Outstanding client service begins with a full understanding of the client organization, its business needs and the position to be filled. An AESC member should:
Accept only those assignments that a member is qualified to undertake on the basis of the member's knowledge of the client's needs and the member's ability to perform the specific assignment.
Disclose promptly conflicts of interest known to the AESC member and accept assignments only if all affected parties have expressly agreed to waive any conflict.
Develop an understanding with the client that, among other things, makes clear the organizational entity that is defined as the client organization, the fees and expenses to be charged, and any ongoing assurances or guarantees relating to fulfillment of the assignment.
Agree with the client concerning any "off-limits" restrictions or other related policies that govern when and how the member may recruit from the defined client organization in the future.
Agree with the client on what information about the position in question will be made available to candidates and sources during the search, when this information will be released, and in what form.
Advise the client when advertising is required by law or is a recommended strategy for the particular search assignment.
Performing Client Assignments
Members should serve their clients with integrity and objectivity, making every effort to conduct search consulting activities on the basis of impartial consideration of relevant facts. Specifically, an AESC member should:
Conduct a focused search for qualified candidates consistent with a search strategy agreed upon with the client.
Develop with full client involvement and approval a comprehensive job description for each search engagement and make this available to candidates before they are presented for interview with the client.
Thoroughly evaluate potential candidates before presenting them for an interview with the client. Such evaluation normally includes in-depth interviews in person or by video-conferencing, appropriate preliminary inquiries into references and background, and a careful assessment of the candidates' strengths and weaknesses against the specification for the proposed position. Clients should be advised when circumstances require a modified approach.
Agree with the client as to what reference and background checks need to be conducted on finalist candidates, what elements these checks should cover, how extensive they should be and who will perform them.
Present information about the candidate to the client honestly and factually and include any reservations concerning the candidate that are pertinent to the position.
Advise the client promptly and offer alternative courses of action if it becomes apparent that no qualified candidates can be presented, or that the length of the search will differ considerably from that originally specified.
Withdraw from the assignment if a member determines that a client has characterized its organization falsely or misled candidates and is unwilling to rectify the situation.
Refrain from the presentation of resumes in the absence of an existing client relationship.
Preserving the Confidentiality of Client Information
AESC members should use their best efforts to protect confidential information concerning their clients. Specifically, a member should:
Use confidential information received from clients only for purposes of conducting the assignment.
Disclose such confidential information only to those individuals within the firm or to those appropriately qualified/interested candidates who have a need to know the information.
Not use such confidential information for personal gain, nor provide inside information to any other parties for their personal gain.
Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
AESC members have an ethical obligation to avoid conflicts of interest with their clients. For example, a member should:
Refuse or withdraw from an assignment upon learning of conditions that impair the member's ability to perform services properly, including actual or potential conflicts of interest unless all affected parties expressly agree to waive the conflict.
Provide to clients the member's undivided loyalty as an advocate and professional advisor in the process of negotiating with finalist candidates. Only in exceptional circumstances, and only with agreement in advance of all affected parties, may candidates be presented to more than one client simultaneously.
Inform clients of business or personal relationships with candidates that might affect or appear to affect the member's objectivity in conducting the assignment.
Not accept payment for assisting an individual in securing employment.
Relationships between AESC Members and Candidates
Although a member's primary relationship is with the client, member firms also seek to establish professional relationships with candidates. These relationships should be characterized by honesty, objectivity, accuracy and respect for confidentiality. In building such relationships, a member should:
Explain the relationships that exist between the parties involved in a retainer-based search consulting engagement, and in particular the rights and obligations of the candidate in the process.
Provide candidates with relevant and accurate information about the client organization and the position.
Encourage candidates to provide accurate information about their qualifications. Upon learning that a candidate has misled the client or member regarding his or her qualifications, reject the candidate unless the client, candidate and member agree that the candidacy should continue following disclosure of the facts.
Present to clients accurate and relevant information about candidates, and otherwise maintain the confidentiality of information provided by prospective and actual candidates.
Only provide an individual's confidential resume or other confidential data with the individual's prior consent, and in the context of an existing client relationship.
Advise prospects and candidates of the status and disposition of their candidacies in a timely fashion.
Explain that only in exceptional circumstances may an individual be presented on more than one search simultaneously, and then only if all involved parties agree.
Advise candidates that, so long as they remain employed by the client organization, the member firm may not approach them as a candidate for a future search without the express permission of the client.
Relationships between AESC Members and their Contractors
AESC members sometimes rely on contractors and subcontractors to assist in the search process. Services may be subcontracted but responsibility for them cannot be. A member should:
Inform its contractors and subcontractors in writing that they should adhere to the AESC's Code of Ethics and Professional Practice Guidelines.
Avoid contractors and subcontractors whose practices are inconsistent with the standards of professionalism expected of AESC members.
Conduct relations with the media so as to reflect favorably upon clients, the AESC, and the executive search consulting profession.
Relationships Between AESC Members and the Public
AESC members should recognize the importance of public trust and confidence in their profession and seek to serve their clients in a manner consistent with the public interest, taking into account differing legal contexts in different countries. Therefore, a member should:
Observe the principles of equal opportunity in employment and avoid unlawful discrimination against qualified candidates.
Promote and advertise member firm services in a professional and accurate manner.
Source: Association of Executive Search Consultants (2008) available at http://www.aesc.org/article/guidelines/.
It is clear that the ethical responsibilities of executive recruiters extend far beyond the relationship between the firm and the client, but rather extend to the larger society in which they compete as well. Moreover, these standards are always in a state of flux and may be amended from time to time as the profession evolves and adapts to developments in business practice, technology and the law (Professional Practice Guidelines). While there are some solid guidelines in place for many executive recruiting associations, the guidance available for corporate social responsible behaviors is more nebulous, but represents an equally important component of ethical behavior today and these issues are discussed further below.
2.2.1. Corporate Social Responsibility
Unlike the professional practice standards reviewed above, there is not a universally accepted definition of corporate social responsibility, though many have attempted to define it. It According to Karake-Shalhoub (1999), "It is difficult to explain the social responsibility of any particular business because there is no clear-cut definition of this function" (p. 4). Despite these constraints, the Commission of the European Union (2002) defines corporate social responsibility as "a concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interacting with their shareholders on a voluntary business" (p. 37). Similarly, Robbins and Decenzo (2001, cited in Kapadis and Katsioloudes, 2001) define it as the "obligation of a firm, beyond the requirement by law or economic s to pursue long-term goals that are good for society." Finally, Frederick, Post, and Davis (1992) provide a fairly comprehensive definition of corporate social responsibility as being: "Corporate social responsibility means that a corporation should be held accountable for any of its actions that affect people, their communities, and their environment. It implies that negative business impacts on people and society should be acknowledged and corrected if at all possible" (p. 30).
There are a number of angles to corporate social responsibility. Some believe that the sole purpose of a firm is to maximise shareholder value such as Friedman (1970), and they are defined as libertarians. Others completely oppose this idea such as Freeman (1984). They believe that companies act exclusively in the interest of the greater good and are…