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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Guide: The Best Executive Search Firms

Executive transitions are paramount to any business organization. A good leader can drastically change the course of your business. However, any negligence in this respect may prove detrimental to the company.

This makes it very crucial to hire the right set of executives to lead your organization. They not only contribute to the success of the organization but also attract the top talents of the industry.

Here comes the role of executive search firms. Read this article to know more about:

  • Executive search firms in general, including what an executive search firm is, what these firms do, and when companies can benefit from their services
  • The best executive search firms around the globe

What Is An Executive Search Firm

The term ‘executive search firm’ itself explains its existence. It is a firm that searches for potential executives for recruitment in leadership roles.

Popularly known as headhunters, executive search firms are nothing but organizations that help companies recruit highly skilled executives for senior-level management positions. 

They are mediators that conduct the entire process of screening, interviewing, selecting, etc, and provide you with the best possible list of potential executives.

They provide you direct access to a talented pool of managers which otherwise would be very difficult due to the shortage of skilled labor in the industry. 

An executive search firm makes it easy and efficient for these companies to filter out the chaff from the grain and provide them with executives relevant to the skills required for the position.

Who Are The Top Executive Search Firms? 

There are around 5,169 executive search firms in the United States as of 2022. So how will you discover a firm that addresses your problems and caters to your industry standards? 

Following are the largest executive search firms in the world: 

#1: Korn Ferry Executive Search

Korn Ferry is arguably the world’s leading executive research firm with around 10000 firms operating in more than 50 countries worldwide. It came into existence in 1969 and has been on the ladder of success consistently since then. Korn Ferry claims that the CEOs placed by them stay 67% longer than the rest of the CEOs. 

They engage in several core areas like organization strategy, talent acquisition, professional development, etc. It believes in sustainable growth by working closely with its clients to develop a solid organizational structure.

#2: Spencer Stuart

Spencer Stuart is a Chicago-based executive research firm founded in 1956. Spence Stuart was a consultant expert who was instrumental in identifying the huge demand for executive search outside the US, thus founding Spencer Stuart. 

The homepage of the firm says ‘Finding the Right CEO’, whichaptly summarizes their motto. Through their Leadership Assessment & Development program, they aim to create leaders that will revolutionize the corporate world.

#3: Russell Reynolds

Russell Reynolds Associates is a global leadership advisory and search firm. Our 470+ consultants in 46 offices work with public, private and nonprofit organizations across all industries and regions. We help our clients build teams of transformational leaders who can meet today’s challenges and anticipate the digital, economic and political trends that are reshaping the global business environment. From helping boards with their structure, culture and effectiveness to identifying, assessing and defining the best leadership for organizations, our teams bring their decades of expertise to help clients address their most complex leadership issues. We exist to improve the way the world is led.

#4:  Heidrick & Struggles

Heidrick & Struggles is the world’s first leadership advisory firm incorporated in 1953. Gardner Heidrick and John Struggles printed a business card and delivered it to the businesses across the Midwest, thus founding the company.

They are the foremost providers of top-level executive search services. Heidrick & Struggles is one of the few firms that offer their clients consultative expertise even after they’re done with the placements.

#5: Egon Zehnder

Egon Zehnder is the only non-US-based executive search firm on our list today. Based in Switzerland, it is the world’s largest private limited executive search company. With their consultants spread over 36 countries, Egon Zehnder helps you face the leadership challenges and connects with leaders across the seas to deliver the best executives suitable for your firm.

Who Are The Best Executive Search Firms? 

Just because a search firm is the biggest, doesn’t mean the are the best. We have studied and analyzed various executive search firms across industries to bring the best-performing firms to your screens. Have a look!

The Best Executive Search Firms:

Heidrick & Struggles

Heidrick & Struggles is not only one of the largest executive search firms in the world, but it makes our list as one of the best. The world’s first leadership advisory firm incorporated in 1953. Gardner Heidrick and John Struggles printed a business card and delivered it to the businesses across the Midwest, thus founding the company.

True Search

Global recruitment for board members, c-suite executives, VPs, directors and other strategic talent. We focus on investment firms, their portfolio companies, and public companies seeking transformative growth. True Search is also a founding partner of AboveBoard, a diversity-focused startup bringing unparalleled solutions to the critical need to bring more women and executives of color to leadership roles.


