Common Threats and Managing Reputation in Executive Search Firms

William S. Harvey, Jonathan V. Beaverstock, Hongqin Li

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This paper provides important insights into how executive search firms can successfully manage their reputations to overcome major threats to their organizations. The paper focuses on three threats faced by executive search firms: the global financial crisis; questions around the sector's professional status; and the proliferation of social media for recruitment. Our data show that there was not a single coherent response from firms, but a piecemeal approach that focused on three forms of reputation management. First, diversifying service offerings; second, highlighting their symbolic capital; and third, connecting their firms to clients and candidates through partners. Building on our data and the theoretical literature, we provide a framework for understanding how professional service firms can manage their reputations in response to common threats, based on three categories from the English idiom ‘keep up with the Joneses’. First, moving away from the Joneses; second, fencing out the Joneses; third, networking more than the Joneses. We provide theoretical and practical insights around how organizations can manage their reputations in response to threats which are common across sectors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)847-868
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Management
Issue number4
Early online date7 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2018 The Authors. British Journal of Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Academy of Management

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


  • Reputation management, professional services firms


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