Den rette kandidat: Et kvalitativt studium om rekruttering af Skandinaviens koncernchefer

Pernille Bang & Maria Steffensen

Student thesis: Master thesis


Several surveys have shown that the Scandinavian CEOs make a very homogeneous group by having a remarkable amount of features and characteristics in common. As it can be readily seen from multiple surveys, some of the common characteristics of CEOs reoccur across time and nations. Interestingly, academic research has provided little insight about the reason why there is such a comprehensive homogeneity among CEOs. In addition, those few previous studies conducted in the area of recruitment of CEOs often have a too narrow focus on demographic characteristics such as gender, nationality and/or age. Thereby, aspects such as intersectionality and the impact of multiple key actors have been neglected. Furthermore, previous research has failed to incorporate how more invisible characteristics such as lifestyle, clothes, social status, etc. also affect the recruiting process. In order to contribute to the academic field this master thesis examines the relation between the recruitment process of Scandinavian CEO’s and the homogeneity of the group. The focus is on how a) the process, b) the specification sheet of the candidate and c) the perception of homogeneity itself contribute to reproducing CEO´s in the largest Scandinavian companies with remarkable resemblance of one another. The data collection is based on 13 in depth interviews with (1) Chairmen of the board and members of the board, (2) CEO’s and (3) executive search consultants whom are all related to the 60 largest organizations in Scandinavia. First, the findings show that the homogeneity is largely a product of the reproduction of social norms and stereotypes within the recruitment process, and that the process itself contributes to the maintenance of homogeneity among CEOs. Our respondents emphasize the emotional aspects of the process, e.g. how cultural fit, affection and even love influence the selection of the final candidate. However, due to lack of guidelines on how these properties should be assessed, the selectors makes the decision based on gut feeling, personal interests and their own interpretations of what is meant by ‘fitting in’. Secondly, the findings show that there is a general belief that a more formalized and professional recruitment process will decrease homogeneity. This is based on our findings where some respondents highlight Corporate Governance and the increased involvement of executive search consultants as the main evidence for the claim that the process today and in the future is not as loose and informal as it has been in the past. Despite a higher degree of formalization, we argue that the homogeneity will not decrease since formalization itself is not power neutral. This is based on the fact that executive search consultants are used as a legitimating device and gatekeepers to reproduce current power structures. Thirdly, the findings show the importance of competence to qualify as a candidate, although competence it is not regarded as the decisive factor when the final selection is made. Our respondents attach greater importance to candidates who meet certain requirements in terms of style, appearance and lifestyle. These “body standards” serve as an indication of where the candidate belongs in the social space, and thus, maintain a co-optation through a body discourse. It is therefore the candidate's ability to perform the right skills, e.g. the ability to succeed at executive level. Performance, thus, is covering over the ability to adapt to the field and be loyal to it. Finally, the findings show how the recruitment process is characterized by homo-social reproduction, where individuals tend to prefer candidates similar to them. We emphasize how network and sponsorship make sure certain candidates are visible to the selectors. However, this homo-social reproduction is not limited to only be at play between members of the board and the new CEO. All key actors in the process are reproducing the homogeneity by seeking to retain the civil construction associated with the supreme power in the economic field. Therefore we characterize the whole field with a metaphor of Duckburg since all the actors are quite similar. Thereby, we conclude that the recruitment processes of the Scandinavian CEOs, concerned in this master thesis, indeed, are reproducing the homogeneity

EducationsMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2012
Number of pages109