With a moral compass - what does it mean?

Since its inception in May 2005, I am very proud to say that Collingwood has operated with a true moral compass. We believe it is a real differentiator from our competitors, but it appears to be a common marketing term these days with an increasing number of companies trying to stand out from the crowd by claiming that they have strong vision and values. Easy to state but what does having a ‘moral compass’ actually mean and what value does it give to our clients?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a moral compass as “a person’s ability to judge what is right and wrong and act accordingly.”

I have been an executive search consultant in the world of recruitment for over 18 years, during which time the industry has ranked as one of the bottom in respect of possessing a moral compass along with the likes of estate agents and builders. The recruitment industry shot itself in the foot a long time ago by allowing very inexperienced, unqualified individuals with low morals an opportunity to charge and earn large sums of money that they would struggle to achieve in any other sector. There appears to be an acceptance among companies that they will pay significant fees for low service levels as long as their appointed recruitment consultant successfully fills their vacancy. So many companies I meet ask me if Collingwood ever recruits out candidates that we have placed and gained a fee for. How can anyone, with any sort of morals possibly consider charging a client to recruit someone and then approach that person sometime later to appoint to a different company and accept another fee?

Even the thought of an appointment not succeeding fills myself and my colleagues with disappointment and guilt for which Collingwood has a robust post placement/assignment process to measure, monitor and learn from. Our focus is on delighting clients by exceeding their expectations and building a strong, long-term partnership that adds value to their business far beyond merely filling a vacancy. We don't measure our success in terms of the fees we generate but rather on the level of repeat business we secure, referrals we gain from happy clients, delivering our assignments right first time and the retention levels our clients enjoy due to the calibre we introduce to them. This is everyday thinking in Collingwood's world but having recently interviewed senior level individuals for a number of management team vacancies we are seeking to fill ourselves, I was shocked and disappointed at the managers and leaders that other executive search consultancies employ, their lack of focus and even understanding of how they can add value to their clients all in lieu of fees, fees and more fees. They believe that recruitment is a dog-eat-dog world and, whilst much of it is, Collingwood’s reputation for having a moral compass has built a great divide between us and transactional recruitment, into one where clients relish long-term partnerships built on trust, honesty, integrity and look to us as an extension to their business. This world is great as it aligns the values our team live and breathe every day with like-minded clients. The result is significant and not only generates a strong partnership between two parties that enjoy working together but ensures that our solutions exactly meet our clients’ precise and, usually demanding, needs.


Having a moral compass should not be marketing speak but instead should be the fundamental way in which we live our lives.