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How to buy search services

If you don’t have personal top references on the search firm – don’t buy – there are more than enough to choose from if you just look. Make sure to understand the difference between a search focused company and a selection (advertising) focused company.

The Client's Bill of Rights
(adopted from AESC the Worldwide Association for Retained Executive Search Consulting Firms)

What to Expect from Your Executive Search Firm

An executive search involves a complex process that requires a substantial investment of your time and resources. When you hire a retained executive search firm, you're entitled to receive a high level of service. But what is the difference between a professional, reliable service and a lower quality of service? What are your rights and obligations as a client? Above all, how do you know when you have received excellence in client service?

Search firms will answer most -- but not all -- of these questions in the consulting contract. Therefore, the more you know about the ins and outs of working with search firms, the better your chances of achieving a successful search and receiving full value for your investment. In the belief that well-educated clients always lead to better client/consultant relationships, the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC) offers the following "Client's Bill of Rights."

The Client's Bill of Rights

I. The executive search firm shall provide you with an accurate and candid assessment of its capabilities to perform your search.

Not all search firms offer the same services, but they should all operate in line with the highest professional standards. In addition to the obvious differences in size and manpower, search firms also vary in their areas of expertise, their knowledge of and contacts within various industries, and the skills and experience levels of their search consultants.

Before agreeing to undertake any search, the executive search consulting firm should: 

  • Verify that it has the resources, time, knowledge and expertise to handle your specific assignment. 
  • Disclose any and all information with regard to relationships or circumstances that might create actual or potential conflicts of interest. Disclose limitations arising through service with other clients that may affect its ability to perform the search assignment. 
  • Define with you which part of your organization is the "client" (i.e. which subsidiary, division, department, etc.) and agree upon the period, if any, during which the firm will not recruit from the defined client organization. 
  • Define the scope and character of the services to be provided and the fees and expenses to be charged for the services rendered.

This requires that you provide a full and accurate description of your organization, its business needs and culture, the position to be filled, and your criteria for the ideal candidate. If the search firm cannot handle your assignment, it should explain why and then refer you to another firm better equipped to meet your needs.

II. The executive search firm shall tell you who will conduct the search.

In addition to the consultant who generates the business relationship, there may be a team of professionals who will handle the search assignment.

It is certainly within your rights to ask for and to receive full and open disclosure regarding the consultants and their ability to successfully handle the assignment, as well as the resources the firm has available to support the consultant/team working

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