire a highly sought-after replacement.
  • A departing executive could very well wind up in a key role with an important customer. You want the last impression to be as positive as possible.
  • Executive departures are often negotiated with legal counsel on both sides. If the executive is confident that their transition will be supported, it can pave the way to an agreement and curtail the risk of litigation.
  • Providing executive outplacement is also crucial for your employer brand. After all, former C-level execs can be your company’s biggest cheerleaders … or detractors. There is usually a lot of goodwill toward the departing executive, who, in many cases, may have worked their way up in the company and had a very long tenure.
  • It’s good for morale. The rest of the management team understands that how this individual is treated may also dictate how they are treated, should they wind up in that position someday.
  • Relative to the total cost of an executive separation, outplacement has a rather modest price tag.
  • Good executive outplacement services will deploy creative approaches to get the executive meetings with private equity, venture capital, other CEOs, and board members. A perfected resume is one thing. But, at this level, the track record already speaks for itself to some degree. So, how your outplacement advisor is able to help you to execute a game plan to get meetings is a vital part of the value this service brings to the table.

Unique needs of job-seeking executives

Executive outplacement is a much different process than outplacement for lower-level employees. That’s because the job search needs of executives are unique.

They’re not in as big of a hurry as other employees who are out of work, which is good because executive transitions are inherently more time-consuming. When an executive finds himself or herself in the job market, they are typically in a very different situation financially than employees who are a few rungs down the ladder. Executives oftentimes leave their positions with golden parachutes or generous severance packages. As a function of their success, they likely have a financial cushion that others may not be as fortunate to have. In other words, they’re not going to be in trouble financially because they’re out of work for a while. That’s good news, because an executive job search can take much longer than early-or-mid-career job searches. And execs can be pickier.

Execs may not be job-search savvy. Unless you’re talking about a dotcom startup, people in the C-suite are in their 40s, 50s, or older. Typically, they haven’t been job searching for a while. Glassdoor may be completely new to them. Most people are proficient with Zoom or other similar platforms by now, but doing a Zoom interview is different than sitting down across the table from a person. If you’re a 50-year-old CFO who finds herself out of work, finding a job can seem like an entirely new ballgame that is not always intuitive to a newly unemployed executive.

C-suite positions may be recruited quietly. Companies engage search firms to hire for C-level positions. For top-tier executives, it’s about networking, quiet conversations with trusted people, and word of mouth. For execs who have been out of that game for a while, it can be next to impossible to hear about jobs that may be opening up, and even more difficult to get in the door.

What to include in your executive outplacement solution

C-level job searches are disproportionately dependent on the executive search process. They vie for a limited number of open roles. If they are considered for a role, the hiring process can be long and intense, and success is not assured.

The needs of the C-level executive in transition are different, and the outplacement solution must be also. That’s why executive-level outplacement solutions often include bells and whistles not included in the plans offered more broadly.

Here’s what to include in your executive outplacement solution.

Administrative services. While their schedules are less hectic in transition, executives still appreciate having an assistant, even if it’s a virtual one, to take calls, set appointments, and keep a calendar.

Resume writing. The art of the resume is different now than it was just a few years ago. It requires a deft expertise to perfect a strong, role-focused resume and often a complementary board-focused resume.

Board seat advisory. Some outplacement solutions offer board seat advisory services that aim to prepare the executive and open the door to specific opportunities. For some executives, the next logical move is not a full-time role, but rather the acquisition of board seats.

Personal, online SEO presence monitoring. Because of their visibility, C-level execs often face challenges with their public presence. They can be targets for employee or customer ire, often unfairly, leading to an unflattering set of Google search results. A hands-on team that can help them manage their personal SEO can be very important.

Content writing. This is about ongoing visibility and thought leadership. Executives value access to a content writing team that can help to author relevant thought pieces that keep the executive visible during their transition.

An outplacement partner that can help the executive make and manage search firm relationships is vital. Providing a database of search firms is not enough. Executives need help targeting the right relationships and guidance on nurturing them.

