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Working With Recruiters

May 2013 – Vol: 36 No. 5
by Theresa Witham

What you need to know before, during and after an executive search.

Target on stick figure man standing on newspaper classified adYou have placed ads in local newspapers. You’ve posted on social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. You’ve sent the job notice to employees to forward on to their networks. But you still can’t fill a position. If you find yourself considering hiring an executive search firm to find the right person for your hard-to-fill job, or the board of directors has asked you to research firms as it prepares to hire a new CEO, what do you need to get started?

We interviewed Charles Shanley, SPHR, CFS, executive vice president of CUES Supplier member and strategic partner JMFA Executive Search Group, Houston, who has been a professional recruiter for over 20 years, to find out what you need to know—and do—to make your executive search as smooth as possible.

What to do Before Hiring a Firm

1. Use your succession plan (non-CEO search). You should have a succession plan in place already for all key executives,” says Shanley. Though in his experience, many credit unions do not. Promoting internally is good for morale at the CU, he says. Shanley recommends having a mentorship, job shadow or some other formal employee development plan in place for most management positions. Before calling a search firm, “make sure you don’t have the proper talent in place at the CU. If you don’t, then that’s when you consider
the firm.”

2. Review job documents. Is your job description up to date? Will the organizational chart or chain of command be changing? Is your strategic plan current and can the recruiters view/share it with potential candidates? “Make sure you are prepared with documents. We’re going to ask,” Shanley says.

Terms to Know

Contingent Search: Hiring company pays the search firm or recruiter only when a new hire starts work. Typically used for lower-than- executive-level placements.

Retained Search: Hiring company pays the search firm or recruiter a retainer up front and works with them exclusively. Typically used for executive or senior-level employees.

3. Perform a compensation analysis.
While the search firm will most likely repeat this step, Shanley thinks it’s important to know the going salary rate for the position you are hiring in order to avoid sticker shock later. This is especially true for the CEO and other key positions, he says. Use credit union—and other industries when appropriate—compensation surveys to get an idea of what you’ll need to offer.

4. For a CEO search, plan to hire a firm. “We always suggest you use a firm for a CEO search. It’s the most important decision that a board can make, who will lead your CU into the future. You may have the best person internally. But you owe it to the membership to do the due diligence” and to compare your internal candidate to the external environment. You will often be surprised at the results when a national search is conducted. “It doesn’t matter to us who is ultimately selected for the role. We want the best person for you, regardless if it’s an internal or external candidate. Internal candidates go through the exact same process and are vetted just like everyone else to fairly rank them against other candidates,” he adds.

5. For a CEO search, set up a search committee. For boards with nine or more members, Shanley recommends using a committee with up to five members to work with the firm throughout the initial stages of the process. The full board is usually involved in final interviews.

6. Set up a communication plan.
Have a plan for what and when you will communicate with staff about the search, Shanley suggests, especially for a CEO search.

7. Make sure you have approval to hire a vendor. This one seems obvious but if you don’t have the ability to hire a firm, you could end up doing lots of set-up work ahead of time for no reason.

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