Using executive search and selection in the not-for-profit sector - Business Works

Using executive search and selection in the
Not-for-profit sector

A client interview

The Not-for-profit and Charity sectors have developed significantly over recent years. There is now a high demand and expectation for the highest standards of professionalism and performance from its leaders: the CEOs, Senior Executives and non-executive Board members (Chairs and Trustees). Stuart Blackman, Director of Client Services at CfA explains the advantages of using a recruitment consultant and what to expect for your money.

Changes in the sector have been driven by, amongst other factors, stringent financial reporting requirements from the Charity Commission. It has also brought increased focus on Trustee responsibilities and accountabilities which, in turn, drives demand for skilled and dedicated senior staff.

This immediately presents the challenge of where to find quality staff at affordable, yet attractive salaries. In the private sector, organisations usually have HR specialists in-house to handle recruitment. Whilst this may be possible for the largest Charities, the vast majority cannot bear the costs of employing specialist recruitment staff to handle their occasional recruitment needs.

This is where the value of using an independent recruitment consultancy can be very cost-effective. Such an approach to recruitment balances the need for high level experience with the ability to buy-in these skills when required.

The sector as a whole has a large proportion of organisations of small financial size, small budgets and low staff numbers. They depend heavily on volunteers, so the payment of fees for recruitment consultants is well beyond their budget.

A team meeting

There is, however, a large group of mid-sized charities and not-for-profit organisations who regularly use executive search and selection organisations. These range from specialist consultancies who work on a retained basis only to more junior level recruitment agencies.

The specialist executive search and selection companies focus on the senior executive posts as well as the non-executive Chair and Trustees roles. Some recruitment specialists also offer consultancy in HR, including advice on reorganisations, mergers, partnerships, personnel policies, procedures and remuneration.

Executive search and selection consultancies work at their best when they give significant time and effort to gain a real and in-depth understanding of their client’s unique culture and when they make themselves readily available for progress updates, brainstorming new ideas etc. This nurturing, consultative approach helps to develop long-term and grounded professional relationships between client and consultant.

The core services provided will include independent, objective advice and guidance on drawing up the job description, person specification, salary range, benefits packages and so on. The executive search and selection consultants attribute their success to their personal, efficient and knowledgeable approach. They apply experience and affinity with the clients’ sector or service to the assignment and use well tried and tested processes that work.

The client brief is a key initial stage in the process when discussions and information is provided which allow the consultants to prepare a candidate brief comprising a background paper describing the organisation, a detailed job description, a person specification and an outline of the remuneration package. This serves as the main terms of reference for identifying and evaluating candidates. All this information will be available on line, as well as the application process.


CfA Annual Lecture

In order to attract suitable candidates, a search strategy is developed. Typically this will combine use of the company’s database of candidates and networking by the consultants with key contacts in the sector. There will often be advice, discussion and agreement to a media plan, combining print with web advertising. The consultants will draft copy and go on to manage all the administrative aspects of the campaign with their experienced media team on the client’s behalf.

Candidate interviews

Suitably qualified and experienced candidates are invited to an initial screening interview. All candidates are assessed against the job description and person specification. Internal Candidates for the position or other candidates, who are known to the client, are included in the process and assessed objectively and independently. Candidate reports are often prepared to help the client decide which individuals most closely meet their criteria and who they would like to take forward to final interview.

The Commitment

In the unlikely event that an appointment is not made or if within the first three months the appointed candidate proves to be unsuitable, recruitment consultants will agree how best to continue the search. The number of times there is a failure of this sort is negligible, but it does sometimes happen and it is definitely in the consultant’s best interests to endeavour to ensure this does not happen. Taking us right back to the logic of using specialist consultants for the expertise and experience they bring to the challenge of sourcing the best candidates for the job.

CfA Apoointments

For further information contact Stuart Blackman, Director of Client Services at:
CfA Appointments
T: +44 (0)20 7220 0180

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