It has recently been argued that the use of external consultants is indicative of a crisis in personnel management. However, the use of consultants, of whatever type, has not been adequately explained for a number of reasons. The reasons underlying the increasing usage of external consultants by personnel is a form of defence, allowing it to shed some activities thereby strengthening its position within the organisation. To illustrate this argument the reasons for the growth in the use of a particular type of consultant by personnel – executive recruitment consultancies – are considered. The results reported draw on two major surveys. The first was directed at executive consultancies whereas the second was directed at corporate personnel directors in the Times 100 companies. Response rates of 42 per cent and 55 per cent were achieved.
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