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It's back - questions about Ethics in Search

People have said it to me in the past - Ethics in Search - that must be a short discussion. Each time I hear that said (always partially in jest), I grow concerned. Why do people tolerate the issues they encounter from their search firm?

The Basics - Off Limits

There is an assumption that if you hire a search firm to place someone at your company, that the search firm will NOT take employees from you at the same time. There is also an assumption that the search firm will not take the person they just placed at your company.

  • You know what they say when you assume something.

Ask questions!

There is (sadly) no standard in the search industry that covers something as basic as Off Limits. Each search firm is left to make its own decision. Boutique firms (my clear bias) usually have a rather firm and comprehensive policy. Global firms have a different policy - or none at all. (A few years ago, my firm was approached by a global firm - they wanted to buy us. One of there selling points - they have NO off limits policy. While we are NOT for sale, this was NOT a selling point.)

Ask the second (and beyond) question as well

  1. What is your overall Off Limits policy?
  2. What if an employee from the company calls you?
  3. Is there a special policy relating to the person you placed? You know they are good!

Additional categories to think about

  • What other companies are off limits? The search firm's ability to recruit from a competitor/from within a set industry could be limited based on the off limits policy and their degree of specialization.
  • Is the search firm you are talking to working on any conflicting searches? (Two Vice President of Audit searches in the same market can cause some major issues.)
  • Does the search firm 'dual process' candidates? (Definition - can a candidate be active in two searches at two different companies at the same time?) This is a common practice in contingent search. This is not typically common with boutique retained search firms.

Ask us anything!

Any firm you are considering should be open to these types of questions. We have been fortunate to have been asked questions about search ethics. In truth, we bring it up. We want to discuss this with you. No one asks these questions because something good happened. Ask them proactively.