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Can Your Board Handle Hiring Your Next Executive Director?

July 08, 2021

Are you looking for your next executive director? The process is extensive—read our blog to find out more about the time it requires and if your board is cut out for the job.

Hiring your next Executive Director or CEO of your organization is one of the most important jobs a NFP board can be tasked with (which is why it is #2 on our Top 10 list of Board Member Responsibilities). The CEO is the captain of your ship, typically the highest compensated employee and the one of the most impactful hires your organization will need to make, is your board cut out for the job?

Not sure where your organization should start or what role the Board plays when it comes to finding the right person for the job? We have answers to these questions and more below.

Where to Start

It is essential that the full Board agrees with the search process and delegates a Search Committee. This committee should be no more than 4-6 members who will take the lead on finding qualified candidates.

How to Prepare

The first thing the Search Committee needs to draft is a detailed position description including:

  • Background information on the organization
  • Clear expectations from the Executive Team and the Board
  • Detailed position duties
  • Desired qualifications, and
  • How success will be measured

It is important to share some "selling points" to encourage passive candidates (those who are not actively looking) to take an interest such as PTO, flexible work schedules etc. Your board’s Search Committee will also want to determine who is responsible for tracking incoming resumes.

Does Your Board Have the Time?

The search for a high-level position such as an Executive Director or CEO will typically take anywhere from 3-6 months.

One thing to consider is interest level. Some searches will bring in large volumes of resumes from various sources. Your board will need time to filter through candidates to determine which candidates are a good fit and which are not. Some searches may not bring in a sufficient number of qualified resumes and will require digging deeper into everyone's networks. This could mean time searching LinkedIn or even phone calls.

Then there is the actual interview time. Be prepared to allot time during the day and evening hours to have a phone or virtual conversation with several candidates.

Don’t overlook the importance of logistics as you progress through the interview process. Some things your board will have to consider are:

  • Where the in-person interviews take place
  • How much time there is between interviews so that candidates don’t run into each other, and
  • How to maintain confidentiality

What’s Next?

  1. First, determine who on the Committee will take part in the vetting process and in what capacity (i.e., scheduling phone calls and interviews, providing consistent information to candidates, and that questions asked are LEGAL and appropriate from an HR compliance standpoint). The most time-consuming portion of a search is the interviews. Typically, 3-4 rounds are needed to assess for this critical role properly.
  2. Second, consider allowing a few extra days for their top 5-6 candidates, to create a resume supplement that will offer a narrative on 4-5 essential skills/attributes. This would provide the Search Committee with detailed information on key requirements from candidates and, in addition, provide a sample of the candidates' written communication skills.
  3. Holding the final interview may include a more casual setting such as lunch or dinner at a restaurant with members of the Search Committee. Allow for some time when presenting the offer as there may be a need to work through a negotiation process.
  4. And FINALLY, check 3-4 references and conduct a background check.

Best Practices for Hiring Your Next Executive Director

  • Make sure EVERYONE on the Board agrees that the Search Committee is empowered to choose the final candidate – if not -- the best practice is to have the Search Committee present their top choice, or no more than top two choices to the Board.
  • Determine if it is better to pull together a pool of candidates to evaluate vs. one-off interviews.
  • Decide early in the process who will be included in each round of interviews (Search Committee, Executive Team, and staff) and set aside time on everyone’s calendar for those interviews.
  • Don’t over-promise
  • Stay in constant communication to the candidates who are vetted so that you keep the process moving and the candidates engaged and excited

Need help finding your next leader? We can help; contact KLR Executive Search Group, LLC.

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