Transforming Executive Search

In common with pretty much every private and public sector organisation the one that I have been familiar with for the last 35 years is subject to change and transformation. This transformation  (disruption) is being facilitated by digital innovation.

Which leads me to share my personal philosophy about how the executive search sector operates and how, in my opinion, many of its practices are unsustainable.

In particular executive search fees for many local and international practices are based on, what to me at least has been a lack of logic, that is the remuneration offered/accepted by the successful candidate. So temptation here – for the less than scrupulous – to short-listing of applicants with the highest monetary aspirations or even encouraging the favored candidate to make excessive demands. Hence inflating total fees billed to the client. Why oh why is the fee for hiring in at £200k usually twice as costly at hiring in at £100k? Ethics and transparency are not best served with this structure.

Also think, in this context, of the legal and accountancy profession with their rates per hour and dare I say traditional estate agents who base their fees on the selling price of property. Temptation, if not common practice, in the former case of taking their time (inflating their income) and in the latter of forever talking up the market.

It was therefore with huge relief that I recently ‘started a conversation ‘ with the founder of

I learnt that since 2001 they have completed more than 1,000 international executive searches. And being good at ‘listening’ – to their clients – they have this year introduced a new disruptive pricing model. In short they now offer regional low fixed fees paid 100% on success. So NO retainer, NO short-list fee and on a non-exclusivity (of instruction) basis. This means that they provide full contingency with NO payment from the client until the successful candidate has started their temporary or permanent role. All made possible by a business model fit for the global digital economy in which we all now operate.

I think this new disruptive pricing model also addresses two major questions that are frequently asked: 

  • Why pay recruitment fees calculated as a percentage of the candidate salary?
  • Why should clients be forced to accept the counter-productive “incentives” still in place today in the executive search industry?

The maxim of ‘you only get what you pay for’ might be uppermost in the mind of the hiring executive or committee convinced that the global search firms are in some way masters of the universe. Well yes but that universe – which I now call a connected flat world – has changed and will leave behind those that don’t adapt and/or innovate.

CEO-Worldwide is in the vanguard of that change and links the worlds of interim management with executive search.

Their 21st c business model enables them to offer up managers who are prepared for local or cross border interim projects that could turn into full-time positions in one of the 180 countries covered. This from a pool of over 16,100* senior executives worldwide, each with a proven entrepreneurial profile.

* Only 16,100 of the over 100,000 who have to date attempted the rigorous and track proven certification process have actually qualified.

Alongside this is an equally rigorous and innovative selection process prior to short-listing.

If this doesn’t make the proposition the default for those mission critical cross-border appointments then delivering a short-list in 7-10 working days and placement in an average three weeks – certainly does. Yes really – 7 to 10 days!

As the late Victor Kiam famously said of Remington Razor … “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company” so EP International has linked with this great team to provide access to the best cross-border talent at a competitive fixed cost and in a timely ‘no risk’ manner. There is no downside for either candidates or clients.

It’s time to shake up the old fashioned and costly cross borders head hunters market,” says founder Patrick Mataix, “We need to propose a ‘must have’ HR global partner for all businesses. Keeping their agility in such a fast changing geopolitical and economical international environment.”


There will be those that welcome change, those that resist change and those that will never change. Are you – as an enlightened leader – one of the fearless variety?


Trevor Lee – EP International


We provide C-suite services in the field of talent acquisition, development and retention.

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