Confidentiality in the Executive Search Process
The average tenure for a C-Suite individual in a business is just over 5 years. In that time those leaders will accomplish a lot but it will get to the point where the business is ready for a change.
Sometimes that decision can be made by the board or other members of senior leadership before it is made by the individuals in the job which can create some sensitivities in the executive search process.
Confidentiality may be necessary for a number of reasons.
The obvious reason being that if an executive is being replaced and finds out, they are likely to become disengaged, create issues for the new executive before they start, or might even try to influence the selection process rather than putting the company’s interest at the forefront. In addition, potential candidates may have personal connections to the executive that is being replaced.
Fortunately, candidates at the C-Suite and executive levels are familiar with the recruitment process being confidential up to a certain point for these types of roles. It is about letting the candidates know the reasons why the role is confidential. Even when a role is confidential you can give executive candidates an overview of the working environment, company characteristics (industry, size, location, reach, prodcuts/services) while remaining vague enough that the they are not able to pin point the company itself, and what the role will look like within the business. After a couple rounds of screening, and you have been able to ascertain interest that candidates are genuinely committed to continue in the executive search process, then when you meet with them in person for their first interview have them sign an air tight non-disclosure agreement before you begin.
It is important to highlight the confidentiality of the role at every touch point in the process with candidates to ensure you reinforce the importance of it. Organizations should also do proactive risk planning, with a couple options as to the action plan in case word gets out about the search process. Understanding the most likely scenarios and how to deal with them quickly if they arise will help mitigate any damage and issues should it ever arise.