Retained Recruiter Ethics
(from the client employer’s point of view)

Following is a statement of the ethical principles adhered to by the retained recruiting industry. A few very large firms modify one or two of these precepts, which they feel hamper growth of their business. On the other hand, large employers spending vast sums with recruiters often wield their economic power to force full adherence. Overall, most retainer firms voluntarily adhere to traditional ethics as stated in this example:

We work only on retainer and uphold all four fundamental ethical principles of retained search.

  1. Don't weaken an organization you're being paid to strengthen.
  2. Don't betray a trusting relationship.
  3. Don't misrepresent the dimensions of the search.
  4. Don't diminish the value of the search.

We never place our interests above those of our clients and candidates.

1. We don't weaken an organization we're being paid to strengthen.

Paid to strengthen a management team, we do not simultaneously or soon afterward weaken it by recruiting its members to join our other clients.

When undertaking an assignment we always indicate to what extent the client's organization will be off-limits to us and for how long.

2. We don't betray a trusting relationship.

Paid on retainer to assist our clients, we become consultants -- not brokers. We meet the client management team and are entrusted with confidential information about the relative competence of its members. We do not use this privileged information to identify targets for later recruitment.

We are also entrusted by individuals with their personal career information. We do not disclose it without the individual's knowledge and consent.

3. We don't misrepresent the dimensions of the search.

Clients expect and deserve a thorough search for the best candidates. Occasionally, there will be target organizations we cannot penetrate because they, too, are clients. Whenever one client asks us to search within another client, we voluntarily disclose our off-limits barrier. Informed, the searching client can probe the off-limits organization. If its people become candidates, we will meet and evaluate them just as thoroughly and professionally as the candidates we identify, and we will keep in utmost confidence their willingness to consider an outside opportunity. We will not inform their superiors.

4. We don't diminish the value of the search.

Although we may already know some or all of the finalist candidates even before the search begins, payment on retainer signifies that we have developed the finalists specifically for the client paying for the search. Therefore, unless the search is interrupted or terminated or improperly prolonged, those candidates belong to that client from the time they're presented until they're rejected or, if they become contenders, until a final selection is made. To present the same candidate to two or more clients simultaneously -- and thus pit the clients against each other in the hiring process -- can be a convenience to the search firm but clearly is not in the best interests of the clients. Called "Parallel Processing," this technique -- traditionally forbidden in retained recruiting but standard in contingency recruiting -- is now indulged in by some retained search firms. We do not do it.

Copyright 2004, The Viceroy Press Inc., New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.