Another one of my Knols. This one is on preparing to recruit a new Chief Executive, a process I went through last year. It should be an opportunity for the charity to reflect and define itself. It can be a rewarding or frustrating process and like so many things in life it is all about the planning.
Agreement on broad strategic objectives
Every new CEO will have ideas of their own as to where they would like to take the charity. Nevertheless it is important for trustees to consider and agree the general direction in which they want their charity to go. Having a three to five-year plan will help define this.
Agreement on the charity’s ethos, values and philosophy
What makes the charity special and what are the fundamental values with which the new CEO must be in agreement? Do staff and trustees agree on what the charity’s ethos, values and philosophy are? How will the trustees test whether long-listed candidates’ personal values and philosophy are compatible with those of the charity?
Identify future risks and challenges
It is also worthwhile spending time considering the major challenges and risks that the charity is facing currently and those which the charity is likely to face in the future. You will then have a much better picture of the sort of person you need to lead the charity into the next decade and will be able to probe, by the questions you ask short-listed candidates, how each candidate will deal with these challenges if they are appointed. Once the above issues have been considered, it is time to turn to some of the practical aspects of recruitment.
In-house or recruitment consultants?
Will you carry out the recruitment process in-house or will you engage some other form of external assistance such as a recruitment consultant or an independent assessor? Will the hunt for the new CEO be by advertisement only or by search as well? If you use recruitment consultants, how will you decide which one will best fulfil your needs?
All trustees or search committee?
Who will drive the process? Will it be all the trustees or will the trustees appoint a search committee? If the latter, who will chair the search committee and who will be on it? Will all the trustees be involved at some stage and, if so, at what stage?
Finally take time out
All these questions and many more will need to be considered by the trustees. Finding time during a routine trustee meeting to consider the broad strategic objectives, the charity’s ethos, values and philosophy and to give due consideration to the myriad of other related questions is nigh impossible if you want to give the issues sufficient and careful consideration. It is therefore strongly recommended that the trustees have an additional meeting or take a half-day out to discuss issues solely relating to the recruitment of the next CEO.
Questions for recruitment consultants
It is important to give time in advance to plan the questions that you wish to ask the recruitment consultants that you may be considering using. Listed below are a few questions that you may wish to ask.
- What recruitment process do you recommend when recruiting by advertisement alone, by search alone and by using a combination of advertising and search?
- How do you marry together candidates that come through search and candidates who respond to advertisements?
- What options do you offer and what are your fees for each option?
- What costs are not included in your fees and can you give us a rough idea of what these are likely to amount to?
- What is the ideal time scale for chief executive recruitment?
- If you are appointed by us, who will lead the process and who will work most closely with us/our search committee?
- Who else will be involved and what proportion of the work will be done by the lead person?
- In the last year how many charity chief executive appointments have you handled? How many were in the same sub-sector as us?
- Who is on your client list and who are you unable to approach as part of the search process?
- Can we speak to the chairs of at least two search committees that you have worked with recently?
- What steps do you take to test the integrity of each long-listed candidate’s CV?
- How do you ascertain that achievements claimed by candidates are genuine and not highly exaggerated?
- What in your view is the most thorough way of taking up references? Do you take up references or do we?
- Do you take up references from people who are not named as referees but who know the candidate well?
- When the final candidate is selected, do you assist in negotiating the remuneration package?
- What happens if our first choice candidate refuses the offer and we do not feel that any of the other final candidates are suitable?
- What do you do to ensure confidentiality?
- Do you have a diversity policy and a conflict of interest policy? May we have copies?
Having discussed and agreed the charity’s values, ethos, philosophy, broad strategic priorities, key future risks etc., the board needs to agree the remit of the search committee and the parameters within which the search committee must work. Listed below are some of the tasks that may be included in the search committee’s remit.
- Keeping the board and especially the chair of trustees, if he/she is not on the search committee, informed of progress;
- Selecting, engaging, briefing, liaising and supervising the recruitment consultants, if they are being used, and agreeing the level of their services and their fee;
- Deciding the outline remuneration package and main terms and conditions of the new chief executive’s contract;
- Producing the person specification, job description and candidate information pack with the help of others such as the current chief executive or the recruitment consultant;
- Agreeing, in consultation with the board, the outline timetable for the process and the detailed project plan with the recruitment consultant if one is being used, and ensuring that this timetable is complied with;
- Deciding on the level of involvement of the search committee in long-listing and short-listing;
- Deciding on the process to reduce the long-list to the short-list [e.g. by interview only or a more detailed process, carried out by recruitment consultant or search committee]
- Deciding on the level of involvement of the current chief executive, the senior management team and other stakeholders;
- Deciding whether or not to use an independent external adviser;
- Agreeing the method for making the final selection from the short-list, including at which stages the whole board will be involved, and carrying through this process;
- Deciding the timing of taking up references. Taking up references of short-listed candidates or the final candidate in writing and by telephone or face-to-face. Carrying out all relevant checks including CRB (if necessary) and medical checks on the chosen candidate;
- Informing the unsuccessful short-listed candidates and providing them with feedback. (This is sometimes delegated to the recruitment consultant);
- Thanking referees and those who nominated candidates during the search process;
- Negotiating the remuneration package and main terms and conditions of employment with the successful candidate (This is often done through the recruitment consultant);
- Planning the timetable for announcing the new appointment both internally and externally;
- Organising, in partnership with the chair of trustees, induction, support, arrangements for the review of performance towards the end of the probationary period and arrangements for the on-going appraisal of the chief executive;
- Outline planning of events to mark the achievements of the out-going chief executive and expressing the charity’s appreciation of his/her contribution.