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July 2024

Maintaining secrecy in executive searches

Adrián García Moreno, Managing Director of Hunters Americas - AGILIUM WORLDWIDE's member firm in Mexico.

When a company is searching for a successor for an existing executive or director, the hiring process oftentimes has to be conducted in total secrecy.

Keeping the assignment secret is necessary for several reasons. If the executive to be replaced finds out, he or she may feel less motivated and, in the worst case, might even try to impair the working environment for their successor. Moreover, research has shown that when executives are told about the search, they often try to influence the selection process in a way that can consolidate their “personal legacy” rather than follow what is best for the company.

Secrecy is also sometimes essential in order to protect the company in the marketplace. When competitors learn that an organization is dissatisfied with part of its operation, they sometimes use that knowledge to their advantage, investigating weaknesses that they could exploit. When a search takes months, which is often the case with a thorough search and at executive and director level, competitors might suggest that the organization is having trouble filling the position. If such rumors really start to spread, candidates might believe that the company is in trouble, and result in the top-tier candidate being wary of joining the organization.

Maintaining a covert executive search process can, however, be very difficult. In today's interconnected world it’s especially complicated to protect trade secrets. Successfully conducting a confidential search means going to great lengths to try to ensure that this happens.

Adrian Garcia Moreno

Fortunately, executive search consultants are totally accustomed to confidential recruitment processes. During all assignments we inform the candidates exactly why the position is confidential. Candidates for executive positions can even be given a very general description of the work environment and the characteristics of the company (industry, size, location, scope, products/services). We can keep these vague enough so that the company itself, and the role within the company, can’t be identified.

Executive search consultants make sure the confidentiality of the position is emphasized to candidates at every step of the process, thus reinforcing its importance. Executive search consultants can also support their clients in conducting proactive risk planning, with options as to a plan of action in case word gets out about the search process. Executive search consultants are able to understand the most likely scenarios, and know how to deal with them quickly and efficiently if they arise, which helps to mitigate any damage and issues should they ensue.




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