A report into the executive search industry from recruitment software provider Thrive TRM has some interesting observations and conclusions about the effects of the Covid pandemic on the executive search industry during 2020. Here are some of the key learnings;
- The number of new searches was down about 2% year on year – suggesting the impact of Covid on search firms has not (so far) been as bad as many have feared.
- Executive search firms who finished the year in the top quartile for opened or completed searches were the only firms to experience meaningful year on year growth – suggesting that many other firms are struggling whilst the top performers have continued to grow during the pandemic.
- The Technology and Life Sciences / Healthcare sectors performed the most strongly in terms of both new opened searches and in terms of successfully closed projects.
- By contrast, the Telecommunications and Business Services sectors struggled the most in terms of both new opened searches and in terms of successfully closed projects.
- Executive search firms that were in the bottom quartile really struggled – seeing the number of opened searches decline by over 35% and the number of successfully closed searches down by over 50%.
- There has also been a rise in the number of placed candidates relocating from one country to another; it seems that headhunting firms are increasingly looking for talent on an international basis. Many hiring companies are also getting more used to remote working making hiring international candidates easier.
- Diversity remains a key theme in many hiring processes, particularly at board level as companies become more conscious of the need for diverse leadership.
- Although many of the search professionals surveyed were bullish about the market rebounding in 2021, they were much more modest about their own hiring plans, with 55% of those surveyed saying they didn’t expect to expand the headcount of their firm during 2021.
- When asked about their top obstacles for 2021, the most popular three themes were “Covid 19”, “Competition”, and “Internal Talent Development and Acquisition”.
It seems that 2020 wasn’t nearly as damaging to the search industry as many had feared it would be, but there remains significant uncertainty and instability in the search market in 2021.