Replacing a sitting executive is a tricky process.

Finding the right executive is difficult under ordinary circumstances. However, we’ve noticed a growing trend of companies seeking to complete a search that is entirely confidential. As you can imagine, this adds a variety of new concerns and challenges to the search process.

There are a few situations where a confidential search may be worth the extra care compared to a traditional search. We’ve outlined them each below, with some advice for maintaining discretion to aid your efforts.

1) You are planning to replace an executive but need to keep it under wraps internally.

This is the most common scenario. In a perfect world, we’d always have the right leader in the right position. Unfortunately, there are times when the leader we have isn’t quite meeting our needs.

For many senior-level positions, it’s incredibly costly to leave the seat open – but a search for a new professional can take months. Naturally, this creates an awkward situation. If the individual currently in the role finds out you’re searching, they may quit on the spot or start phoning in the job.

Even if the individual in question doesn’t find out, tasking your internal team with the search can foster gossip and rumors in the organization. That hinders performance, cutting into your bottom line. It creates a culture of fear and uncertainty.

2) You don’t want it publicly known that you are hiring a new executive.

Another common motivator for a confidential search is the desire to keep a low-profile in the industry at large. Maybe you’re building out a new business that you’d prefer not to be associated with your existing brand. In other cases, conducting a traditional search may be too revealing in terms of competitive intelligence.

As an example, if you’re racing with competitors to develop innovative new products, it might be best if they are not privy to all the details of a new product development role.

Finally, replacing an executive can easily sour your reputation among professionals in your industry. In many cases, people may assume the worst and jump to conclusions about supposed dysfunction or turmoil at the executive level.

In all these situations, it’s best if the transition is managed as discreetly as possible.

3) You want to survey the available talent to understand your options.

Leadership is everything. Organizations are under mounting pressure to make sure they have the right leaders in the right roles, especially with a turbulent economy. But in many situations, it’s hard to know whether or not there’s any better talent on the market.

A confidential search allows you to get a better understanding of what talent is available. This allows you to make an informed decision on whether a replacement is truly beneficial, or whether it’s a “grass is greener” situation.

Maintaining confidentiality ensures you can survey the market without offending any sitting executives.

How to Protect Your Confidentiality During an Executive Search

Confidentiality is much more difficult if you’re using an internal team. Regardless of how much you trust your team, they will always be more of a liability here given the fact that they work at the same organization as the executive you are seeking to replace.

Furthermore, many internal recruiting teams have little to no experience with confidential searches. Try as they might to maintain discretion, even a minor slip up can kickstart the rumor mill internally or within the industry at large. In today’s hyperconnected world, it’s practically impossible to contain a rumor once it starts.

A trusted third-party partner is simply the best solution for most confidential searches. You get the benefit of having an independent team to handle the search, dramatically reducing the chances of an internal leak.

If you pick a team with a proven track record of handling these searches, you can rest assured they are handling the project with care when engaging with candidates and discussing the position.

A successful confidential search requires a very careful, strategic approach.

If you’re looking to learn more about how you can make your next search a success, click here to schedule a no-obligation call and learn more about our search practice.