May 13, 2015 – May 30, 2014 — Christopher Hunt has a unique window into global hiring trends — and he’s feeling bullish. As president of Hunt Scanlon Media, a trade publisher and analyst for the executive search industry, Hunt keeps tabs on some 3,000 U.S. recruiting firms and another 3,500 that are located abroad. It’s a good time to be in the business of finding business leaders, the Greenwich native and resident said. In 2013, the U.S. portion of the search industry posted a 9-percent growth rate, matching its expansion from 2011 and 2012. The three-year trend prompted Hunt Scanlon to expand its annual ranking of the top 25 American search firms to the top 40 firm.
The 250-page report will be published in the next couple of weeks, Hunt said.
In an interview, Hunt offered a preview of his findings. Collectively, the top 40 firms pulled in about $2.3 billion in executive recruiting and related service fees in 2013, he said. Pretty much every firm in the top 40 posted gains, with about a third of them expanding by over 10 percent and a quarter of them mushrooming by over 20 percent.
Hunt, who has plied this trade for 26 years, considers this one of the great eras to be an executive recruiter — and an increasingly good time to be looking for a job in general.
“Search is a leading indicator for what is going on in hiring,” he said. “It’s a welcome relief and it’s good to see that it’s finally come and it’s been sustained.” Search firms devoted to all manner of industries showed growth last year, he said. The recruiting giant Korn/Ferry far and away led the field. The Los Angeles-based company pulled in $572 million in revenue, a gain of 22 percent. Coming in second was Chicago-based Spencer Stuart, which earned $381 million, a 4-percent gain. Then came Chicago-based Heidrick & Struggles, which earned $257 million, a 1-percent gain.
In fact, Chicago is increasingly becoming the headquarters of this field, Hunt noted. That’s not the only trend Hunt is seeing, though. For one thing, women are taking a bigger role in recruiting. In 1991, only 17 percent of recruiters were female, Hunt said. Today, women make up 37 percent of the industry. About 30 percent of search firms are managed by women, he added. Hunt believes that female recruiters are more inclined to track down female candidates. “Executive recruiters tend to be corporate gate keepers,” he said. “Typically, you tend to recruit people who are like you.”
Another trend is that companies like Nike, Sears, eBay and others are bulking up their in-house recruiting staff. That is saving these corporations about $500 million a year, collectively, he said. But it comes with a catch. In-house recruiters aren’t very good at looking for top positions like CEOs and other C-suite positions, he said. That’s also true for highly specialized positions, which he likens to looking for a needle in a haystack.
“It’s a far more complicated process to recruit for CEOs, CFOs and boards of directors,” he said.
Search firms are also fighting back by expanding their services into talent management, and succession and compensation advising, among other areas. The result: Despite losing the $500 million a year to corporations, the industry is still expanding at that 9-percent rate. Generally, these firms continue to charge corporations about one-third of the hired executive’s first-year salary. So if a CFO scores a $1 million a year contract, the firm that found him or her gets paid $333,333. That sort of revenue — coupled with the industry’s growth — is one reason why recent years have seen an explosion of boutique search firms. In fact, of the 3,000 retained search firms in the U.S., Hunt said, about 750 of them were started over the past half-decade.
Greenwich Time, by Tim Loh