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How Research Teams Drive Profit for Executive Search Businesses

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There are over 20,000 recruitment and executive search businesses in the United States. 

What are the top 5 firms and other top performing Executive Search Businesses doing to ensure they come out on top? 

One of the key pieces of the puzzle is this – a Research team. 

Research teams are traditionally viewed as only a cost center. 

Yet, the top firms have proven that research teams can be an indispensable driver of revenue. 

So much so, the annual market intelligence and insights gained by researchers at Korn Ferry account for over $10 million in extra revenue a year for the company. 

Investing in a dedicated resource for research might be the competitive advantage you need. 

Five Primary Functions of a Research Team That Drives Revenue:

1. Market Analysis 

2. Competitor & Client Analysis 

3. Candidate Mapping 

4. Client Mapping & Development 

5. Commercial Insights 

Having a Research function is your roadmap to revenue generation. 

It will point you in the right direction to search and seek out new business and top talent. Researchers work with the Senior Client Partners that are responsible for revenue generation. They are also the Senior Client Partners lifeline to the specific industry that they cover. They know all the latest trends, industry news, mergers & acquisitions. Researchers will map out the entire market for your team, from candidates to clients. They know all points of contact within mid-market & large prospective clients. Researchers will develop research into business plans and strategy documents for Senior Partners.

One of the best drivers of revenue from a research team is commercial insights. The insights provided by the Research team can be used as commercial products for clients. A few examples are: 

• Talent market insights

• Competitor market analysis

• CEO & C-Suite niche industry analysis

In this regard, researchers do not only drive retained search revenue. They encourage the creation of new insights and research products that are marketable to your clients.

How to Implement a Research Function Today


The Research Associate would partner with the Financial Services division. They would find the Top 200 mid-sized Investment Banks based in the U.S., that can either be niche-focused or broad. They would then divide these Investment Banks by size, specialism, region, and other specified criteria. From Partner to Principle level, the Research Associate would analyze each critical stakeholder. They would retrieve contact information & news articles about them (personality, character). Using this information, the Research Associate would give B.D. reports to each V.P. & Partner within the Financial Services division. They would then be better equipped to target these specialist Investment banks. 

When executing the search, the Research Associate would map out the top 100 candidates and create candidate profiles. This map would be done by region and specialization. Part of their research can include speaking with these candidates to build out their detailed profiles.

The Workflow of a Researcher
How to Measure Success 

The most effective way to measure the success of your research function is through revenue contribution. Revenue contribution is measured via three avenues: 

  • Sourced clients to jobs filled 

  • Sourced candidates to placements 

  • Sale of commercial insights 

While this function is not one you can measure with precise KPI’s, its sole purpose is to drive revenue. All three avenues are traceable from total revenue. 

Researchers do not make a commission from revenue contribution. A standard compensation structure for Researchers is base salary with 1-2 annual bonuses. These bonuses are often a year-end bonus of 15-20% and a potential extra discretionary bonus based on team performance. 

Job Description Template – Research Associate

Complete the below form to receive a copy.

So, Are You Ready to Bring a Researcher Onto Your Team? 

Implementing a research function within your organization is not just a cost center; it is a revenue driver. How 

Research does not only aide in business development and search execution. The insights gained are products that can be assembled and marketed. 

It is time to invest. A Research function will not only drive your revenue but will equip your team with the tools most effective in providing great service.