Confidentiality in the executive search process – how to ensure it

Once it has been decided that an executive search will be confidential, rules must be established to ensure that confidentiality is respected. These rules must be followed by all those involved in the selection process, even candidates who need to be warned. There are normally 4 steps in the preparation for a confidential executive search process:

1.Establishing a dedicated executive search team

This group consists of all those with knowledge of the confidential selection process, both from the employer’s side and from the executive search firm. This group must be made aware of the confidentiality rules, but the mistake is often made when the rules are created before the group is established. In this case, persons outside the group are often also informed, which can then jeopardise confidentiality.

2.Setting up the confidentiality rules in the search project

It is up to the group referred to in the first point to agree on the confidentiality rules to be applied, e.g. whether the name of the employer can be disclosed to the candidate selected in confidence, whether this information can be kept confidential until the direct interview with the hiring manager, etc. The rules also cover communication messages to passive candidates, which must also be agreed and approved.

3.Establishing rules for the content of interviews with candidates

In the interview with the candidate, it is necessary to share information about the company while protecting its confidentiality. This is a subtle way to keep the candidate motivated. The rules for the content of the interviews must be established before the interview with the candidates begins. This both involves the candidates and conceals details that they should not know in the first stages of the selection process.

4.Setting up a risk group in an executive search project

Having confidentiality rules in place and running a selection project also creates a pool of candidates which is also a risk factor for the confidentiality of the selection. When candidates appear, a dedicated representative of the executive search team must alert them to the confidentiality policy. Yes, the candidates are a third party and it is more difficult to ensure the security of information in this location, but well briefed candidates will be motivated to comply with the confidentiality provisions.

Successful implementation of all four confidentiality steps can lead to a fully confidential executive search, but we always recommend that the selection team meet in private during the course of the selection process, as selection team members often tend to relax when rules are established but no attention is paid to compliance. Thus, the extra attention to confidentiality by having at least one or more meetings always increases the focus of the selection team and reminds them of rules that may have been forgotten.

Insight by

Karolis Blaževičius

Managing Partner of Indigroup

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