Prospective Members

A best-in-class professional association.

AESC Members represent a vetted, exclusive class of executive search and leadership advisory firms worldwide. AESC Members range in size from boutique firms to large global firms and networks. Only ten percent of firms that apply meet the rigorous requirements of AESC membership.

A prospective member must meet the following criteria:

  • Mandates are exclusive.

  • Mandates are at executive-level or above.

  • Mandates contain a significant advisory or consulting element.

  • Mandates include a significant non-refundable retainer fee.

  • Operations are compliant with AESC Code of Professional Practice.

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Level of Assignments

Executive Search firms should conduct the majority of their assignments (more than 50%) at or above VP/Senior VP/Director or equivalent executive-level and for Boards (Non-Executive Directors roles).


AESC accepts that in certain circumstances firms may undertake assignments at a lower level due to existing client relationships, skill requirements of candidates, and variation in titles between sectors and geographies, but the total proportion of work at or above VP/Senior VP/Director or equivalent executive level should not be less than 50%.

Eligibility of Firms That Conduct Other Business in Addition to Executive Search

Executive search firms that do the majority of their work in leadership consulting and leadership advisory services qualify for membership provided that they also provide executive search and that the executive search component of their business is significant, meets the AESC membership criteria and Standards of Excellence.


Executive search firms whose core business is unrelated to executive search but who have a strong retained executive search business qualify for membership provided that they meet the AESC membership criteria and Standards of Excellence.

Executive search firms who operate purely on a contingency basis do not qualify for AESC membership. High quality hybrid firms are eligible for membership provided their contingency business is branded and resourced separately. The separately branded contingency business is not eligible for AESC membership.

Checklist of Qualifications for Membership

AESC requires prospective members submit information regarding its executive search methodologies and performance metrics.


Executive Search Methodologies:

  • Evidence of candidate interviews and assessment. The assessments should clearly show a level of analysis and judgement on the candidate’s ‘fit’ for a specific role.

  • High quality documentation. Specifically, status reports, position and person profiles, engagement letters, candidate profiles, reference reports, and invoices.

  • If applicable, psychometric tools and reports.

Performance Metrics:

  • Percentage of searches completed (versus cancelled or closed by the client).

  • Quality of the documentation and processes.

  • Evidence of repeat business with one or more key clients.

  • Time to client-approved shortlist.

  • Evidence of client satisfaction through proof of engagement surveys, reports or client emails. This could also be gained through evidence of repeat business or client referencing. However, firms or sole proprietors who have established this type of feedback mechanism will be considered favorably.

  • Evidence of systems to evaluate ongoing candidate satisfaction such as candidate satisfaction surveys or other feedback mechanisms. In the absence of such systems, AESC may request to contact two candidate references.

Data Privacy and Security

Given the importance of data privacy and security, applicant firms should have a clearly articulated Privacy and Security Policy.


Evidence should be provided of a statement or a policy document that discloses some or all of the ways that an executive search firm gathers, uses, discloses and manages a client and/or candidates’ data. The firm needs to show they have deployed measures to protect a client and candidate’s data privacy and security.


To assess the quality and reputation of the prospective firm, its leadership and its consultants, AESC requires references.


Prospective members must submit:

  • At least two client references, selected from a longer list of five or more.

  • At least two member references, including those recommended by the prospective member but not limited to these references.

Qualifications for Leadership Consulting Activity

AESC outlines specific standards be met regarding leadership advisory projects. 


Specific qualifications and performance standards for a leadership advisory consulting projects are:

  • Quality of documentation and processes.

  • Projects finished on time and on budget.

  • Evidence that the delivered outcomes and results listed in the consulting scope were achieved.

  • Client satisfaction processes, follow up and ratings. This could also be indicated through evidence of repeat business.

  • Full payment of consulting fees.

  • At least two (2) client references, selected from a longer list of five (5) or more

  • At least two member references, including those recommended by the prospective member but not limited to these references.

Requirements for Global Networks or Alliances

AESC will select a random group of partner firms belonging to an applicant network or alliance to assess against AESC membership criteria to determine eligibility of the network or alliance.


Any global network or alliance that requires each individual firm to join AESC before becoming a partner firm of the network or alliance will have this review process waived. Such networks and alliances should share their own membership documentation with AESC to demonstrate their commitment to AESC Standards of Excellence.

Application for Membership

If your firm meets the AESC membership criteria outlined above, you are invited to apply for AESC membership.

Submit a Membership Inquiry