The Profession

Client Bill of Rights

What should clients look for in an executive search firm?

Introducing new leaders can have a significant impact on market perception, consumer confidence and employee engagement. Choosing the right executive search firm is a critical business decision with long-term impact.

View our Standards

Our Promise to Clients

What are your rights and obligations as a client? You can expect the following when working with an AESC Member.

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 Promise

What are your rights and obligations as a client? You can expect the following when working with an AESC member.

I. Candor

An AESC member firm will give clients a candid assessment of their capabilities. That assessment includes a firm’s internal resources, knowledge of the function and industry in which the search will be conducted, and an overall understanding of the marketplace. An AESC firm will not undertake an assignment for which it is unqualified.

II. Clarity

The terms of the engagement should be in writing to ensure clarity on the part of the client and the consultant/consulting team. This written agreement should provide a clear understanding of the assignment from beginning to end, the lead advisor who will be serving the client, the scope of the project, the timing, the fees and payment schedule, deliverables, and specific terms related to the assignment that might include guarantees, off-limits, conflicts, data management, and other important terms.

III. Conflicts

AESC members avoid conflicts of interest with clients, candidates, and all other outside parties. Where a potential conflict may exist, members disclose, and resolve these conflicts mutually with the client, including a waiver of the conflict by the client when appropriate. AESC members accept their responsibility to constantly evaluate, disclose and resolve issues that emerge over the course of an assignment.

IV. Deep Knowledge

AESC member firms strive to achieve a robust understanding of their clients’ businesses and industries, challenges, and opportunities. They know that successful searches require that the consultant possess a deep knowledge and understanding of a client’s unique executive talent needs, organizational culture, customer strategy, and regulatory environment.

AESC members also have a deep knowledge relevant to the opportunity, the competitor landscape, best-in-class functional requirements and the marketplace. They also bring unique insights and expertise on how to identify hard-to-find talent.

V. Advisory Relationship

Executive search firms are specialized management consultants who serve as trusted talent and leadership advisors to their clients. AESC member firms operate on a retained and exclusive basis for executive search, providing expert advice from the beginning to the conclusion of each assignment. This exclusive, client-centered model of operation combined with deep expertise is a key to quality. AESC members conduct themselves with absolute integrity. Clients can rely upon them for their independent, objective judgement.

Outstanding client service begins with a full understanding of the client organization, its business needs, and its culture. AESC members provide honest and unbiased opinions based on this deep understanding.

AESC members use rigorous, results-focused methodologies designed to deliver a broad set of diverse candidates with the skills and competencies needed for the position.

They work in close partnership with a client to define current and future talent needs, identify a broad set of high-potential candidates, assess for essential skills and competencies, select, negotiate with and onboard those best suited through comprehensive, quality-assured search processes.

VI. Confidentiality

AESC members always protect any confidential information entrusted to them by clients and candidates. Client, candidate, and information from others including sources and references is never shared beyond the scope of the assignment, and never used for a consultant’s own or other parties’ personal gain. AESC requires the adoption and use of a consistent set of privacy standards for the protection of personal data. AESC data protection guidelines are intentionally aligned with standards established by the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

VII. Communication

Depending on the position to be filled, the availability of talent, and a host of other factors, a successful search can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. AESC member firms ensure effective, ongoing communication regarding all aspects of the search, including market response, list of candidates being developed, and any potential challenges that may inhibit the search.

VIII. Diversity and Inclusion

As trusted advisors, AESC members know first-hand how diverse talent and inclusive cultures offer organizations a competitive edge. They view diversity in its broadest sense and consider the full spectrum of talent in each assignment. They know IDEA-powered (Inclusion & Belonging, Diversity, Equity and Access) leaders intentionally welcome the contributions of all stakeholders while encouraging teams to voice different perspectives and opinions.

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.

For an executive search assignment, AESC members will include a broad range of candidates who demonstrate the skills, qualifications, and experiences necessary to excel in the role. Members reduce bias at every step of the search process.

AESC members also help clients build a culture of inclusion that serves to retain all top talent and attract top talent seeking an inclusive workplace.

IX. Follow-Through

As a trusted advisor, the executive search firm’s responsibility does not end when the candidate accepts an offer. AESC members are available to assist their clients with onboarding and integration, and remain in communication with the client and the new hire to support successful onboarding.


The competition for top executive leaders is intense. Clients are wise to choose AESC members -- firms at the top of the profession and committed to the highest quality standards.

AESC sets the standards for the profession. If you, as a client, 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.