Trends in Executive Search looking at 2021 and beyond

Undoubtedly companies will continue to feel the impact of COVID-19 well into 2021; this will affect their hiring strategy for the year. Looking back on 2020 and forward to 2021, there are several trends in the Executive Search Industry. Which specific trends does IESF identify when it comes to executive recruitment? IESF – International Executive Search Federation – is one of the world’s most recognized international executive search groups, identifying talent and leadership in 80 offices and more than 20 countries. In this interview, Victor Carulla, President of IESF, will highlight some of the top hiring trends in Executive Search to look out for in 2021.

Impact of COVID-19 and post-vaccine hiring

“2020 was a year like no other. Because of COVID-19, projects were placed on hold or canceled. A lot of what will happen from an executive search perspective will be based on how quickly a coronavirus vaccine is distributed. After vaccination, the executive search market will increase as companies recover. Candidates will have fewer reservations about the work environment, it will be safer, and they will be more willing to make the move to a new company. The economy also influenced the candidate’s perspective. On the one hand, some managers and C-level executives lost their jobs and were more actively searching for new opportunities. While on the other hand executives currently holding a strong position were more hesitant to make a career switch when the opportunity occurred. This makes searching for the perfect match more challenging than before. In August 2020, our exclusive Partners IESF Peru (Virtusand IESF Chile (HR Burócarried out the Labor Market Study in their countries. They surveyed 36 companies from the mining, agribusiness, and energy sectors about how they are facing the COVID-19 crisis in their respective industries. Companies were asked about adaptation measures, the most valued skills during the pandemic, and their recruiting methods.”

Digital Executive Search 

“COVID-19 did not only affect the actual amount of (international) placements, it also completely changed the way of work. Executive search is normally for 95% based on personal contact, assessments, and interviews and that changed radically to 95% working online. Zoom meetings and video conferencing became a primary means of communication in 2020. In-person job interviews came to a halt. IESF member companies developed new ways to interview online without losing strength in selecting the right candidate. Companies were forced to put more emphasis on digital recruiting strategies to hire. IESF expects to see companies continue to use digital recruitment strategies more in 2021.”

Flexibility – remote working as an advantage

 “Flexible work schedules and workplaces have become increasingly important for candidates over the past few years. Also, in executive roles, 2020 proved that flexibility and being able to work from home are both possible and effective. Leaders find new ways to motivate and monitor employees and prove they are very productive when working from home. IESF expects flexibility as remote work becoming more and more a normal occurrence in 2021. Working from home will most definitely remain, but we expect things will also get back to “normal” and people to work from offices and travel for business again when everyone is vaccinated, and COVID-19 becomes part of our history.”  


“With the rise of globalization, executives are increasingly willing to travel for work or relocate. That makes it interesting for our clients to also look for candidates beyond their country’s borders. Because of the increased digitization of almost everything in the workplace, companies are also hiring more people to work from home, which means they can come from anywhere in the world. IESF expects this trend will proceed in 2021.”

Artificial Intelligence and Data 

“Artificial intelligence has penetrated the executive search market, and the initial outcomes are promising. IESF member companies agree that AI technology is never meant to replace the consultant. It’s designed to support their roles. Executive recruitment will also become increasingly driven by data. Recruitment used to be a purely experience-based and people drive profession. Now hiring managers have been using increasing amounts of data to inform their decisions. These advances in technology and AI, allows leaders to predict outcomes.”

Social Recruiting 

“One of the most popular recruitment trends today is social recruiting. Executive Search firms also use social networks for finding, attracting, and hiring executives. And to also enhance their network, do a direct search and seek new possibilities. It increases the opportunity for one-on-one engagement with new potential candidates and customers. Looking at today’s social media statistics, this trend is likely to continue in the years to come.”

“IESF partners know these trends and will use them to their best advantage, to make sure our Executive Search projects extends to the global market.”

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