How Employers and Candidates are Navigating the Search Industry

In a new report, the International Executive Search Federation takes a deep look at the internationalization of talent in the post COVID-19 period.

March 24, 2023 – During the pandemic, it was demonstrated that the world was ready to adapt and allow professionals to work from anywhere in the world. “This represents a new challenge and growth opportunity for organizations (especially for the human resources industry), because now it is necessary to internationalize workforce and identify talent in different countries,” said the International Executive Search Federation (IESF) in a new report.

In this global research, the organization identified the different perceptions, of companies and professionals, about internationalization of talent in the post COVID-19 period. “2020 will forever be known as the year that redefined where (and how) we work,” said the report. “Two years later, we wanted to assess the impact beyond borders by analyzing the perception of the internationalization of work from the perspective of candidates and employers.”

In the last quarter of 2022, IESF conducted a comparative study of perceptions on internationalization of talent, both with companies as well as with candidates. The study analyzed and compared the perception about the internationalization of their work and their projections in this area. Are local organizations looking for international talent? Are foreign companies looking for local executives and others?

IESF surveyed directors, C-level, senior managers and professionals from different companies and industries, both men and women from different regions and countries. People from 17 countries divided over all four continents over the world were included.

When IESF asked candidates if they have worked for an organization in another country in the last two years, 75 percent of all candidates said they had not. Of the other 25 percent of candidates who said yes, most were operating in general management (51 percent) or operations (25 percent) or sales (15 percent).

Diving deeper, IESF found that of all the candidates that have not worked in another country, most respondents (41 percent) answered that they searched but did not find an attractive offer. “So, there is willingness from the candidate perspective, but it did not seem to match with local employers offers,” said the report. “The second biggest reason is that candidates never had the possibility to consider a position in another country (37 percent). They are interested but did not consider it so far.”

“It seems this trend in globalization of talent is slowly but certainly increasing from a candidate perspective,” the study said. Only a small percentage of all candidates is not interested in working at a company abroad (nine percent).

When IESF asked candidates if they have the ambition or expectation to change jobs within the next two years, the majority, 79 percent, responded positively. The study suggested that companies can expect a dynamic candidate marketplace the next couple of years.

Candidates Internationally Oriented

When IESF asked candidates if it is possible for an employer from another country to hire them, 92 percent of the candidates said yes. “This underlines the questions before and shows that according to candidates the world is becoming your global candidate market,” the report said. “Candidates seem very internationally oriented. They show ambition and are motivated to work internationally. And they are also expected to change jobs within the next two years. The research shows a link between candidates from both English and Spanish speaking countries.”

A ‘Historic’ Past Two Years and What’s Coming for 2023
With almost 25 years of experience in retained executive search, Chris Bull, co-founder and managing partner of executive search firm McDermott + Bull, is often asked what his firm is seeing in the market and what he expects moving forward. In summarizing what he has seen over the last 24 months, and making predictions for 2023, he says he feels that he can speak for the search industry, not just McDermott + Bull, as he has relationships with many individuals across the firm’s various global search competitors. “As I believe most are keenly aware, what we have experienced with executive recruiting over the past two years has been historic in nature,” said Mr. Bull in a recent report. “Most firms within the search industry have been at or, in many cases, over capacity since Q4 2020.”

Compared to pre-pandemic times, IESF asked, what factors do you believe are important in motivating you to choose a new job? Exciting new challenges was by far the biggest motivator for choosing a new job opportunity, ranked No. 1, far above salary conditions (No. 8). The report found that the main motivators were associated with development, culture, and personal life balance. Factors like working remotely from home or anywhere in the world are becoming more common since COVID, said the report, removing the primary motivators to change jobs.

IESF also found that the area of development most candidates were searching for possible new positions in were operations (38 percent), sales and commercial (24 percent), and finances (8,9 percent).

The Employers Perspective

IESF also asked comparative questions to employers to combine the two perspectives into one perspective on internationalization of talent. They asked employers: During 2021 / 2022 did you or your company hire talent from another country, for positions at your organization at managing / director level? Forty-one percent of the clients said they hired talent from other countries, while 58 said they only hired locally. The job positions these employers hired international candidates for were in: general management (45 percent), operations (30 percent), sales and commercial (30 percent) and finance (24 percent).

Of the 58 percent of the employers that said they did not hire international talent for a management position, 43 percent simply did not think of the possibility to do so. Ten percent of the employers did try to search international but did not find the suitable candidate from another country. There were also language and communication barriers that make it difficult (nine percent) and other difficulties in the hiring process (nine percent).

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When IESF asked employers what their hiring expectations were, 41 percent said they expected a growing need for talent at managing / director level within the next two years. Twenty-eight percent said they did not know yet. Businesses seemed more cautious. Only 29 percent of the employers did not expect to hire at the managing and director level the next two years.

When IESF asked employers in which area international candidates could be of an added value for their organization, their answers were similar to the candidates, saying general management (57 percent), sales (55 percent), and operations (46 percent).

Related: Executive Hiring Predictions for 2023

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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