All Executive Search companies include an exclusivity clause in their recruitment contracts. The exclusivity clause, as much as many clients nowadays try to avoid it, is definitely very much in the advantage of the client.
The exclusivity clause allows the Executive Search firm the needed flexibility to design and apply a targeted direct search strategy into the market, ensuring thus both clients and candidates of the expected confidential approach.
Confidentiality is a critical concern for most candidates (and clients) and this can only be assured if an Executive Search firm/consultant is singularly and exclusively responsible for overseeing the search.
In rare instances, clients may insist on exclusivity for a defined period of time, with the objective of resuming the search with another company if no candidates are found by the initially contracted Executive Search firm. This amendment is acceptable, as long as the parties agree on a feasible time frame for the initial search.
As a personal example, I had to reject a quite high number of recruitment requests solely because of the imposed non-exclusivity clause. This is also the reason why I brought up this topic, since this specific client request has become almost a habit lately.
Aiming to add an educational value to this article, I will enumerate the situations we encountered, whenever recruitment firms agreed to work on a non-exclusive basis (please note that sometimes the exclusivity clause is clearly stipulated in the contract, but disregarded by clients who also accept the parallel offers of contingency-based firms; clients may see only the advantage of their final target – filling the searched position – and fail to additionally take into account the overall damaged company image they project into the market):
• Passive candidates (managers who are not actively looking for another employment opportunity) being approached by more than one recruiter for the same position (embarrassing situation for both the recruiter and the potential candidate, who most likely feels ‘harassed’ by the assault, especially if he is not interested at all in the assignment)
• A likely candidate who initially stated potential interest for an assignment, withdrawing from the process simply because he feels insecure when a second or third recruitment company approaches him for the same assignment
• Recruiters approaching the same candidate for the identical assignment, but coming with different versions of employer-company & position description, creating thus uncertainty and raising doubts in the mind of the approached candidate, eventually losing him
• Approached and re-approached candidates wondering why the employer acts so desperate to fill the position as to employ several recruiters at the same time and preferring to step back rather than to explore the opening
• Unavoidable market rumors and breach of confidentiality once recruiters start randomly calling and candidates spreading the news
• Bad image reflected on the employing company simply because it is represented in the recruitment market by several recruiters with alternative stories
• Contingency-based firms aggressively approaching potential candidates (in the end of the day, their success is measured by the speed, not by quality means) and poorly representing the employing company on the market
• Employing company receives no guarantee if deciding to work with several recruitment companies at the same time
• None of the recruitment companies acting as an ‘ambassador’ on behalf of the employing company as long as they do not feel bound by the exclusivity clause, nor feel like a real partner of the client company, which leads to limited enthusiasm when presenting the employer to the approached candidates and eventually to a really poor employer branding
I am sure that the list can go on and on. I could even quote managers who called me to ask how to react when they are approached by several recruiters for the same company and position (quotes are not flattering at all).
My purpose however is, once again, an educational one:
• Advising employing companies not to work with several recruitment companies at the same time for the same position – they might reach their final objective, but they more likely might lose the respect as a serious employer
• Advising Executive Search companies to stick to the exclusivity clause and make no exception in this respect
• Advising candidates that events like the ones described above may happen and that this does not always mean that the employer is a careless one, but most often a badly briefed one.
Hoping that situations like these will decrease as a phenomenon, we trust that the word of advice will be helpful in the future!
Featured Artist & Copyright: Daniel Balanescu