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As industry reputations go the recruitment industry does not enjoy a very positive image. In fact, recruitment companies are often thought of in the same manner as estate agents and car salesmen. There is a lack of trust and a suspicion that a recruiter is more interested in making a quick fee than in finding the best candidate. Too often we hear companies complaining of candidates who leave within six months of being placed, or of recruiters placing a candidate at a company only to then approach another individual in the same organization one week later for a job elsewhere. As is often the case, the actions of the few sadly become the perception of the many and the entire sector is tarnished with the same brush.


So what should you look for when selecting an executive search company? Any reputable company should belong to a professional association, which promotes professional standards through a code of conduct and code of ethics. The representative body for the retained executive search sector is the Association of Executive Search Consultants (wwww.aesc.org). Other organizations such as the REC in the UK represent the interests of private recruitment companies on a local level. By selecting a company registered with an association such as the AESC you are assured of a commitment to a distinct level of professionalism and integrity. All member firms will have to undergo a thorough screening process prior to joining and must adhere strictly to the codes of conduct and ethics. In addition, such a professional body offers clients a means of redress and a conduit through which to address any disagreement that may arise. Specific practice guidelines and ethical commitments that you should look for include guarantee and off-limits policies. Executive search is a management consulting engagement and not just a recruitment activity. It is not a guarantee that an executive will be hired but executive search firms should make it clear what their responsibilities are if:



   -A candidate leaves within a certain time frame

   -A candidate is hired at a later date for a different position

   -The firm decides to withdraw from the search assignment

Due to the nature of the retained executive search process, with regards to its thorough market search and dedication to         sourcing the best candidate, statistics have shown that executives remain in their positions longer than those placed through other recruitment means. Most retained executive search firms should therefore be willing to offer a guarantee period of at least one year with the understanding that, should the placed candidate leave within that period, the firm will undertake a replacement search at no additional cost.


A clearly communicated off-limits policy is a commitment by the executive search firm to an issue which is often misunderstood and which often leads to a breakdown in trust between a client and a recruitment company. An off-limits policy is a written understanding that the executive search firm will not, for a certain period of time, recruit individuals out of a client company where they had previously placed a candidate. The length of time and the scope of such a policy vary but it should be a clearly settled issue between both parties before entering a recruitment engagement in order to avoid misunderstanding in the future. Similarly, when selecting an executive search firm it is important to know which companies are on their off-limits list as this might have a limiting factor on their search capability.


Filling a key executive position with the highest quality candidate is of critical importance and errors are costly. You therefore have the right to demand the highest level of service from your executive search firm as well as the highest level of trust. Trust is a two-way relationship and client companies should also do their part to provide their executive search partners with all the information and tools necessary to execute a search effectively. By being open with one another and putting fuzzy issues such as guarantee periods and off-limits policies on the table for discussion clients and executive search firms can enjoy a rewarding relationship and ultimately improve the industry's image.






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