Extensive digital background checks, scenario planning needed for CXO hiring: Experts

Mumbai/Chennai: If you lose that CXO suit, blame it on social media!

Last week, former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilkar IC denied the role of chief executive at Tata Group-owned Air India, citing a “coloured narrative” against him on social media platforms.

On 14 February, Tata announced the appointment of Icy as the CEO of Air India after taking over the state-owned carrier in January. But Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, urged the government to stop his appointment citing his alleged political ties to his country.

Experts say companies need to incorporate risk and contingency management processes – for employees and appointments – to prevent these from disrupting corporate decisions.

To be sure, they are already conducting extensive background and social media checks for every role, especially at CXO levels. Companies are also doing due diligence on placements, advertising campaigns, logos or corporate communications.

But executive search firms say there are now concerns that the way things are going with Air India, foreign talent may panic.

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The reach of virtual media is far more intrusive and viral than physical media, says Harish Bijoor, Brand Expert and Founder, Harish Bijoor Consults.

“People leave footprints that can be traced back. In the past, appointments had to be professionally acceptable, but today they have to be socially, politically, economically and even religiously acceptable in different scenarios,” says Bijoor.

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder and executive VP, TeamLease Services, says companies are constantly learning from such events and upgrading their policies, but some unforeseen “external” incidents can happen despite best protocols.

“It should be treated as a unique circumstance under which the incident took place. However, most companies, especially conglomerates, have internal procedures and protocols in place for evaluating candidates,” says Chakraborty. “They conduct background checks and due diligence through partner companies that specialize in tracking digital footprints and appointments attendance. Even more so, in terms of leadership roles.”

According to an executive search professional working at a global HR consulting firm, overseas hires provide fresh perspective and are apt for the overhaul needed for Air India.

A person on condition of anonymity told ET, “I think after this incident foreign candidates have become more cautious especially for top posts in Indian business. “In the past, firms like Indigo have hired candidates from outside India. And many of these foreign candidates found it difficult to adjust to the work culture here. Such vicious trolling and social media outrage will go through their minds before signing on the dotted line. ,

The appointment of Twitter CEO Parag Agarwal was met with much outrage due to his political ideology, when Twitter removed his tweets from 2010 on alleged racism and Islamophobia in the US.

Last year, journalist Alexi McCammond was forced to step away from the role of editor-in-chief at Condé Nast’s Teen Vogue magazine after racially insensitive tweets from her teens surfaced online.

Brand strategist Meeta Malhotra says companies must plan for various best- and worst-case scenarios as social media becomes increasingly unpredictable. “It’s less about mastering the channel and more about planning for these scenarios.”

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