The Importance of Professional Standards in Executive Research – Mark Senior

Never before have executive researchers been so important in identifying and approaching the right candidates for executive roles.


Companies are more particular and demanding than ever about appointing executives who are exactly the right fit, whilst at the same time the very best candidates often hold the power in the negotiating process and are rarely short of suitors and opportunities.


When they are approached about a role, many candidates are not in job seeking mode – they are happy where they are so the pitch to them has to be attractive, eye-catching and delivered in the right way.


And it is the executive researcher who invariably takes up this challenge and with it the responsibility for finding and approaching the right people – in my judgement the pivotal part of the whole search.


In view of this it is perhaps difficult to understand that many recruitment consultants are still loathe to generously acknowledge the value of the researcher.  Whilst this perception is certainly changing, too many consultants still operate on the basis of the traditional hierarchical order where the researcher does the back room grind, uncomplainingly getting the search to a point where the consultant has a relatively short list of well qualified, interested candidates, from which point the consultant can move the search to its conclusion.


Those of us in the executive research business, whether working inside or outside executive search firms, need to continue to stand up for the value of research and reinforce how important our work is.  To do this we need to stress how professional we are, the rigorous standards we work to, and the well proven methodologies we adhere to.


It is for this reason that the ERA (Executive Research Association) is insisting that all members sign up to work to the ERA Code of Practice.  This obligates members to, among other things, not mislead or use false information in order to access information, ensure that projects and activities are designed, carried out, reported and documented accurately, transparently and objectively, and to always respect confidential information entrusted to them by relevant parties.


Small steps perhaps but part of an ERA programme to raise and formalise standards in executive research, to encourage buyers and users of research to think about how work is being undertaken and to ensure candidates in turn that they too will be treated in the right way. This is part of an ERA programme which also offers researchers the opportunity to engage in training and development workshops led by the UK’s leading training providers. And where discussions are underway which we hope will result in the ERA in the not too distant future being able to offer a formal Development Programme and resulting professional qualification awarded to proven all-round researchers.


We want buyers and users of research to be asking the following questions: Am I dealing with an ERA member who has signed up to the Code of Practice?  And can this researcher demonstrate they have been properly trained (including in the most up to date on-line search techniques) and demonstrate they have the right skills to represent my firm and get the job done in a professional manner?


The ERA’s Code of Practice