Search Committee Best Practices: Setting Up for Success
February 27, 2023 – By their very nature, search committees are both varied and imperfect. They span companies, industries, and continents, bringing together individuals from across an organization to share the recruitment and hiring process. Even if they understand the main goal — conducting a search for the organization’s next best leader — it’s easy for these committees to stray off-task or get bogged down in minutia, slowing down what could be an otherwise well-proven process. So how does an organization and its board of directors go about building a search committee that is collaborative, focused and efficient?
“After many years of working with a variety of search committees, the same key attributes and characteristics have relentlessly proven to be best practices,” says BroadView Talent Partners in a new report. To help set up your next search for success, the recruitment firm broke down how to best construct, operationalize, and empower your search committee.
Understand Goals & Objectives
“Make no mistake: over the span of six to nine months, a search committee will embark upon a Herculean task,” said the BroadView Talent Partners. “This ample timeframe allows for forming the search committee, selecting a search firm, executing the search process and ultimately hiring and deploying the organization’s next great leader.”
To begin, nominate and select a search committee chair or co-chairs and choose wisely. Much of the success of the committee will hinge on the chair or co-chair’s ability to lead by example, stay on task, maintain momentum and provide opportunities for all members to be heard. This person will drive the committee’s plan and structure while serving as a main point of contact, including for the executive search firm RFP and selection process.
The report says that as a whole, search committee members must understand that they will wear a number of hats including but not limited to:
- Serving as trusted advisors and servants to the Executive committee and full board of directors
- Working directly with the executive search firm to strategize, launch, and execute the search
- Reviewing and evaluating the credentials of candidates presented and approved for interviews
- Recommending two finalist candidates to the executive committee and full board
Consider Size & Composition
“We recommend that search committees consist of ideally five, but not more than seven members,” said BroadView Talent Partners. “You specifically want an odd number to break any voting ties, and search committees that exceed seven members are structurally unwieldy, cumbersome, and difficult to navigate. These larger committees can be a nightmare to manage in terms of schedule, logistics, consistency, and efficacy.”
Related: 5 Communication Skills Found in Top Leaders
How organizations plan and execute a search is both prescriptive and predictive of how a new leader may encounter other committees when they assume the new position, said the report. Therefore, the importance of partnering with a search firm to deliver as smooth and seamless of a search process as possible cannot be understated.
8 Insider Tips to Ace the Executive Interview Process
Heading into the interview process can make even the most seasoned executive sweat. A new report from BroadView Talent Partners explains that when interviewing candidates, the firm uses what it describes as the 6-3-2 process. This includes a first round pool of six candidates, a second round pool of three, and a final round — with board presentations — of two finalists. “Knowing where many candidates trip up and avoiding the same mistakes can be the difference between making it to the next round of your dream job — or not,” the report said. “In the end, there can only be one winner in each and every search.”
BroadView Talent Partners says that it has found that the most effective and efficient search committees are comprised of the following board members and other key stakeholders:
- Board chair and additional executive committee members (two to three)
- Immediate past chair or chair elect (one)
- Experienced board member (one)
- New board member (one)
- Senior staff representative (one) (with caveats and discernment)
- community partner or funder as applicable (one)
Institute Effective Member ‘Must Haves’
An organization should keep in mind a host of additional imperatives when assembling a search committee. For starters, says BroadView Talent Partners, members should have prior search committee, executive recruitment, retention or interviewing experience, irrespective of sector. Members must also make a preponderance of meetings along the search timeline and be 100 percent invested in the process. In addition, committee members should be open-minded, objective, and able to put aside personal agendas for the good of the whole.
Finally, in many ways, search committees are bound by an oath of silence similar to trial juries. It is essential that committee members commit to being both discrete and confidential. “Non-disclosure agreements, while not typically necessary, should be strictly adhered to,” said the report. “At the very least, members must agree to keep sacrosanct all aspects of search committee deliberations and communications, including those with both search firms and candidates.”
Founded in 2015, BroadView Talent Partners is a national executive search firm dedicated to placing leadership in affordable housing agencies, non-profit organizations, and associations, as well as middle market companies. The firm provides clients with a national network; commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and a record of long-tenured placements. Its specialties include executive search, talent acquisition, retention solutions, career management, executive coaching, and board development.
Related: The Most Vital Component of Any Search Process
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media