The Ethical and Transparent Way of Working with Head-Hunters

Cross – border executive search is undergoing digital innovation. And in the process it has become evident that many of its historical practices are increasingly unsustainable.

One in particular, and the focus of this post, is the traditional fee structure based on 25%-33% of the remuneration offered to / accepted by the successful candidate.

I contend that it is flawed and illogical.

As an example why oh why is say hiring in at €200k usually twice as costly at hiring in at €100k.

So temptation here, for the less than scrupulous, to the 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.

Ethics and transparency are clearly not best served with this structure.

Beyond that the time to fulfillment seems to me to be inordinately protracted in this connected world. Again the world in which we now conduct our business enables those traditional time scales to be radically reduced.

Logic therefore suggests both flat fees and more rapid times to short-list.

It was therefore that earlier this year and through my global network I began 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 retainerNO 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 been offered/accepted their temporary or permanent role. All made possible by a business model fit for the global digital economy in which we are all now part.

So HOW MUCH is this flat fee? Well the Europe wide figure is 25,000 Euros.

CEO-Worldwide’s 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 to 10 working days and placement in an average three weeks – certainly does. Yes really – 7 to 10 days!

ES 3

Have we seen the end of the old retained model with the dice loaded in favor of the search firm or is digital disruption a game changer and a leveling of the playing-field?

Trevor Lee – EP International


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


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