Search firms don’t often collaborate on assignments. Yet E.A. Hughes & Co. has formed an affiliation with IRC Global Executive Search Partners, a professional alliance, or co-op, of search firms.

Under the agreement, the two organizations will refer searches and job candidates back and forth and share fees. For example, if IRC is hired to fill a job in the U.S., Hughes could refer candidates to IRC, or IRC could refer the search assignment to Hughes. If Hughes is hired to fill a job in another country, another IRC affiliate could be tapped to assist in the search.

IRC represents Hughes’ first affiliation with another search company. IRC typically affiliates with boutique search firms, with between three and 15 search executives, according to Elaine Hughes, founder, president and chief executive officer of the company bearing her name. “They want firms that are owner-driven,” she added. The affiliation expands the global reach of E.A. Hughes, which is based in New York City. In 1991, Hughes launched her executive search firm. She is also the search partner in the retail consulting business, The Grayson Co., founded by Bob Grayson.

IRC is based in Prague. IRC’s search partners are located in 80 cities on six continents. IRC says it has completed more than 30,000 assignments for 2,000-plus clients in different industries. It’s ranked among the world’s five largest retained search firms.