Executive Search Industry Leaders Offer Up Bold Predictions

Eight recruiting luminaries offer up their predictions on where the search industry is heading. From fees and the growth of ‘super boutiques’ to the rise of artificial intelligence, assessments and who will lead the sector forward, it is a fascinating look into the future.

May 15, 2017 – Predicting the future could practically be its own business sector. Whether the prognostications are coming from the Magic 8-Ball, Punxsutawney Phil or CNBC’s Jim Cramer, people want to know what lies ahead. So it was that Hunt Scanlon Media rounded up a collection of soothsayers from the search industry to provide their insights about the changes that may, or may not, be waiting in the next five to 10 years.

Their answers were illuminating: Change won’t come easy, our experts said, but it is already in the works. Boutiques will take on more characteristics of the biggest search firms, while the big firms will become more like boutiques. Artificial intelligence and behavioral analysis will make their mark, but personal relationships will be as vital as ever. Look for women to gain, and for London, and LinkedIn, not to go down without a fight. And if you’re a recruiter with the right specialty, greater prosperity could be right around the corner.

Take a seat around the crystal ball as we gaze into the future. Enjoy!

Milton Hall, President & CEO — Human Capital Consultants
Over the next five years how will recruiting fees change?

“My prediction is search firm fees will remain the same, but with some exceptions. Progressive employers interested in landing talent in specialized disciplines – this being a hard-to-find, limited candidate pool – will present the least resistance to paying search fees that the market bears. However, commoditized positions will be the ones that search firms may have to negotiate on fees. Fueling this theory is the fact that by 2020 nearly 40 percent of the U.S. workforce could be comprised of contract and contingent workers. Employers may opt to reduce search fees and secure some of their talent from this increasing pool of independents.”

Larry Hartmann, Chief Executive Officer — ZRG Partners
In the next decade will we see more ‘super boutiques’ – search firms with annual revenues of more than $75 million?

“Over the next few years we see a meaningful shift in client preferences continuing where the ‘Big Five’ will lose market share to this class of emerging super boutiques. The exodus of solid search professionals to the new super boutiques will accelerate the trend as industry talent is realizing loyalty is as deep as personal relationships and being ‘too large’ only exasperates hands-off issues and internal conflicts.”

Geoff Hoffman, Chief Executive Officer — DHR International
Will artificial intelligence (the use of algorithms and other e-tools) replace human analysis of candidates?

“The impact of AI has the possibility of becoming substantial over the course of the next 10 years. Many companies are exploring a variety of methods to shorten the duration of a search lifecycle which in turn could save companies and search firms significant amounts of money. However, a consultative relationship will still be required among search firms and clients in order to fully assess and measure an individual’s candidacy for a specific role.”

Jim Zaniello, President & Founder — Vetted Solutions
In the next five years will all or most search firms be using behavioral assessment tools to assess candidates?

“Most search firms will be using assessment tools either because they have consciously chosen to incorporate it into their process or because their clients have asked them to do so. We have been seeing increased assessment demand over the past few years from our clients and have been partnering with McQuaig – it’s an assessment tool that our clients find easy to utilize during the evaluation process as well as part of their onboarding efforts.”

Brian Clarke, Managing Partner — Kensington International
Will the top five search firms look any different five to 10 years from today?

“Yes, and no. The top five will still be here and dominate the market from a revenue perspective – with their brands still highly recognized. But in terms of ‘look/feel and lines of business’ all five will have formally moved to multiple business lines, with potentially significant sub-brands and new revenue streams. The rationale is simple: Multiple business lines and revenue streams mitigate risk; and sub-brands will give the appearance of the ‘boutique shop’ – similar to micro-brews.”

Jacob Navon, Partner — Westwood Partners
In the next five years will London be supplanted as a leading global financial services hub?

“It is hard to see London being supplanted in the next five years for several reasons: 1) It will probably take more than two years for Brexit negotiations to yield sufficient clarity as to what will ultimately happen; 2) At the margin one can see some operations being moved to Ireland, France or Germany so some associated search activity will move with that; 3) Even if the hub of underlying activity does eventually move, it will take a long time for the market to decide where in Europe to locate. It will be hard to attract non-locals to relocate to Paris, Frankfurt, Dublin or Munich until there is greater certainty as to what will happen.”

Jessica Kozloff, President — Academic Search
In the next 10 years will a woman hold the CEO post of any major top five search firm?

“I certainly hope and expect we will see a woman as CEO of one of these firms. We have outstanding examples of successful leaders in the higher education recruitment field, including at least two woman-owned search firms. My confidence is based on these examples and the pipeline theory: As more talented women get into this work, more will gain the experience we see in the higher education sector to move up to the top.”

Jay Rosenzweig, Founding Partner — Rosenzweig & Company
In the next five years will LinkedIn be supplanted by another social media platform?

“In today’s rapid-paced environment, where disruption is the norm, it is tempting to predict that LinkedIn will be seriously challenged, if not displaced. But that won’t be easy. In truth, the greatest threat to LinkedIn is LinkedIn itself, which is not without its imperfections. They could potentially create room for competitors if they don’t continuously improve and evolve with the times. In addition, they need to be careful not to monetize the platform too aggressively or allow it to become a forum for trivial, non-business discussions and promotions. But surely LinkedIn knows this – and their owner, Microsoft, knows this as well.”

Contributed by Christopher W. Hunt, Publisher, Hunt Scanlon Media

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