All but counted out a few years ago, as the biggest employers started in-housing executive search, retained and contingent firms have come roaring back.
By most accounts, 2014 is going to end on a strong note. So strong in fact that it may be the industry’s best year ever.
Third quarter reports from the publicly held search firms and global numbers from the Association of Executive Search Consultants show both revenue and searches are up this year over last year.
In their most recent financial reports, Korn Ferry, CT Partners, and Heidrick & Struggles all reported increases in their search assignments. New engagements were 8% higher at Korn Ferry and Heidrick & Struggles. CT Partners reported a 31% increase.
Each also reported growth — as high as 40% for CT Partners– in their search revenue.
Worldwide search revenue also is up, according to the quarterly report from the AESC. For the July-September quarter, search revenue was 8.6% higher than in 2013. Even with the usual slowdown in the last quarter of the year, worldwide revenue for the search industry will top $11 billion this year.
“The correlation between economic conditions and executive search demand becomes stronger year by year, reflecting the volatility of corporate decision-making in our increasingly interdependent world,” AESC President Peter Felix said in the trade group’s third quarter report.
North America itself saw an 11.3% increase in searches, according to the AESC report.
Another sign of the growth in executive search — both retained and contingent — is the increase in agency workers. Agency owners have been adding staff at a steady pace since hitting a recession low of 26,100 workers in late 2009. In September, the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 41,400 people employed in executive search in the U.S.
That confidence is being broadly felt by the industry. The public search firms told analysts they expect to finish the year better than last year. An unscientific recruiter poll on the Express Employment Services website has nearly half those participating saying they expect 2015 to bring “exponential growth.” Just two years ago, fewer than a third of the participants said that.