As a leading provider of executive talent, we enable our clients to thrive and succeed by helping them identify, recruit and retain their best people.

Our reputation–nearly 50 years in the making–has been built on transformative searches across functions and geographies at the very highest levels of management and operations.

We have assembled an elite team of dedicated experts who work across offices, competencies and geographies to find the best and brightest in the field. We serve as consultants to our clients on all matters pertaining to human capital needs, including succession planning, compensation assessment, recruitment strategies and competitive analyses.

Cowen Partners

Cowen Partners is the nation’s executive search firm, enabling companies to harness the power of human capital to fuel their success. Cowen Partners gives our clients access to the top 1% of human capital to create opportunities that accelerate their growth and market share. With Cowen Partners, clients can grow at scale, create value, and drive results with world class talent.

With our proven processes and guaranteed results, we have successfully placed hundreds of candidates in industries including technology, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and private equity.

JM Search

JM Search is a premier retained executive search firm and trusted advisor to CEOs, investors and boards of directors in recruiting, assessing and delivering high performance leaders and transformational leadership teams. JM Search clients include private equity firms and portfolio companies, venture capital-backed businesses, and publicly held companies across North America.

ON Partners

ON Partners is the only pure-play retained executive search firm building diverse C-level and board leadership teams across industries and functions. With offices across the country, we rebuilt the institution of executive search for the way you work.

How Do I Find An Executive Recruiter 

This question would have made a lot of sense a couple of decades ago. But in 2022, this is a no-brainer. The single best answer to this question is the internet

However, it might be difficult for you to find a recruiter if your business operates in a particular industry. You need to find a recruiter that is well versed in the nuances of your industry. 

Begin with a simple search on the internet and jot down those names that you might want to consider working with.

You can even find out who your competitors are working with. This might give you an edge over them as you both belong to the same industry.

Social media, particularly LinkedIn, has emerged as one of the best platforms for professionals in the last couple of years. 

So, all in all, finding an executive recruiter should not be a problem.

How Do Executive Search Firms Work? 

The framework and methodology remain more or less the same for most executive research firms.

The process often starts with the companies approaching the search firms and discussing with them the kind of skills they are looking for in a candidate. 

The search firm:

  • Uses this information to devise a plan of action
  • Decides the sources through which this requirement can be met 
  • Carry their strategy into the market, with ‘headhunters’ looking for potential executives who meet their client’s demands

This is followed by a series of screening processes to shortlist the best possible pool of candidates suitable for the job. 

The final step includes negotiations with the shortlisted candidates and their expectations from the company before handing them over to the relevant companies to which they cater.

How Long Does An Executive Search Take? 

The average time taken by an executive search firm can range anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months.

However, this is a very subjective question, the answer of which highly varies from industry to industry, and the kind of position to be filled. 

If the profile required is unusual, it may even take more than 8-10 weeks. 

What Makes A Great Executive Recruiter?

The job profile of an executive recruiter revolves around people. They deal with a lot of people on a daily basis. So, the most basic quality that a recruiter should possess is that he/she should be interested in people. That said, he/she should possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

The recruiter should be transparent toward both the client as well as the employee. Honesty and integrity are the virtues that are required in every profession. So is the case with recruiters. 

A good recruiter should:

  • Know his industry inside out
  • Have detailed information about the market demands and situation
  • Follow the latest technological advances of the industry to which he belongs
  • Be a true pro at his job

Good recruiters are the one that not only connects you with top executives but also those that understand your company’s requirements and provide personalized service. 

Understanding Executive Search

According to Statista, the market size of the executive search industry surged consistently from 2012 to 2020. It was estimated to be worth around 20 billion dollars compared to 10 billion dollars in 2012.

This reveals that companies have started taking C-level recruitment more seriously than before. They’ve understood the importance of a good leadership team for the success of their organizations.

Executive search firms are experts in their industry. They are already aware of the skills required for the role you are looking to fill up, thus saving your time and unnecessary efforts. Therefore, it is advocated that you leave the job search for the experts, i.e. executive search firms.

Without a proper plan of action, you’ll end up wasting your valuable time and resources. So, it’s important that you choose the correct executive search firm that connects you with the right executive and makes your management team complete.

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