Digital Transformation Trends Signal Radical Changes in Executive Search

Invenias Digital Transformation Executive Search

By Jen Anderson, Director of Experience Marketing, Invenias by Bullhorn

Digital transformation has become a ubiquitous concept in today’s business landscape. This is especially true in the executive search profession, where a new digital era means disruptive initiatives and profound changes in the way leadership talent is found. Yet despite digital transformation’s pivotal role, many struggle to implement formal plans within their organizations. In fact, there still exists a debate and confusion among many on how to even define digital transformation. With so many options and limited guidance, it can be a daunting task to know where to start. 

We recently surveyed over 300 executive search professionals on the topic of digital transformation. The culmination of that data yielded some interesting findings regarding the perception of digital transformation among executive search professionals, the ways in which firms are prioritizing and investing in technology, and the information search firms need to create their own plan to transform their business. 

Digital Transformation Remains an Elusive Concept

Of our respondents, only 25 percent reported having a deep understanding of digital transformation. The remaining 75 percent replied that they possessed either limited or no understanding of digital transformation. While the majority of respondents realized that digital transformation is an emerging trend that could have material impacts on their business, many struggled to define what it looks like in practical application.

Digital transformation is the integration of technology into all areas of business in order to improve operations and deliver value to customers. This could mean many things to many recruitment professionals, from process automation to machine learning and AI. For those on the cutting edge, digital transformation is baked into the entire recruitment lifecycle from front to back. 

Many Companies Need a Plan, but Few Have One

In response to our survey, only 25 percent of executive search firms have a digital transformation strategy. Navigating digital transformation can be inherently disorderly: the impulse to chase the next exciting breakthrough in technology can often lead teams on a never-ending wild goose chase. In order to combat this, stakeholders must reach a consensus of priorities and develop a well-defined plan that serves as the company’s roadmap to achieving its goals.

Additionally, executive search firms that have experienced success with digital transformation recognize that it’s not only a matter of the right technology, but the right culture. Digital transformation necessitates a willingness and an acceptance to this change. As with any transformative process, progress will quickly stall without alignment and buy-in throughout the organization.

Change Starts from the Top

It’s clear that CEOs lead digital transformation—nearly 43 percent of respondents reported that CEOs, presidents, and managing directors are the chief sponsors of their company’s digital transformation process. CIOs comprised 22 percent of firms’ digital transformation trailblazers, and 15 percent weren’t sure who was owning that process within their organization. One explanation for the lower percentage of CIOs and CTOs owning this process is that some of the firms who responded did not have a CIO or CTO role. For most companies, a top-down approach makes the most sense when approaching digital transformation. Although change may originate at the top, in order to embrace and fully realize the potential digital transformation has to offer, every role within a company has a part to play. Digital fluency, technological savviness, and the ability to translate data in order to inform decisions will be key attributes every member of the firm’s team must possess.

For Executive Search Professionals, Digital Transformation is Synonymous with Automation

More than 40 percent said they think of automation when they think of the term “digital transformation.” Another 22 percent stated digital transformation equated to cloud-based software. However, the industry as a whole has a ways to go in terms of investing in cloud-based solutions to power their business: only one-fifth of respondents say all of the software solutions they use are cloud-based. The overwhelming majority of people said that only a portion of their company’s solutions reside in the cloud. 

Of the people we surveyed, applicant tracking is the primary focus for executive search firms looking to embrace digital transformation: 50 percent of respondents replied that the area of their business most impacted by digital transformation is “applicant tracking and management.” Additionally, nearly 40 percent of respondents have automated sourcing, 35 percent have automated calendaring, 34 percent have automated reporting and analytics, and over 30 percent have automated background checks. Surprisingly, a fifth of respondents said they do not automate any recruitment processes whatsoever. 

Automation serves as an accessible jumping-off point for those interested in taking their first foray into digital transformation. Automating repetitive, manual tasks frees up the firm’s team to impact their business in a more meaningful way, such as developing relationships or extrapolating findings from data into actionable plans.

The Big Picture

Now more than ever, search firms will need to be digital at their core—powered by data and run on cloud-based solutions—in order to remain competitive within the executive search landscape. With a strategic plan in place and the right technology, executive search firms are poised to take advantage of the huge opportunity digital transformation presents. 

Ironically, digital transformation cannot occur successfully without significant team investment, planning, and human involvement up-front. Technology and humanity rely on one another for optimization and success, and it’s crucial for executive search staffing professionals to think creatively about the needs of their business and how technology and digital transformation can address those needs. Change is inexorable, and executive search firms must invest in the solutions, innovations, and culture required now to be successful in the future.

Interested in learning more about digital transformation and other trends? Visit the Global Recruitment Insights and Data, or GRID, at

Invenias is the leading platform trusted by professionals responsible for executive search and strategic hiring globally. Our customers include executive search and strategic recruitment firms, in-house executive recruitment teams, and executive talent organizations within Private Equity firms.

About Invenias

Over 1,000 Executive Search Firms across the globe, including many AESC member firms, use Invenias to deliver search assignments more effectively, build stronger relationships with their clients and candidates and transform the productivity of their operations. To learn more, visit to request a free no obligation demo.

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