Retained search fees are up 7 percent for the second quarter of 2013 compared to the same period a year ago. That statistic comes from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) survey of its members and is nearly 6 times the 1.2% rate of inflation. Search firms are focusing on the senior-most executive searches, leaving lower-level executive searches to in-house corporate recruiters and LinkedIn. In other words, retained executive search is moving increasingly upmarket.

However, since the downturn, a good many thought leaders have been predicting the downfall of traditional retained executive search. Consequently, for the past several years, retained executive search firms have had a great deal in common with Mark Twain. After learning that his obituary had been published in the newspaper,  Mr Twain is reported to have said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” What Mr. Twain actually said — quite simply–was, ‘The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

Like Mark Twain, reports of the death of retained executive search have been greatly exaggerated:

How LinkedIn Killed The Recruiting Industry

The Destruction of the Head Hunting Industry

Without a doubt, LinkedIn has disintermediated executive search firms that have failed to distinguish themselves with a unique value proposition. But retained firms that make it a practice to stay ahead of the curve are benefiting handsomely from the seismic shift in executive search. More on that later . . .

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