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How To Find Executive Search Firms and Consultants

How To Find Executive Search Firms and Consultants

As executive search consultants who focus within specific sectors (architecture, engineering, construction, facilities management, and real estate development), we are familiar with the various ways to find specialized search firms. But, for those professionals who aren't involved in the realm of executive search, it can be challenging to find search firms and consultants (sometimes referred to as "headhunters") with particular industry knowledge and experience.

Prior to outlining our recommendations for identifying these companies and professionals, it should be noted that, if you are in the market for a search firm as a candidate or a client, we strongly suggest you reach out to firms and consultants who focus in your sector because, when compared to generalist firms, they will have a much stronger understandings of your industry and larger networks of pertinent contacts, which will directly correlate to their ability to perform your search. 

Recommendations for finding specialized executive search firms and consultants

1.  Industry colleagues

The most effective and efficient way to find any professional services firm is to simply ask colleagues and acquaintances in your industry for recommendations. After all, what can be better than asking people who you trust, who they trust?

2.  Management consulting firms within your industry

Many times, management consulting firms that specialize within certain sectors will have connections with or knowledge of well-respected executive search firms in the same industries. Within our core sectors, management consultants that stand out to us are: 

Building Maintenance Optimization Consultants -

BMOC is a facilities management consulting firm that performs asset inventory, preventative maintenance programming, strategic facilities planning, and more. 

FMI Corporation -

FMI is the largest provider of management consulting and investment banking for the engineering and construction industry.

Performance Resource

PRP is based in Holbrook, MA and represents prominent universities, hospitals, cultural institutions, and corporate clients. 

Sightlines Facilities Assets Advisors -

A Gordian Group company, Sightlines has offices in PA, CT, and OR, and assists universities to better manage their facilities investments. They provide independent analyses of campus facilities, including consistent measurement protocols and competitive benchmarking.

Sterling Seacrest Partners -

Sterling Seacrest provides risk assessment, help with control over insurance costs, and strategic guidance to diverse organizations.

Sibson Consulting -

Catering to high-tech and software companies, higher education institutions, non-profits, and other public and private organizations, Sibson provides consulting services related to strategic human resources and benefits.  

U3 Advisors -

U3 Advisors is a nationally-recognized consulting practice that provides real estate and economic development solutions to institutions (universities, non-profits, medical centers, and foundations), as well as local governments, and real estate developers and businesses pursuing public-private partnerships. 

3.  Your preferred search engine

Everyone has their preference, but our favorite search engine is Google. As we have found with our own research, it's best to try different keyword combinations and sequences to determine which generate the most accurate results. The more specific you are, the better - because you want to narrow the firms to only those that fit your needs. Try something like:

  • industry + "executive search" (i.e. construction executive search)

  • industry + "retained" or "contingency" (choose one) "executive search"

  • industry + "executive search consultants"

  • "search firms in" + industry

Since the majority of our audience is involved in A/E/C, facilities management, or real estate development, some examples of keyword combinations are:

  • "facilities management executive search firms"

  • "construction executive search firms"

  • "hospital facilities executive search firms"

  • "hospital construction executive search firms"

  • “university construction executive search consultants”

If you're only looking for retained executive search firms, try:

  • "construction retained executive search”

  • “facilities management retained executive search”

  • “architecture retained executive search”

  • "real estate retained executive search"

4.  Search Consultant / Recruiter directories

While it may be quick to consult a recruiter directory, you'll be significantly limiting your choices as most directories charge for listings so you'll only being seeing firm that have paid for their inclusion. Directories that we know of that are complimentary for search firms are:

Designed for professionals involved in any function within the educational sector. You can find a directory of search firms under the Additional Resources tab.

Offers career tools for those involved in higher education, and the ability to search jobs and find search firms by entering in your browser.

Allows visitors to filter search consultants / recruiters by their specialties, search models, locations, and keywords. Site is owned and operated by Cluen, a reputable player in the recruiter software realm.


The above techniques will certainly help you to identify search firms that specialize in your industry. Just remember, this is just the first step. Prior to engaging a firm, there are several things we recommend you do such as:

  • Review its website thoroughly. Is it updated and mobile-friendly? Does it have case studies that provide insight into their process and approach? Are team members shown along with their search experience?
  • Talk with the managing team member who would be leading your search, ask the right questions, and consider if you'd like working with them.
  • Look into the company's experience and track record, and definitely ask for and talk to their professional references. If you know of someone on your own who has worked with them, check them out that way too. 

After all of that, you can be confident you're selecting the right firm.