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Why would the word Tombstone be in an Ethics blog entry? The word Tombstone is a common custom with some retained search firms. In practice, it means sending an announcement to all of the firm's clients about the successful completion of a search. Its purpose is really advertising a successful completion and the firm's ability to execute a search at a senior level. It is all about business development and keeping your firm's name and results on the client's or prospect's radar.

Imagine receiving one . . . . .

announcing a senior level placement. The name of the placed candidate is mentioned (hopefully with the full knowledge and permission of the candidate AND their new employer). The only problem - your company is where the person came from. Were you on a mass e-mail list? Were you purposely targeted to get the e-mail - in the hope that you will use this firm to replace the person you just lost?

Ethical standards do not, sadly, exist in my industry.

I do wish they did. The professional association in which we actively participate, the International Association for Corporate & Professional Recruitment (see, publishes guidelines for its members. Each member, however, has to make their own decisions on how they conduct their business. Business development is indeed part of running a business and has to be handled in an ethical manner. A sales call should not simply be asking, "do you need a search?" We are a relationship-based industry. Experience certainly matters as does a successful track record. Either way, ethics in how this is done should be key.

Ask questions!

As with my other posts relating to ethics, questions about business practices are rarely discussed. Simply put, ask questions directly to your search partner about everything related to their business. If they are going to be your partner in helping you find a person that should significantly impact your business, you deserve to know how they do their work - in all areas. The only bad question is the one NOT asked!