Recruiters in hunt for Latino execs
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 21, 2006

Yvonne Wingett
Headhunters are chasing Latino professionals harder than ever, working to fill executive suites and senior-level offices with people who understand the huge Latino market.

Recruiters are hired by all kinds of big companies to find bilingual, bicultural executives to teach them how to grab a bigger portion of money spent by Hispanics, the country's largest minority. The prize: $700 billion a year and growing.

Competition is intense for headhunters who search and place these professionals. They often battle for the same talent because the pool of smart executives, who understand the nuances of Latino cultures, people and languages, is small. Hispanics aren't earning postgraduate degrees in high enough numbers, recruiters and Valley executives say, and many won't leave friends and family to relocate. "There is a total war on talent out there,"
said David Bruno, vice chairman and managing partner of DHR International, an executive search firm with an office in Scottsdale, "More and more, companies are looking to bring on . . . folks who understand the culture. We oftentimes get the call from people who say, 'We want the best, but we also want Latino candidates. You just don't find Hispanics in the number that you need."

The chase

A headhunter's home run looks like this: Hispanic. Late 20s to 40ish, young enough to be molded and promoted. Speaks, writes and reads English and Spanish. Has an MBA or postgraduate degree. Willing to relocate every few years as he or she moves up in the company. (Score extra points if it's a woman).

Armed with job listings, recruiters work Hispanic social events, building relationships at chambers of commerce, industry receptions and alumni associations. They get to know career guidance counselors, business professors, editors at industry magazines and leaders of national Hispanic organizations.

"The demand is huge," said Ron Todd of Florida-based Execumax, which specializes in mid- to executive-level talent and has placed some in Arizona. "My objective is to have every Hispanic MBA graduate in my database, and I worry where they'll fit later. That's what it's become. The ones that get it can pretty much pick where they want to go, when they want to go, and how much they get paid. The worst thing you could be in this U.S.
of ours is a 50-year-old White guy. That's just the way it is. (Companies) say, 'OK, that doesn't satisfy my diversity needs.' The bottom line is . . .
it makes business sense."

Hispanics make up 28 percent of Arizona and 15 percent of the country's population, but they are underrepresented in executive and senior management positions.

One percent of executive offices in Fortune 1,000 companies are held by Hispanics, according to a 2003-04 report by the Washington-based Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility. Local business groups do not track the number of Hispanics who hold top posts locally.

Valley headhunters and top executives say the numbers have improved since the 2000 census, which showed explosive Hispanic growth, but believe recruitment and promotion of Hispanics in senior positions has not kept up.

"From 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, I'm going to say (demand) is a good 9,"
said Rosa Cantor, president and CEO of Creative Human Resources Concepts LLC in Mesa. "Our world has changed. Our numbers are just booming, they're incredible numbers. We're coming into an era where qualified Latino individuals are finally getting those positions of managers, executives, CEOs, CFOs and any type of high-level management-level positions."

The challenges

Despite the demand, recruiters are hard pressed to find, woo and land the talent. They are faced with a shortage of Latino graduate students, a corporate culture that has been slow to adapt to the country's diverse demographics and develop leaders, and a Hispanic culture that encourages staying close to family.

Of all MBA students of color nationally, 5.3 percent are Black and 5.2 percent are Latino, according to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, which accredits business schools.

And for a long time, they say, executives hired people who looked like them:
generally middle-age White men. Big businesses in the Valley have progressed in recent years, recruiters and executives say, placing Latinos in high-level marketing, community relations, human resources and other executive positions. But they still have a long way to go.

"That's one of the problems with senior management," said David Gomez, president and chief executive officer of David Gomez and Associates Inc., a headhunting firm in Chicago. "(A White executive is) going to hire someone who looks and sounds like him."

Once a qualified candidate is found, recruiters say sealing the deal is just as hard as the search. In their way stand strong networks of friends, immediate and extended family and the candidate's guilty conscience for even considering the move.

"They have family ties . . . they're taking care of older parents, their children are in a school system that understands them," Bruno says. "The family involvement is so strong, they would not want to make that move."

The payoff

The payoff for companies that land Latino executives is lucrative. Hispanics are projected to spend $1 trillion by 2010, according to market research firm Hispantelligence. Companies cannot afford to ignore the dollar signs.

The advancement of Hispanics at high levels will also have a trickle-down effect, experts say, helping recruit and retain more. Their experiences and perspectives will lead to marketing ideas that will help companies better reach customers.

"You're going to get a high return in that investment in the long term,"
says Armando Flores, executive vice president of corporate business services at Arizona Public Service Co. "Too many people making the decisions on selections are very short-sighted in not recognizing that this is a really long-term investment rather than a short project."

Reach the reporter yvonne.