The Profession

Candidate Bill of Rights

The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) is the professional association for firms that represent the highest standards in executive search and leadership advisory worldwide. AESC and its members share a deep commitment to the highest quality standards for the benefit of clients, candidates, and the profession.

Our Commitment to Candidates

In an unregulated profession, it’s vital that senior executive candidates and prospective candidates know that the consultants they speak with operate at the highest professional standards, are committed to diversity, inclusion, and unbiased work, and protect a candidate’s confidentiality. The shortest possible route to absolute confidence that the candidate is speaking with a trusted executive search firm is to determine whether the firm is a member of AESC. If so, the candidate can be assured that the firm has committed to a Code of Professional Conduct that includes:

Ethics & Integrity

AESC members put integrity above all else. They maintain the highest ethical standards within their firms, with clients and candidates, and in the community.


Excellence guides the work we do. AESC members focus on their clients’ unique business needs, using rigorous, evidence-informed, results-focused methodologies while innovating new solutions when needed.


AESC members exercise independent, objective judgment. Trusted relationships are grounded in knowledge, expertise, honesty, and respect.

Diversity & Inclusion

AESC members know the power of diverse talent and inclusive cultures. They are guided by this knowledge for the benefit of clients, candidates, and themselves.


AESC members protect confidential information entrusted to them by clients and candidates. This includes a commitment to data privacy and security.

Candidates and prospective candidates can expect an executive search experience defined by the following features when they are approached by an AESC member firm, team or consultant.


AESC members have an exclusive agreement for each assignment with the client. This exclusive agreement means the firm you are speaking with as a candidate is the only firm authorized by the client to conduct this search. As a candidate, you can be assured that the AESC member speaking with you has a full understanding of the position and its requirements, and a broad understanding of the client organization and culture. This exclusivity also avoids market confusion, where the same candidate might be approached by multiple firms.

Candidates should be sure to ask any consultant, associate, or researcher who approaches them “do you have an exclusive assignment to conduct this search?” If the answer is “no,” prospective candidates may be well-served to walk away.

Open Communication

Candidate/Consultant relationships are grounded in trust, honesty, and open communication. Once you have been identified as a candidate for an executive position, the AESC member firm/consultant will provide an overview on the nature of the specific position that they have been retained to fill. At the appropriate time in the process, the consultant will also identify the client organization.

Hiring the right senior executive is a high-stakes endeavor, and frequently takes several months. Out of respect for the candidate, the search consultant should provide timely progress updates and be responsive to candidate inquiries. However, candidates need to understand that the executive search process does take time, as multiple candidates are considered and evaluated. This may mean new updates take quite some time.

Once a candidate is no longer under consideration they will be advised. It’s not unusual for this to be after an offer has been accepted by a different candidate. The key throughout the process is ongoing communication.

Diversity and Inclusion

AESC members value diverse leadership and inclusive cultures that encourage belonging for all. They share a commitment to reduce implicit and explicit bias in the executive search assignment from beginning to end.

AESC and our members share a commitment to combat bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination within our own organizations, with candidates and the clients we serve, and in our communities. We pledge to use our collective voices and actions to help create a world that is inclusive, diverse, equitable, and accessible for all.

AESC members build a diverse longlist of candidates focused on the skills, qualifications, and experiences necessary to excel in the role. As this list gets shorter, there remains a commitment to present a slate of candidates that represents a broad range of experiences and perspectives.


Confidentiality is a commitment to both the client and prospective candidates. Confidentiality also means that there is mutual agreement on the level of confidentiality of the assignment – which could range from “fully confidential” to “open to share publicly.” Candidates should be aware of the level of confidentiality the specific opportunity requires, and should understand that initial discussions may be conducted without the AESC member identifying the client.

Confidentiality is important for candidates, sources, and references. The unintended disclosure of an executive candidate’s interest in a new position can be highly disruptive—even devastating to the candidate or their current employer. The executive search firm/consultant always protects the confidentiality of the candidate’s interest and other candidate-specific information.

Personal candidate data is protected through specific data privacy and security systems and processes, and AESC members commit to data protection and data security standards. All AESC members respect the confidence placed upon them and understand the important responsibility they have to protect all confidential information. As an individual, you will have the “right to be forgotten” – that is, a candidate can ask for their name to be removed from a firm’s database.

Assessment and Selection

AESC members play a critical role in the assessment of candidates. Best practices generally include preliminary assessments based on discussions to determine interest, resumé review, digital media review and behavior-based interviews. Those who proceed to the shortlist of top candidates may go through additional assessments including psychometric assessments and other relevant techniques including role plays and additional structured interviews. Reference checks are generally conducted at this stage as well, and a background check is usually done during the final stage of the process.

In-depth, multi-source assessment helps to ensure that a candidate is a good fit for the position and the organization, and helps to reduce bias, conscious or unconscious, in the assessment process. In-depth multi-source assessment is designed to reduce the risk of a bad hire – a high priority for clients and candidates alike. Final selection is always made by the client, considering all factors.

Candidate Care

Executive search assignments are conducted at the highest levels, and candidates for these roles have pressing demands on their time. AESC members treat every candidate with professionalism and respect.

Candidate care is a top priority for AESC members and ensures that every candidate working with an AESC member search firm is supported throughout their experience. Whether the candidate is selected or not, they should find the experience a positive one that is founded on trust, confidentiality, respect, and honest feedback.

As part of AESC’s commitment to candidate care, we have developed BlueSteps, an AESC business that provides career services for executives to enhance their success - whether they are seeking a promotion, a new role, or a career pivot. To learn more, go to


Many candidates find the search process very rewarding, regardless of the outcome. With the guidance of a top executive search firm, candidates have the chance to:

  • Explore their own interests and aptitudes,
  • Hone their interview and negotiation skills,
  • Learn critical insights through the assessment process, and
  • Develop a positive relationship with an executive search consultant.

AESC members aim to make this a positive experience. A candidate either has a new challenge within a new organization or has gained valuable knowledge about themselves and the market. They also become a known entity to a reputable search firm, which could open other doors.

AESC sets the standards for the profession. If you, as a candidate, have any concerns about a member meeting the AESC’s Code of Professional Conduct or Professional Practice Standards, please contact us at Your comments will go directly to AESC’s CEO.