Sometimes it is cheaper to hire a search consultant

Engaging a professional executive search consultant can offer substantial cost benefits. This was borne out in a recent collaboration with a nonprofit board that had initially attempted to find a new executive director on their own. After months of stress, no candidates were found who were right for the position, prompting the board to enlist my expertise. I helped them find multiple highly-qualified candidates and they hired their top choice.

The board consisted of people with significant commitments between their work and family responsibilities and who had limited time to focus on the search. None of them had hired a position at this level before and few had experience with hiring in the past. Monetary constraints initially dissuaded them from securing external assistance.

One board member said, “The search was hours and hours of work and sleepless nights. We had to come up with a plan, spread the word about the position, respond to candidates, and conduct interviews. Everything took longer because we were operating as a group with no one person in charge. We were stressed and burnt out.”

After three months, they conducted interviews with the best candidates. Most weren’t a good fit but there was one person who would have been an excellent executive director. They immediately offered her the position. On further reflection, she decided it wasn’t the right time for her to make a career change and declined.

At this point, the board contacted me and asked me to send them a proposal. They knew they couldn’t do it themselves anymore. 

Here are the key ways the board felt I helped them with the new search:

  • I provided substantial expertise on how to conduct a search effectively. They knew they could rely on me to guide them and they could stop worrying about whether they were doing it right. The board was willing to step up once they had clear direction.
  • With my experience and perspective, I helped the board see what was most needed in the position and the organization so they could focus their search in those areas. I also conveyed valuable perspectives from the staff.
  • I created a professional job description that provided essential information that candidates needed to know, thereby attracting candidates with a higher skill level.
  • The role was publicized extensively, reaching a wider and more diverse candidate pool than the board’s limited efforts had allowed.
  • I was a central point person and took care of all of the time-consuming communication with candidates. This ensured consistency and clarity for the candidates.
  • I screened candidates and brought them a slate of candidates who were qualified for the position. They didn’t have to review and decide about the dozens of other applicants.
  • I implemented a methodical interview strategy, oriented towards the organization’s prime needs and coordinated the associated logistics.

In essence, my involvement afforded the board the latitude to concentrate on their governance roles rather than the minutiae of the recruitment process. A board member remarked, “It is refreshing to resume our role as organization ambassadors and to forge ahead with renewed purpose.”

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