October 23, 2015 – Jim Zaniello is president and founder of Vetted Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based executive search firm specializing in serving the leadership needs of associations, non-profit organizations, hospitality and destination marketing industries. The firm focuses on recruiting board directors, CEOs and senior staff positions, providing personalized solutions tailored to each client’s needs and employer brand.
In this interview, Jim discusses the evolving nature of recruiting for the non-profit sector, the nuances for finding talent for his unique client base and what led him to a career in executive recruiting.
Jim, how many years ago did the non-profit sector begin to utilize search firms to fill key management positions?
The association and non-profit sectors have utilized executive search for years but really embraced us about 10 years ago. When I first got into this business, I was spending as much time explaining what search was as I was talking about the benefit of utilizing our firm. Today, top tier organizations view search as a true partner in ensuring the strongest leadership teams possible in order to achieve their mission and vision. I also think this has led the hospitality industry to embrace executive search more than ever which is why we recently moved into that space as well.
What types of positions are a typical search for Vetted Solutions?
We’re a little bit different — we’re as excited about a senior staff search as we are about a CEO assignment. At the moment, we’re leading the CEO search for the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals while also working with the Foundation for Financial Planning on its CEO search. Having recently completed the Chief Learning Officer search for the American Society of Association Executives, we have a strong understanding of the talent in this area. Other typical searches for us are heads of government affairs, communications, membership or finance in these sectors.
What makes searching for top talent in the non-profit sector different from that of a for-profit C-level assignment?
In this sector, we need to find individuals who are not only incredible leaders with a track record of ensuring success on the revenue generation/business side but who are also excited by the mission of the organization. Boards of directors want to see and hear a candidate’s passion for the work they will be engaged in – whether that is advancing the industry or having an impact on the lives of those served by the organization. We are also incredibly focused on the personality and behavioral traits that enhance success in the non-profit sector. Non-profits, as you can imagine, seek consensus builders who enjoy motivating others and who take greater pride in organizational success than their own.
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To what extent do you go to the corporate sector to identify talent for a non-profit client?
Often when we are conducting a search to replace a long-serving association CEO, the board wants us to look at both association executives as well as executives from their own industry. We also see a request for corporate talent when conducting communications and marketing searches as well as business development searches. Interestingly though, I think the greatest misunderstanding when approaching corporate executives is compensation. Today, large associations and non-profits have compensation structures more commensurate with the corporate sector than many realize.
Jim, what led you to a career in recruiting and to specialize in this particular sector?
I graduated from St. Bonaventure University with a degree in journalism/mass communication. Journalists are naturally inquisitive — and that also happens to be a good trait in an executive recruiter! We were educated to verify and deliver the facts but also to tell a story. First and foremost, we really enjoy telling the story of our clients and then sharing the stories of the top tier candidates we introduce to them.
Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media