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Ethics from a Client Perspective

Each month for multiple years, I have had the pleasure of writing the Abeln, Magy, Underberg & Associates (AMUA) Blog.  It has covered a multitude of topics – the economy, retained search, best practices for candidates, compensation trends and ethics to name a few.  Ethics is my favorite topic for many reasons – and we have 31 (today makes 32) Blog entries on this topic. 

Ethics Focus

Most of the 31 Blog entries have been on what to expect from a search firm (specifically – us).  You can find more through  Today I want to address what we would like to see from our clients. 

We Have Great Clients

Over our 27+ years, we have had the great fortune to work with some amazing clients.  These clients have spanned multiple industries, corporate structures, geographic boundaries and cultures.  We have worked with for-profit and non-profit organizations.  The ethical principles we find critical are the same regardless of the organization and its structure.  Let’s review a few that are critical – what we want and need from our clients. 


Starting with the fact that the candidates we talk with are happily/gainfully/busily employed, we need to assure that their exploration of a position is kept confidential.  That means that our clients cannot reach out ‘quietly’ to check on someone.  We had this happen during a Division President search (within a large healthcare system) a few years ago.  The candidate almost lost her current job as a result of the call/the concern her employer had that she might leave voluntarily (that she was not being loyal to them).  She was quite upset and rightfully so.  We had been told there would be no open calling (we call this freelancing).  Sadly, one of the employees the candidate met during a meet/greet did not get the message. 

Compensation and Benefits

A candidate that has been with their past employer for more than a few years knows their current company’s track record of pay increases and bonus payouts.  They also know their true benefit costs (copays for healthcare, time off practices, etc.).  Being upfront about this is key.  While salary (base/bonus) is rarely the key reason a person makes a move, it can derail an offer process or make a new employee very unhappy.

Don’t Discriminate

This should go without saying but simply put, don’t do it!  I reported a year ago about an employer that only wanted us to bring them candidates that were age 40 or younger.  We can’t discriminate – and we don’t discriminate.  You can’t either – no further comment needed. 

Tell The Truth

The title – Lying During The Hiring Process?  Managers Reveal Fibs They Tell – was an article that appeared in the August 23rd issue of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal Article.  My first question – why is this happening?  The article was a report on a study conducted by of 1,000 managers and business leaders. 

The typical employee we bring to a client is happily/gainfully/busily employed.  They need the truth to evaluate a company and the available opportunity.  If we project forward, the employee leaves their position and starts fresh based on what they were told about the new opportunity.  What if they find out they were not told the truth? 

The most common lies reported in the study:

  • Job responsibilities
  • Growth opportunities
  • Career development opportunities
  • Company culture
  • The company’s commitment to social issues
  • Remote or hybrid practices

Simply put – TELL THE TRUTH!

Work Through the Process

A search firm will have multiple candidates ‘in play’ at any given time.  While we want to help grow the relationship with the client and their future employee, there are steps we want to take (education verifications, reference checks, etc.) and timing issues (multiple candidates – and getting them through the process around the same timeframe) to assure a strong search flow.  Work with us – let’s be cohesive and coordinated in our candidate communications.  We have no issue with a client communicating directly with a candidate.  That said, keep us in the loop.

The Goal of a Search

We start each assignment with a mutual goal of a successful placement.  We want to complete each search with that goal being achieved.  Working together ethically (all parties) helps assure success. 

As I mentioned at the start of the Blog, we have great clients.  Thank you all for your ongoing partnership with us.