What is the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants? 

AESC is the global association for executive search firms that meet rigorous standards. 

Identifying, attracting and placing executive talent is no simple task. It requires a complex suite of skills, years of expertise and carefully curated networks. Executive search firms specialize in these particular competencies, providing organizations with leadership consulting and top-tier placements in the C-suite and at the board level. Although most executive search firms follow similar processes and many have deep industry or functional knowledge, not all firms share a commitment to quality standards and ethics.  

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) was created to differentiate leaders in global executive search and leadership advisory solutions who adhere to a predetermined set of quality and ethical standards. Today, AESC is the global membership association for executive search firms that meet the highest quality standards in the executive talent industry.  

Who Are AESC Members? 

AESC Members are executive search firms that have undergone the rigorous membership application process and all employees, including consultants, partners, researchers, associates, admin, etc., become members of AESC. Member firms range in size from large global firms with multiple offices and thousands of employees to regional and boutique firms with single offices.  

Although all of our members share a commitment to high-quality executive sourcing, placement and development, some members specialize in specific industries, services or functions. For instance, some of our members provide search services specifically for the aerospace and aviation industry, while others focus on placing leaders in Information Technology roles.   

Currently, there are more than 16,000 trusted professionals and over 1,450 firm offices in 70-plus countries with AESC membership. Together, our membership places more than 100,000 executives each year in board and C-level positions for organizations of all types and sizes.  

AESC Standards 

All AESC Members meet a set of global standards and adhere to a code of professional practice. 

Prospective members must show their commitment to quality by providing a high level of transparency into their firm’s processes during application. A firm must garner sponsorship from two current members, supply several client references and undergo interviews and assessments to ensure all membership criteria are met to be approved by the Membership Development Committee.  

Once members, firms commit to adhering to AESC’s rigorous standards. Members follow a client and candidate bill of rights, each of which outlines their promise to both. Our members agree to hold information in strict confidence and provide full disclosure and progress reports. 

A Brief History of AESC 

The AESC was originally founded in 1959 as the Association of Executive Recruiting Consultants (AERC) to create a professional association for the most reputable search firms and provide clients and prospective clients with a way to differentiate high quality, ethical practitioners from others. According to the original by-laws, the objective of the association was to develop and enforce “high standards of ethical professional practice and rigorous membership requirements,” “improve the practice of executive recruiting” and educate the public on the “function of executive recruiting in our economy.”  

In the 1960s and 70s, the Association began holding networking forums and peer groups that focused on defining the profession. The Association initiated its legislative efforts in 1974 to protect the profession and maintain its high standards. The AERC changed its name in 1982 to the Association of Executive Search Consultants to more accurately reflect the work undertaken by search consultants, differentiating it from recruiting done by employment agencies.  

Shortly after, the profession experienced a dramatic expansion with the number of search firms increasing by 50%. The profession’s expansion led to the Association’s global growth. The AESC established the AESC European Council in 1996 and the Asia Pacific Council in 2004.  

Today, the executive search profession continues to expand. The profession brought in approximately $20 billion in revenue in 2022, a 42% increase from 2010.  

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Why the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants Is Integral to the Talent Industry 

New businesses are forming at a rapid pace. C-suites are expanding with the introduction of new roles, such as Chief People Officer or Chief Sustainability Officer. Many companies and boards have realized the growing need and desire for greater diversity in leadership roles to drive innovation. As the world continues to change and shift with new technologies and new priorities, the demand for new positions and competencies grows.   

The constant need to fill C-level and board roles means companies need more leaders than ever before – and not just any leaders. Organizations require adaptable and agile leaders able to cultivate a purpose-driven culture, weather any storm and drive impactful change.  

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants’ membership consists of vetted executive search firms that are experts in finding, placing and developing leaders who meet the current and more importantly, the future needs of their clients. Membership demonstrates a firm’s high standards and commitment to ethics and client service. 

When hiring an AESC member, organizations can rest assured they are receiving the best leadership consulting services possible. Not only do clients gain a new leader with a higher likelihood of success, but they also gain a long-term, trusted advisor in the AESC member firm. 

For more information on executive search and AESC, check out Executive Talent Insider