6 Ways to Make Your Executive Search a Winner

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Imagine conducting a nationwide search to fill a key position at your nonprofit organization but attracting few candidates of the caliber you expect. Or extending an offer which your preferred candidate initially accepts, only to change his or her mind before the deal is signed and sealed.

If you’ve been there, done that, you know how frustrating, time-consuming, and expensive those experiences can be. And if you haven’t, trust me, you definitely don’t want to find out.

A well-planned, thoughtfully executed executive search process makes all the difference. Here are six easy-to-implement strategies that will help ensure your executive search yields not only outstanding candidates, but candidates eager to work with you to advance your mission.

  1. Enthusiastically sell the position – and your organization – in your job description. Think about the qualities that make the opportunity and your organization special, and make sure they shine through loud and clear in the job description. Take the time to tell your story – what makes your organization unique, why people are inspired to work for you, how this position enables job-seekers to live their core values. A dry, bulleted point list of qualifications and responsibilities simply isn’t sufficient to entice the candidates you want, especially in today’s tight labor market. (Or any other time, really!) Here's a great example from a successful executive search campaign TW&B held with Illinois-based nonprofit One World Surgery.

  2. Do your salary homework. If you offer a salary that’s too low, it limits your prospective applicant pool. Sure, you can hope you might be lucky enough to find a highly qualified candidate so enamored of your mission that your preferred candidate is willing to work for a suboptimal salary, though that’s pretty much the equivalent of finding a needle in a haystack. And do you really want to under-compensate your new, valued colleague?

The key is to find the sweet spot where the salary fits your target audience, because you really can’t fool the market. Conduct a salary survey to see what’s realistic for the position, and then post your best salary range right out of the gate.

  1. Make sure the position’s job title is easily searchable. While you may be convinced that a title like Chief Inspiration Leader demonstrates your creativity, or that Director of Fund Development and Donor Communication clearly delineates job responsibilities, those titles will run afoul of search function algorithms. Candidates search for key words within job opportunities, just like employers search for key words on resumes. If your key words are unusual, it’s less likely that a broad range of candidates will find your position.

  2. Actively cast a broad net. The days when organizations could post a position on a job board and wait for the applications to flow in are long gone. To get a deep pool of candidates that allows you to be highly selective, you need to get out there and actively recruit.

Sure, post the position widely on job boards such as AFP and NPO.net and make sure the position is highly visible on LinkedIn. But also, think about niche associations that align with candidates who might be interested and post it on their job boards, too. And if you are really serious, make calls to people in your network to put the word out.

Tempted as you may be to stick with LinkedIn’s free search features, this is not the time to economize. Investing in a monthly subscription to Recruiter Lite, LinkedIn’s candidate search tool, can help you zero in on more candidates more quickly and also boost response rates.

  1. Work with an expert search partner. Partnering with an experienced search firm can deliver serious ROI, helping to get the right person on board as quickly as possible. It can take 60 hours of work to screen and present a slate of qualified candidates, creating a big challenge – and major stressor – for a hiring manager trying to juggle regular full-time responsibilities. And remember, most firms will offer a guarantee to redo the search for free if the selected candidate leaves within an agreed timeframe.

Also, candidates who are just exploring possibilities rather than seriously job-hunting are often more willing to reach out to a search firm rather than a hiring manager to learn more. This provides a valuable opportunity to attract additional candidates as well as enables the search firm to screen prospects early in the process, keeping your focus on those who are truly the best candidates.

  1. Choose the candidate with both the passion and the skill set. Candidates who have one but not the other may accept the job, but they’re unlikely to stick around long – if they don’t change their mind before starting the job in the first place. When the position aligns with the opportunity, values, and lifestyle the highly qualified candidate is seeking, the odds of success vastly improve. (Which underscores the critical importance of creating an excellent job description in the first place. See #1 above.)

What have you done recently to bring visibility to your new job opportunities? Interested in learning more about how to fill your open positions with “keepers” excited to help your organization get where you want to go? Drop us a line here and we’ll connect you with one of our executive recruitment experts.

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