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[Meet the CEO] Head hunter bolsters global network

Honors Career is Korea’s first member of prominent global alliance


Local executive search firm Honors Career International is seeking to further bolster its presence in the market through a fresh global network and profound local expertise, its chief executive Chris Kim said.

The firm became a member of IRC Global Executive Search Partners, a prominent international alliance of independent retained search firms, for the first time as a Korean entity last month. IRC has its offices spread throughout Asia, North America and Europe in countries including Singapore, India, the U.S., and Germany.

The executive search industry has been present here for a relatively short period, compared to the large number of headhunting firms and their high prominence among Koreans.

Most executive search firms provide clients with retained service, matching them with appropriate job specialists in the field. Headhunting firms on the other hand just connect job seekers at any level with clients, mostly on a contingency basis.

Honors Career was selected, beating multiple local competitors, after IRC reviewed its consulting experience, credentials and market reputation for three years, according to Kim.

Kim expected that this rare opportunity would help the firm take a step further to operate more globally, both on its own and by working with IRC offices outside the country.
Honors Career CEO Chris Kim (The Korea Herald)
Honors Career CEO Chris Kim (The Korea Herald)

“Many Korean companies are now very active in global market expansion, setting up overseas branches and keen to recruit top talent in each geographic market,” she said.

“We can also help foreign clients who are seeking a launch in the local market find appropriate talents with our market experience and knowledge.”

The nascent executive search industry in Korea has so far been dominated by leading foreign firms such as Korn/Ferry and Heidric & Struggles due to local ones’ deficiency and their lack of experience.

Yet competitive local firms like Honors Career have been expanding their market share over the years with knowledge on local industries, business environment and corporate culture.

Possessing a strong local expertise is one of the firm’s biggest strengths through which it can compete with strong foreign competitors, Kim said.

Since this process requires an insight in industries and the market, the firm’s primary focus has been in market research, Kim said.

“In order to do this job well, we have to keep creating a pool of key talents while understanding industries to identify each client’s business and challenge.”

Honors Career, in particular, has been specializing in searches for mid-management to executive-level talent for multinational companies with an industry focus on healthcare, high technology, chemical and finance since 2002.

During the period, the firm has worked with diverse clients, which range from top-tier ones such as GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Standard & Chartered to smaller-sized ones.

Kim founded her own business after working for global companies including Cisco Systems and DuPont in human resource managing and purchasing for more than 20 years.

Yet she found talent searching being the best fitted job for her, she said.

“I felt a sense of achievement from it and found the career very meaningful,” she said.

Kim said this is because choosing an executive is a critical matter for a company which can affect its business significantly ― either negatively or positively.

“I also liked functioning as a career coach for a high-level workforce, listening to their difficulties and offering solutions to them,” she said.

Though Kim has been showing talent in her job, the firm is yet to overcome the challenges of carrying out searches for international companies, she said.

They include language barriers among the local workforce, and recruitment competition with major local conglomerates which offer more generous benefit packages and long-tern job security, according to Kim.

By Koh Young-aah (youngaah@heraldcorp.com)
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