Hiring “By Committee”

How a Search Team + an Executive Search Firm Can = Hiring Success

It is a common practice for nonprofit organizations, family-owned businesses, and even large organizations to pull together an internal search team or committee when they are seeking their next executive. (In this post, we will refer to this group as the “search team.”)  At Centennial, we are often hired by these search teams to lead the process of finding the next executive.

We have seen these teams work well, doing a great job “rowing together” to find the right executive. On other occasions, we have also seen these teams impede progress and waste time.  If your organization plans on using a search team to find your next executive, keep these best practices in mind.

Who is on the search team?

Who is on the search team can vary by organization.  For a nonprofit organization, the search team might include a combination of the hiring manager, board members, key donor or other stakeholder relationships, and perhaps a volunteer or two.

Search TeamIn a family-owned business, the search team might include key leaders within the family, the hiring manager, a member or two of the board of advisors, plus trusted consultants.

In a for-profit organization, the search team may consist of the hiring manager, human resources, and a member or two of the board of directors, plus an advisor.

No matter what the composition of the search team, the reason behind the team is the same:  to ensure the representation of multiple points of view that are key to the organization’s success.

Should the search team partner with an executive search firm?

There are significant benefits for these search teams to partner with an outside executive search advisor like Centennial.  An outside executive search firm can serve as a trusted North Star, leading the process, helping the team achieve consensus, negotiating salary and other aspects of the hire, connecting to relocation specialists—even setting the onboarding plan.  In short, if your organization is using an internal search team, partnering with an outside executive search firm is efficient and effective.

What is an important first step?

At the start of the search, it is crucial that the members of the search team come up with a list of “must haves” when vetting the candidates.  When Centennial is asked to be the partner of a search team, we lead the process of determining these requirements through our 4C Recruiting Process®: competency, character, culture, and team chemistry.  Employing a ranking system of these qualities can be helpful.  It is important not to have too many requirements – nothing is important if everything is important.  We advise our clients to have a “Top 5” qualities of most importance and a “Secondary 5.”   Those priorities become the pillars of the interview process.

Who and how many candidates should be interviewed?

When Centennial is a search team partner, the first question is often, “How many individuals should we expect to interview?” The answer?  It can vary by search. One recent C-suite search Centennial led had more than 200 candidates.  Centennial interviewed 44 of those candidates – twice! The search team met 13 of those 44 candidates before narrowing it down to a final 2.

Another search was much shorter.  Once again, the Centennial team reviewed more than 150 candidates, interviewed 25, and introduced 9, before the search team narrowed it down to 2.

From a behind-the-scenes perspective, Centennial dedicates multiple people to the search process, from resume review to screening, to vetting interviews to reference checks.  We carefully consider who to introduce to a search team, ensuring that the qualities that made their “Top 5” and “Secondary 5” list are addressed.

Who makes the offer?

If the search team includes Centennial, we make the offer.  There is often a lot of emotion surrounding the offer, even when it is very generous.  Having Centennial serve as the “go-between” removes the emotion and keeps the candidate focused on the opportunity.

What are the top 3 things that can go wrong?

  1. One of the worst problems is when the search team is not in alignment on priorities of most importance. That is why landing on a “Top 5” and a “Secondary 5” is a critical first step.
  2. Not interviewing enough candidates. Finding your next executive is not unlike dating. You have to meet a few frogs before finding “the one.” With each interview, it is crucial to debrief as a team.  What were the pros of the candidate?  The cons?  Then, build off the feedback gleaned in the debriefs, using it when evaluating new candidates.
  3. Not involving an outside partner. Involving an executive search firm can save the search team many headaches.  Having a partner who understands the “ins” and “outs” of hiring can prevent costly mistakes, including those made at the time of the offer.   It is also critical that the search team takes the executive search firm’s advice to heart.  If the search firm suggests a candidate to interview, the search team should follow through on the recommendation. If the search firm suggests an extra step or two, the search team should take those steps.  The executive search firm’s advice is based on years of experience and interactions with countless clients and candidates.

Centennial: Your North Star

Centennial has more than 45 years of working alongside hiring managers and search teams, guiding them through the process of hiring their next executive.  We would be honored to partner with your search team as your organization seeks its next leader.  Our 4C Recruiting Process® of evaluating candidate competencies and character, and aligning it with your team chemistry and culture has led to hiring success for many organizations like yours.

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