Executive Summary

Retained executive search firms are employment consultants hired by companies to find top-level executives, usually with salary requirements over $100,000 a year. Unlike contingency search firms, retained firms are paid whether or not an executive is placed. They are generally paid either a fixed fee before the search or a percentage of the placement's first-year salary.

This week's list of 15 firms with offices in L.A. County is led by L.A.-based Korn/Ferry International, also the world's largest search firm.

Many of the world's largest corporations use search firms to fill vacancies. One advantage is that the firms have experts in particular industries and can therefore better assemble a list of possible candidates. Many companies use search firms in order to save themselves the time required for important searches.

Industries that frequently resort to search firms include health care, technology and financial services. Foreign corporations or American companies with international offices also use search firms to find executives wanting to work overseas.

Pacesetter

Founded in Los Angeles in 1969, Korn/Ferry Intenational has grown from a two-man office to the largest executive search firm in the world. Richard Ferry and Lester Korn started the firm that institutionalized the executive search process. Today, the company has more than 1,000 recruiters working in 71 offices in 42 countries. Korn/Ferry is owned by 235 vice presidents who reported $273 million in revenues in 1997. They have conducted over 60,000 searches for senior-level executives in all industries. Among the firm's 3,000 clients are AT & T;, Johnson & Johnson and General Electric.

Each quarter, Korn/Ferry surveys its clients to assess executive demand internationally. For the third quarter of 1997, Latin America reported the biggest increase over the previous quarter, with hiring up 22 percent. In the Asia/Pacific region, executive demand dipped 9 percent. Europe reported a 9 percent gain in executive hiring, and North America was up 4 percent.

In December, Korn/Ferry announced a new venture that will create a full-service online recruitment firm. In partnership with Idealab, the firm is creating Korn/Ferry CareerLink, an Internet site that will target mid-level executives. The site will match potential applicants with job positions through a sophisticated filtering system. Korn/Ferry is creating the site in response to client demands for help in recruiting mid-level managers in the $75,000 to $120,000 range. CareerLink is scheduled to be launched in Southern California in mid-1998.

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