Executive outplacement services can also add value by introducing executives who have successfully landed a new position to high-quality onboarding consultants.

While search firms play a larger role in C-level job search than they do at any other level, networking is still the dominant source of opportunities, counting for more than two offers for every one offer sourced from search firms.

This brings us back to basics. It means that the outplacement firm needs a fundamentally sound approach to networking and the ability through its coaching professionals to inform, support, motivate, and hold accountable the executive in transition.

Bottom line, exiting executives require high-impact coaching from true C-level qualified coaches. They value strategic, high-quality advice from a trusted, confidential adviser. They appreciate the artisanship of elite-level resume writers and the professionalism and accountability of an elite-level coaching team. They want help opening doors and a guiding hand in exploiting new opportunities.

Why executive outplacement is a powerful hiring tool

You’ve recruited and interviewed candidates for a high-level, critical position in your company, and you believe one candidate is your perfect match for the job. The importance of making the right hire every time is not lost on you — we’ve all seen what problems a bad hire can stir up — and you’re convinced you’re hitting it out of the park.

Now’s the time to put together your offer letter. You’ve already gone over salary, benefits, and perks in the interview process, but this is the time to put it all in writing. An offer letter is a legally binding document, so there’s no pie-in-the-skying this part of the process. You’ll need to deliver on everything you promise in this letter.

That said, in this tight job market, it’s more important than ever to come in with your best shot. Best salary, best benefits, best perks. Your perfect candidate will likely negotiate with you, especially now, and quite frankly your offer needs to look sweeter than Acme Competitor’s.

Seasoned hiring pros know to include clear information about:

  • Probationary period
  • Salary
  • Bonus structure
  • Documents like non-compete and confidentiality agreements
  • Benefits including insurance and 401(k)
  • Perks

That last category, perks, is where your workplace culture shines through in a cover letter. All job seekers are interested in salary and benefits, but many are more interested in things like work-life balance, flex time, parental leave, and other perks like casual office environments, beer fridges, gym memberships, and more. You have likely already thought about those types of perks, but if you haven’t, start thinking outside the box to come up with low or no-cost ways to make your company and its culture stand out to top talent.

For critical executive hires, executive outplacement is a powerful perk to offer. Why? Put yourself in their shoes. You’re a new hire who is over 50, maybe pushing 55. That’s an unsettling place to be. If you lose your job, you know it’s going to be difficult for you to get another one, what with Gen Xers and even millennials who are nowhere near retirement age competing against you.

When you offer executive outplacement, the message you’re sending to the candidate is one of safety and security, and it says everything about your company’s culture, and what’s important to you. Executive hires will typically be older, the 40-and-over set, and you’re telling them upfront that you’re doing everything you can to ensure their success — both in the job and in the unlikely event that it doesn’t work out. You’re ensuring them a soft landing, that you have them covered if you end up going separate ways. To an older worker, you have given them not just job security but career security.

Executive outplacement Q&A

In summary, here are some common questions and answers about executive outplacement:

What is executive outplacement?

Executive outplacement services represent job search support for executives who leave an organization for any number of reasons, from M&A to performance shortfalls to housecleaning by a new CEO. Services include career coaching, resume writing and internet presence management.

What do executive outplacement services cost?

Transitions for senior executives are frequently long and complex. That’s why executive outplacement solutions often include bells & whistles not seen in the plans offered more broadly and can cost from $7,500 to upwards of $20,000 for C-level plans.

How does outplacement benefit your company?

Preserving a strong employer brand through executive turnover is critical. A generous separation package that includes outplacement preempts litigation, preserves goodwill in both directions, and maintains the morale for the rest of the team.

Bottom line, executives require high-impact coaching from true C-level qualified coaches. They value strategic, high-quality advice from a trusted, confidential adviser. They appreciate the artisanship of elite-level resume writers and the professionalism and accountability of an elite-level coaching team.

At GetFive, executive outplacement is an area of deep expertise. Contact us to learn more about this powerful perk.

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