Past, Present, and the Future of 20 years in Executive Search

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Past, Present, and the Future of 20 years in Executive Search

Kirk Sears
Kirk Sears

Director of Executive Search







Finishing 2016 will mark the 20th year I’ve been engaged as an Executive Search Consultant.  I’m often asked what has evolved over these 2-decades in the recruiting industry and what do I see as evolving trends.

5 areas staying the same:

  1. Personal presentation and professional communication set the tone and are the price of admission for high quality candidates in the executive search process.
  2. Everyone has a “story” or a “caveat” to their candidacy that occurred somewhere along the way in an executive career path. Being open and transparent and willing to discuss what was learned from the experience is highly valued by an executive search consultant.
  3. Accomplishments over job description. Candidates can discuss their job responsibilities well.  However, what is lacking is being able to describe your accomplishments, i.e. what makes you differentiated?
  4. Exhibiting too much confidence, arrogance or lack of humility during any phase of the executive search process works against an executive.
  5. Character is a core component of an executive’s leadership brand.  Emotional intelligence and self-awareness goes a long way in demonstrating this.

5 items that have changed notably:

  1. Access to potential candidates has grown exponentially through technology and social media. Along with it comes an exponential increase in the need to do careful vetting and screening.
  2. Client organizations who say they want to do a retained executive search are often very interested in fast and cheap candidate identification. Speed has trumped quality in more instances than twenty or even ten years ago.
  3. Social media has dramatically blurred the lines that previously existed between the professional and personal life of executives. How you market your professional “brand” is commonly overlooked.
  4. The “ideal age” or the definition of “career stage” has gone up every five years.  It is not uncommon to have top candidates on an executive search slate be well into their 60’s today.
  5. Dealing with the purchasing or supply chain division at a client and treated as a vendor rather than a trusted advisor/consultant during the interview cycle is much more prevalent and typically cumbersome and impersonal.

5 fast-forward predictions:

  1. Not surprisingly will be the use of big data to predict everything from candidate success, culture fit, and employee retention.
  2. The use of career managers. With the addition of more and more social media outlets, precious time to balance work and life, and the need to stay discrete in attempting to seek a new career; a certified career manager will be needed to assist candidates to navigate, find, and close new career opportunities.
  3. Video for interviewing, video for pre-screening, and video to have a competitive edge over similar companies in similar vertical markets (e.g. hospitals).
  4. Supply and demand. It’s a statistical conclusion. There will be more openings than candidates to fill these roles. Companies will need to provide a positive cultural, benefit laden, and a conducive management environment to attract the best talent (money will rank 3rd or 4th overall).
  5. Management value. The company will need to show a long-term market value proposition, competent management, and innovation.


We can learn from the past and benefit on how we manage the next 20 years with job fulfillment and taking the time in defining career pathways.


By |2017-10-20T10:16:10+00:00Jan 7, 2017|360 News, Leadership, Permanent Placement|