It is the job title that matters, not the accomplishments…

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Who Gets Headhunted–and Who Gets Ahead? The Impact of Search Firms on Executive Careers.


Employing 44 in-depth interviews and examining a large multinational search firm’s detailed records for 2,000 executives working for more than 800 corporations, this research finds that the executive search firm targets large, reputable, high-performing companies to recruit from, and identifies individual target executives on the basis of their job title rather than their accomplishments. Moreover, executives who agree to be considered for a search tend to come from less successful firms and have shorter tenures than those who are targeted but decline to be considered for a search. The search firm studied tends to help individuals move between industries but not across job functions or to new roles. This evidence-based research guides attention to a type of labor market intermediary that plays an increasingly important role in labor markets today, but has remained underexplored by academics.

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