Assisting in Executive Recruitments with Ethics Intact

Guidelines for participating in executive recruitment—ethically.

Feb 6, 2019 | BLOG POST

by Martha Perego, ICMA director of membership and ethics

I’m a city manager, and I’ve been asked to help recruit the manager for the community next door. Because of my friendship with the outgoing manager and the community’s geographic proximity, I’m familiar with many of the issues the next manager will face, and I have a good sense of the personal and professional characteristics the manager will need to serve the community well. Not only that. I know a lot of people in the field and might be able to help recruit and advise on candidates. Oh—and I might be interested in the job myself.”

As ICMA’s director of membership and ethics, I frequently get questions like this from members who have been invited to participate in executive recruitments. Can I participate? If so, what can I do? And what must I avoid?

In fact, the question has come up so often that the ICMA Committee on Professional Conduct formalized its advice on the subject in a set of guidelines that address these questions within the values inherent in the ICMA Code of Ethics.

To answer the questions posed by the hypothetical city manager:

  • Yes, ICMA members can assist a community in the executive recruitment process in a consulting capacity, as a volunteer adviser, or as a member of the search committee.
  • Yes, ICMA members can assist in identifying the attributes and skills required of the next manager and recommend interview questions for the recruitment team.
  • No, ICMA members should not recommend candidates or comment on a candidate’s qualifications.
  • No, ICMA members may not participate in a search if they might be a candidate for the position.

Still have questions? Download the guidelines to see what kinds of assistance ICMA members can ethically provide and what areas they need to avoid.


I welcome questions from members about their responsibilities under the ICMA Code of Ethics. If you want to talk about a situation you’re facing, contact me at or 202-962-3668. Ask before you act!


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