Recruiting PhDs for C-level/top management positions

Can the skills of PhDs be an advantage in decision-making positions?




What is a C-level position?


C-level positions are the most senior or top-level positions in a company, in other words, the executives of a company. The "C" stands for chief and a such C-level positions include CEO (Chief Executive Officer), CFO (Chief Financial Officer), CTO (Chief Technology Officer), CSO (Chief STrategy Officer), CBO (Chief Business Officer), and many others.


In today's knowledge-based economy, the job market is constantly changing and the work activities of managers require more creativity, initiative and adaptability than ever before. On the other hand, it is necessary for organizations of all sizes and sectors to have leaders that understand the impacts of this evolution, while having the skills to lead a team in a changing context. Our studies as well as our experience in recruitment show us that PhDs have acquired a unique set of technical, cross-disciplinary and human skills during their doctoral program, which are likely to make them more than suitable talents for this type of position. They are particularly found in innovative and cutting-edge technology sectors, where, roughly speaking, understanding science and research processes in order to direct strategy is all the more important.

How core competencies are an advantage in management positions

During their doctoral training, PhDs develop skills that are not limited to R&D activities. Throughout their doctoral program, Ph.D. students develop, among other things, analytical and critical thinking, complex problem-solving skills, learning strategies, creativity, but also originality, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility, to name but a few. These acquired skills, which are particularly useful for decision-making positions, are not exclusive to Ph.D. holders. Still, their likelihood to occur within the same individual makes them skills that characterize Ph.D. holders in France, Canada, and probably elsewhere.