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From 2,000 to 6 CEO Contenders

July 2013 – Vol: 36 No. 7
by Charlene Komar Storey

How JMFA gets down to the finalists in an executive search

July 30, 2013

This is bonus coverage from “Big Decision” in the August issue of Credit Union Management magazine.

Whittling down a large field of finalists and ultimately choosing a new CEO for a credit union is unquestionably a challenge. How is it done?

Charles Shanley, SPHR, executive vice president of John M. Floyd & Associates, a recruitment and consulting firm and CUES strategic partner, says JMFA starts a search process for a credit union with 2,000 potential candidates, and ultimately presents a board or search committee with six to 10 finalists.

The 2,000 figure may send eyebrows skyward, but Shanley points out that doesn’t mean the company collects that many responses from a blind want ad. “We’re proactive,” he says. For instance, JMFA uses many candidate sourcing strategies, including social media, targeting people from the credit union’s market area and a variety of networking groups.

The next step is to go on site and identify the CU’s culture. “It’s important to know exactly what the culture is for this institution, and you can’t properly assess this without being there physically,” Shanley says.

JMFA focuses on core competencies, typically established by the board. Common competencies include vision, strategic direction, leadership, cultural fit, communication skills, overall experience and community involvement. The competencies are weighted on a formula-based spreadsheet to reflect each one’s level of importance. For example, a board could give vision a weight of 20 percent, strategic direction 15 percent, cultural fit 15 percent, community involvement 10 percent, leadership 20 percent, and so on until the weights add up to 100 percent.  

This weighted list of competencies is initially used by JMFA to first select about 50 candidates to invite to complete a strategic questionnaire or project, Shanley says. The project may be a request to delineate what short-term and long-term plans a candidate would put in place in his or her first year at the credit union.

“We see how they write; we see how they think,” he explains. Typically, the project will run 20 to 30 pages, including graphs and charts. Generally, everyone who is invited to participate in this chooses to do so.

By this point in the process, JMFA has concluded a full background check. That leaves only personality profile testing to be done.

For many years, JMFA has used the executive assessment from Omnia Group.

“I have personally taken every test out there, Shanley says. “Some are good and some bad, but they usually all are pretty close on accuracy. The Omnia Group assessment can be specific to financial institutions and to the level of search (CEO). The test does not take long, 20-40 minutes.

“I was a skeptic about these kinds of assessments 10 years ago, but after studying assessments and being involved with them for so long, I’ve really come to believe in its accuracy and the idea that the results truly are an indicator of the person taking the assessment. The testing is another great resource to use in a CEO selection process, in addition to weighting competencies and using good interviewing techniques.”

JMFA then uses the same weighted list of competencies to select a final roster of up to six to 10 candidates to present to the board to interview. The presentation typically includes the candidate’s resume, a completed questionnaire/project, candidates’ compensation requirements and the results of their personality/profile testing.

The board may conduct up to two phone, video or in-person interviews of the six to 10 finalists; a third interview is almost always done in person. Whatever the venue, Shanley stresses the need for consistency.

“Go through someone’s background, but be sure to ask the same questions as much as possible” of all candidates, and base ratings on that same set of weighted competencies that has been used through the search process so far, he advises. “Otherwise, you’re not interviewing fairly and it is more difficult to assess candidates against each other.”

Charlene Komar Storey is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.

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