What exactly is candidate care? Candidate care is the ethical, confidential, respectful and responsive treatment of executive candidates. Today I am focusing on confidentiality.
Candidates trust they are applying in confidence for a position. They do not expect that a search firm is going to be generally talking about their interest or candidacy to anyone other than the client – and then, only towards the end of a process. They do not expect that a search consultant is going to conduct covert references without their knowledge. This compromises confidentiality and exposes the candidate to potential harm if the word gets out in the business community that they are looking. As far as confidentiality, respect, and candidate care, this is a big issue and more prevalent than you would want to know. The first time I ran into this was on a Board where we were undertaking a search for a new leader. The search consultant offered to “ask around” about the preferred candidate, who was employed by another organization at the time and the Selection Committee readily agreed without realizing that they were compromising the professionalism of the search process.
As a candidate and a client, you should care about how candidates are being treated. There is a lot a risk and liability when confidentiality is compromised in a search process. As a search consultant, the right way to approach this situation is to have the client identify what types of people they would like to see on the reference list and ask for input from the candidate and get their approval to contact those individuals. This approach allows the candidate to talk to potential referees first and lay the framework for what is going on.
If you are a potential candidate who is interested in applying for a job and you have concerns about confidentiality, ask the search consultant for their candidate care and confidentiality policy. And if you are a client, don’t ask for covertly conducted references. And if you do, and the search consultant explains why that can’t happen, then you know you’ve hired the right search consultant!