Zavala Civitas Executive Search: Filling COO Position for a Major Construction Firm in North America


Construction is a dynamic world where talent is not only based on skills but also strategic fit and logistical viability. This was the problem faced by a famous construction company located in a remote part of North America whose contributions to infrastructural and development projects across the continent are well known. The Chief Operating Officer (COO) became necessary as the company entered its next growth phase. More than that, it needed an individual who could see far ahead and at the same time capable of dealing with complex issues associated with life in a remote area. 

The Challenge


  • The remote location significantly impacted the ability to attract qualified candidates for the COO position. Despite the appealing compensation and the company’s reputable status, the geographical remoteness limited the pool of potential candidates. The role demanded a candidate who not only had a comprehensive understanding of the construction sector but also possessed strong leadership qualities and a pioneering spirit ready to embrace and advance the company’s objectives. 
  • Public Entity Requirements and Cultural Integration: Given that the client was a public entity, there were additional layers of complexity in the recruitment process. The public nature of the entity required the COO to maintain a high standard of ethical conduct and transparency, aligning with the scrutiny public officials often face. This necessitated a meticulous vetting process to ensure that the candidate’s values and behavior were in strict conformity with public service ethics and the entity’s governance standards. Moreover, the ability to integrate into the local community while upholding and promoting these standards was crucial for fostering trust and a positive organizational culture within the public sector framework. 


Collaborating with Zavala Civitas


Construction firm had tried several times to fill this position using conventional hiring methods until they approached Zavala Civitas Executive Search. They chose Zavala Civitas because of its famed tailor-made hiring approach, deep knowledge of the construction sector as well as a proven track record of placing candidates in challenging locations. 


The process


To begin with, Zavala Civitas performed a thorough needs assessment working closely with the client organization to understand both the technical demands of the COO job and the cultural nuances associated with it. The search strategy was two-pronged: 


Targeted Search: Using their extensive network of contacts in the construction industry, Zavala Civitas identified potential candidates with previous experience who had demonstrated a willingness to relocate as their career demands. Additionally, the search was not limited to local candidates; Zavala Civitas expanded its efforts internationally, seeking candidates outside the country who were eligible and able to work within the public entity’s framework. This broader approach ensured a diverse pool of candidates, enhancing the likelihood of finding someone with the right mix of experience, adaptability, and commitment.


Attraction Strategy: It was recognized by Zavala Civitas that location could inhibit some people from applying and therefore created an attractive narrative around the opportunity, underlining how such a COO would affect both the company and the community. The recruiters highlighted the unique lifestyle benefits of living in remote areas, and care for employee’s well-being as well as opportunities for professional growth. 


Results and Outcome 

Eventually, the search yielded a seasoned construction executive who had been in top managerial positions within the industry. For various reasons like the company’s visionary projects, influencing growing society tangibly, and being accorded thorough help during the transfer process; the candidate was drawn to this possibility. 

Since coming on board, this new COO has integrated easily into the firm and its surroundings, bringing about considerable improvements across all operations. This was not only a critical gap filled in the leadership team but also showed Zavala Civitas’s success in using a tailoring approach to executive search. 


Reflections and Future Implications

The case highlights the need to understand the nuances of each executive search, particularly when logistical issues like location are involved. The situation that Zavala Civitas found itself in demonstrates the importance of niche staffing knowledge in the current corporate world. 

For a construction firm, finding their new COO has not only strengthened their operations but also reminded them about the significance of strategic alliances as a way of resolving recruitment problems. As a result, the construction is now poised for future collaborations with Zavala Civitas that would assist it in meeting complex hiring demands through innovative approaches.


By Jose Carlos Hassan Suárez

By Jose Carlos Hassan Suárez

José Carlos (Joey) Hassan Suarez launched the firm’s Canadian operations and office from Toronto. Mr. Hassan Suarez brings a truly global background with experience in the Americas, Europe and Asia. His career has been focused mainly on the Executive Search and Private Banking industries. He co-founded travel company Mondevia and worked for BNP Paribas and JP Morgan. He graduated with a double master's degree in business administration and law from University San Pablo CEU. He speaks fluent Spanish, English and French.

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