Mergers and Acquisitions in the Global Recruiting Industry

By Dave Nerz

for sale signAs with most things in business, the global financial crisis impacted the number of global recruiting mergers and acquisitions done in the past few years, as well as the value of those deals. Staffing Industry Analysts reports results of global recruiting business acquisitions on a quarterly basis. These facts can be found on their website, staffingindustry.com. According to Staffing Industry Analysts, the number of global deals done in the 3rd quarter of 2009 was at a record low, and even quarters into 2011 showed great weakness in the number of global recruiting acquisitions completed.

More recruiting company purchases are focused on firms doing contract employment and temporary staffing. These types of firms have higher multiples on the sale of a recruiting business because contract employment is considered much more of an annuity than a direct hire placement. Contracts renew and can last for years while direct hire placements can be a “once and done” event. While experts disagree on the multiples, most quote a range of 2 to 4 times EBIDTA. There are many factors that can change this multiple up or down, including the location of the business, the mix of contract to direct hire, and the sector or segment of focus.

The most popular recruiting business sale segments right now are IT, healthcare and industrial. Not a surprise. Again there is  a larger multiple on the sale of a recruiting business from these segments and hence, more frequently a deal completed.

A new trend is the global recruiting business acquisition. The reason for the growth in global acquisitions is obvious to me, but maybe I’m too close to the topic of global recruiting to understand why it would not be obvious to all. I see it like the stock market….diversification is good. The same with growing global recruitment companies. They need coverage and diversification into more market areas and more economies. This should help them tap growth markets while diversifying their business portfolio. Global recruiting is expected by more clients as they grow their search for talent. So firms in the US need an Asian presence, and global recruiters based in the UK or Australia may need a North American location.

Has anyone sold a recruiting business recently or done the work to estimate multiples? I am interested to know your experiences.


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