Executive search worldwide - Statistics & Facts

The executive search industry is comprised of organizations engaged BY companies to source qualified candidates for high-level positions. Generally, candidates are for C-suite roles and other senior leadership positions, however executive search firms sometimes also locate candidates for highly specialized roles subject to strong market demand, such as data scientists, programmers or medical specialists. Many executive search firms also offer various leadership consulting services. Executive search firms are engaged by a wide range of industries, with the industrial sector, consumer/retail and financial services being the most prevalent. Notably, the not-for-profit sector has less industry representation than the private sector. Globally, in 2018 the executive search industry generated around 15.6 billion U.S. dollars in revenue – an increase of over 50 percent since 2012. The vast majority of executive search firms expect their industry’s short-term growth to continue.

The largest market for executive search services is the United States, with almost one quarter of executive search firms being located there. However, this fact does not tell the full story as over half of executive search firms operate globally. This is perhaps not surprising given that many companies want to hire the best talent for their high-level positions, regardless of where this talent may be located. This extended reach is one of the main reasons that companies choose a specialized executive search firm over other recruitment methods. Further reinforcing the attractiveness of sourcing candidates across a variety of markets is the widespread perception of a worsening skills shortage for high-level talent.

By far the largest executive search firm is Los Angeles-based Korn Ferry, which as of 2019 is the only firm to generate an annual revenue of over one billion U.S. dollars. Korn Ferry’s revenue profile reflects the industry as a whole: the majority of their revenue is generated from the North American market; and their client base is spread across a range of industries, with the industrial sector being noticeably larger while the education/not-for-profit sector is noticeably smaller. The next largest firms are Switzerland-based Egon Zehnder and Chicago-based Spencer Stuart, although both these firms generate less than half the revenue of Korn Ferry.

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Executive search worldwide

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