The Evolving World Of Executive Recruitment

I just received a new report from AESC which offers, true to its title ‘Executive Search in Transition’, an overview of the changing global executive search industry. The report is based on a survey of 200 members of the association. AESC, you may recall, is one of the few professional associations that regularly produce reports on the state of the executive recruitment industry. Often, in their studies the sample size for the Australian market is small. But I think the findings in the latest report has immense relevance to the Australian market. Besides, there aren’t many studies that addresses the perspectives of executive search firms. 

Some interesting findings: 

Growth and size: Demand for retained executive search services has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Growth and coverage is global. The services provided by executive search firms are in demand in more than 70 countries. The report put this down to globalisation of business, demand for executive talent and emerging new markets. The revenue for 2010 (up to Q3) is a staggering US $8.1 billion.


Changing Business Structure: There’s a trend toward offering more specialised services as opposed to being a generalist.

How do you describe your firm?
62% – a generalist firm with consultants who specialise
21% – a generalist firm
15% – a specialised boutique
2% – other

Of the 21% who consider themselves to be generalists: 58% consider that within the next five years they will either become or may become more specialised.

No surprises here. The advantages of domain expertise and regional knowledge is a common characteristic of the contingency recruitment for a long time now.

New services & revenue stream: Often on the requests of clients, search firms are expanding their service offerings to supplement their income which includes – leadership consulting services, assessment, executive coaching, and succession planning and board advisory work. The report envisage that this trend is expected to continue and may well become a significant part of executive search revenue and practice in future.

Type of Work/Assignment: The level of assignments received by search firms has become more senior. According to the report the lower end of the market has become commoditised due to the internet and social media. Social media, especially, is forcing executive firms to redefine their value proposition.

The advent of the internet and social networking sites such as LinkedIn have also increased the transparency of the candidate universe and put more emphasis and importance on the advisory “value add” part of the search model. Since the same information is available to internal recruiting departments and line managers then search firms do not have the same advantage, as in the past, of providing a unique interface to the talent pool. To less educated clients, social networking makes executive search look much simpler than it really is because they discount the selection and consultancy component which retained search firms bring to the process. The consequences of this are that the added value of executive search has been more closely scrutinized and in some cases more closely focused on the higher end of executive recruiting.

The report offers a lot of useful insights into the workings and future direction of the executive search industry. If you are an executive search firm or an employer intending to use the services of search firm, the report is a must read. 

(Note: The report is not on their website yet. But you can request a copy by writing to )

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