Written by: Bernardo EntschevGlobal VP AIMS International, EVP Americas and Global Head of Life Sciences

AIMS International will not immediately reveal a client’s identity. Confidentiality is standard operating procedure amongst AIMS Partners. Usually, real Executive Search Consultants will not disclose the company until they have identified at least the level of interest and the qualifications of the candidate being assessed.

If I am calling candidates for the first time, the message or our conversation will not include anything that can identify my client. I usually wait until after receiving the resume and having a conversation to test the candidate’s interest, availability and qualifications to disclose a client’s identity. The timing of when a headhunter should disclose his client’s name (or not) depends on many different factors:

1. Position context: Sometimes the Company hires an Executive Search Consultant because they may be in the process of firing an executive. This needs to be kept in total confidentiality. In this situation, the firing process can be swifter, the transition smoother and less painful for all.  It could also be a client who does not have the right talent inside the organization and needs to look outside but won’t be comfortable to discuss this internally due to expectations.

2. Competitors: This is also a sensitive issue; Companies do not want to expose to the market that they are sourcing talent for several reasons: the competition might start “blocking strategies” making the recruitment process harder or learn that the company has a weak spot in this particular area /position or learn that the company is about to launch a new product or service, etc.

3. Stock Market: There are situations in which it is best for a company’s image to have a highly qualified replacement for an incompetent incumbent. Or bringing in a reputable, talented individual could be evaluated by the market as a sign that the company is investing in the right direction.  Those strategies might maintain the stock price, increase share value or even stop a fall!

4. Succession: Companies might hire a Consultant to look outside and build a pipeline for succession planning, for example to replace employees who are close to retirement or when they realize they don’t have an internal pipeline of qualified successors. This process might need total confidentiality in order to bring comfort to those involved or affected

5. Candidate Management & Control: Sometimes the company does not have enough manpower to select a huge number of resumes. The Consultant hired will then present only the best ones and will respond to all the others without disclosing the name of the company.

6. Avoid the “window shoppers”There are some people who have no real interest in a new position at all and are just curious to know their “market value”. They will try to find out what the compensation package is to compare with their own. They might even take this information to their boss and demand a counteroffer.  None of these candidates are, in our opinion, worth putting in front of the client and avoiding a client’s exposure to them is advisable.

In summary, retained searches are almost universally handled in a discreet manner and it is expected that a seasoned Executive Search Consultant will not disclose his client’s identity for as long as possible. Next time a headhunter calls you and does not disclose the client name immediately, please understand that there are many reasons for this and many of which are beyond his control, but that, on the other hand, he will care about you with the same respect he has for his client. 

Bernardo EntschevGlobal VP AIMS International, EVP Americas and Global Head of Life Science

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