Executive search is the process of recruiting individuals to fill executive positions in organizations. Executive search may be performed by an organization’s board of directors, executives in the organization, or an outside executive search organization.

The people working at the above companies are called executive search consultants, search consultants or simply recruiters. Search consultants are often entrenched in particular market sectors or niches in an effort to become an expert in that segment. Their market sector networks are used along with various recruiting methods to seek candidates for a particular position. Normally the individuals are not actively seeking a new position and it is the function of the search consultant to approach these individuals with the object of enticing them out of their current company and placing them in another, often a competitor. Search, especially Executive Search, is an extremely lucrative career with unlimited income potential. For this reason, there is fierce competition. Generally a search firm is broken down into four functions: Business Development, Recruiting, Research and Account Management. In the majority of cases the Business Development person receives the largest commission while the Researcher receives the smallest.

how does search work?

Search services are paid for by the client company or organization, not by the hired candidate/executive. Potential candidates are identified, qualified and presented to the client by the executive search firm based upon fit with a written or verbal Job Specification developed in conjunction with the client. Assessing the degree of potential fit of the candidate with the job specification is a key activity for the search firm, since the most common reason a search consultant is engaged by a client company is to save the time and effort involved with identifying, qualifying and reviewing potential candidates for specific leadership positions.

is there a lot of travel or time away from home?

It is common for a potential candidate to be identified by the search firm via a telephone call. Often the phone call is the result of a recommendation from someone inside the existing network of the search firm as search firms run on information. This includes information about specific industries, companies, and their strategies and cultures; and executives and their strengths and weaknesses, backgrounds, and compensation. Search firms garner and research various sources of information – among the most important of these is this network of contacts in the industries and disciplines in which the search firm operates. Thus, quality-oriented search firms work hard at cultivating and continually updating their network of contacts, so that when a specific search assignment is awarded, they will be ready to start recruiting potential candidates.

the staffing industry

Executive Search is just one of the components of the $400 Bn global staffing industry. The six major components are outlined below.


Contract Firms have employees with specific skills that are willing to work on contracts for a specific time or project at other organizations. Construction, information systems, home health care are positions that tend to be contractual.


A Staffing Firm hires its own employees and assigns them to support or supplement a client’s workforce in situations involving employee absences, temporary skill shortages, seasonal workloads, and special projects. Temporary jobs can also lead to permanent placements.


Executive Search Firms place senior impact players where the average income is above $200K. They are paid for their search efforts by the company regardless of the position being filled or not. Some retained search firms are Russell Reynolds, Heidrick & Struggles and Stanton Chase.


Search Firms like these place individuals in middle management to executive level positions where employees earn between $40K - 200K. This is SearchPath's sweet spot. A portion, and sometimes all, of the search fee is paid after the search is complete. Other firms include MRInetwork and Sanford Rose Associates.


Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) is where an employer transfers all or part of its recruitment processes to an external provider, serving as an extension of the company’s HR department. Top RPO firms include Alexander Mann, Cielo, and Wilson HCG


Outplacement Firms are hired by companies (or individuals) who are seeking career counseling for job placement due to downsizing, right sizing, company relocation, job elimination, etc. These organizations provide assistance in resume writing, networking, reference checking or conducting interviews.