Who Says Yes When the Headhunter Calls? Understanding Executive Job Search Behavior
We examine an aspect of job search in the important context of executive-level jobs using a unique data set from a prominent executive search firm. Specifically, we observe whether or not executives pursue offers to be considered for a position at other companies. The fact that the initial call from the search firm, which we observe, is an exogenous event for the executive makes the context particularly useful. We use insights from the Multi-Arm Bandit problem to analyze the individual's decision as it emphasizes assessments of future prospects in the decision process, which are particularly relevant for executive careers. More than half the executives we observe were willing to be a candidate for a job elsewhere. Executives are more likely to search where their current roles are less certain and where their career experience has been broader. Search is more likely even for broader experience within the same employer. In the latter case, the array of likely opportunities is also broader, making search more useful.
Thanks to seminar participants at the University of Toronto Rotman School, the London Business School, MIT's Sloan School, the Wharton Conference on Careers, the NBER workshop on executive labor markets, and Iwan Barankay for helpful comments. A version of this manuscript will appear in the journal Organization Science. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.