Executives: Search for the Proven Man

No more than a decade ago they were known disparagingly in the business world as pirates and flesh peddlers. Company presidents sent them blistering letters, upbraiding them for tempting loyal, longtime employees with offers of other jobs. In recent years, however, riches and respectability have come to the executive recruiters. They now call themselves "executive search consultants," are called upon to help fill executive positions—generally decision-making jobs paying at least $20,000—by 75% of the nation's leading firms.

Their stature is likely to grow even more. Heidrick and Struggles, a Chicago-based recruiting...

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