I’ve never thought of myself as a pontificator.  Sure, I have opinions, but I’ve learned to share them judiciously, at least in writing.  So, as we were preparing to include consultant blogs as a feature on our new web site, I had a difficult time trying to decide what to write about.  Ultimately, I chose a “safer,” less personal topic.  I’m curious to see if the topic elicits any response.  Do people think about this stuff?  Or, is this a dialogue I am relegated to having with my immediate colleagues?

The idea of presenting a candidate on two searches simultaneously is called “parallel processing.”  And, while it might not seem fair from the candidate’s perspective, think about it from the client’s perspective.  A retained executive search firm’s first loyalty and responsibility are to the client organization that has hired the firm.  Each client must be allowed to fully process each candidate the search firm presents, and the search firm must stand behind each client/candidate pairing until the client concludes its evaluation process.  Allowing a candidate to be an active participant in more than one search process would effectively transfer the search firm’s loyalty from client to candidate. 

Of course the candidate can go through a search process on another search with a different search firm.  That is entirely reasonable and proper as the candidate needs to look after himself/herself. 

It has surprised me over the years that clients never ask about Tyler & Company’s policy on parallel processing before we are awarded a search.  Clients certainly expect their retained executive search firm to represent them to the best of their ability, and I believe this includes not providing candidates recruited for one client to another.  We know that good candidates often have multiple options, and good candidates are sometimes lost to other opportunities.  But losing a candidate because your own search firm—retained to represent you!—had divided loyalties does not seem ethical to me.  For this reason, before hiring a retained executive search firm, I encourage clients to ask about the firm’s parallel processing policy.

For the record, we at Tyler & Company has a long-standing policy against parallel processing , but  have had infrequent instances where we have had to process a candidate for two clients simultaneously.    Most often this has occurred when a client proposes a candidate known to him who is already being processed on another search for another client.  We have always disclosed what was happening so that both clients are informed.