Options For The Executive Search

woman with resumesYour Director of Development just gave notice, and as the Executive Director, you have to find her replacement. This type of situation can create anxiety in the best of us. But, there are many ways to initiate an executive search process. Here are some of the pros and cons of each option:

Advertising: publications and the Internet

To many, placing an advertisement is the obvious first step in a finding a candidate. Is it an inexpensive way to get a lot of potential candidates? Will a posting on monster.com reap four fabulous candidates to present to your Board? Can an ad in a trade publication give you the Development Director of your dreams? Maybe – the more targeted the advertisement, the greater the chances. But advertising, generally, only reaches people who are looking for jobs and is, in our experience, the least effective means of identifying qualified candidates.

But don’t be fooled. The seemingly low cost of placing the ad is actually a fraction of the true cost. Consider the monetary value of the time that it takes you and your staff to handle the piles of resumes, letters, emails and inevitable follow up phone calls. It’s a rather daunting thought. Perhaps connecting to a donor for the important 7th thank you or developing a site visit for potential Board members would be a better use of your staff’s time and energies. You are already looking for somebody and you need to ensure that that person’s tasks and responsibilities are covered. Make sure you don’t lose the rest of your staff and their work to the search process.


Searching for a qualified candidate is a lot like searching for a job – networking will reap the greatest, and most cost effective rewards. Where do you begin? Turn to your counterparts in similar organizations – find out if they have spoken to anyone recently who had great potential. Speak with your employees – do they know someone who might be interested in the position? Talk to the employee who is leaving – do they have any contemporaries that might be interested in the position? Have a discussion with your volunteers. Your Board. Your friends. This may seem time consuming but a morning’s worth of calls could reap the names of qualified candidates. In fact, people turn to executive search firms because they are experts who consistently keep these networks active –the same reason candidates know to keep checking in.

Executive Search Firms

Networking is just one of the benefits of an executive search firm. Of course, we are prejudiced, it is a portion of our business, but we added executive search to our services at the request of our clients and their staff.

In general, search firms offer you time to complete your other responsibilities. The cost may seem intimidating at first, but calculate the hours that you will spend networking, writing job descriptions, placing ads, reading letters and resumes, fielding follow up calls, and interviewing candidates that dramatically exaggerated experience on their resumes or simply wouldn’t fit into your organization. Then discern the money lost while ignoring your responsibility to donors, clients and your growing to do list so that you can network, place ads, read letters and resumes, etc…

Have we convinced you to head in this direction? Good, now let’s look at why Mersky, Jaffe & Associates is the best choice. Since this article is being written for our newsletter, this is the place for a little shameless self-promotion. We are involved with an wide variety of organizations and a multitude of qualified professionals on a daily basis. We understand what they do –we used to do it ourselves. And, that enables us to create well-written, focused job descriptions. In addition, we are already speaking with people might be convinced to take such a remarkable opportunity as yours. We are skilled at pre-screening and ensuring that candidates are who they say they are. We will only present a candidate to you whom we know personally. Every candidate whom we present, we believe confidently, could do the job. We will schedule interviews and debrief with you and the candidate after you have met. We will even check references if you ask us. And every candidate whom you hire comes with our personal guarantee. If that person leaves your employ within six months for any reason what so ever, we will help you fill the position again – this time at no additional charge.

Promoting from within

You may be wondering, “Is there anything I else I could do to find that perfect person?”

Don’t despair – look within. One of the greatest talent pools is your own staff. After all, you hired them. You may think this is counter-intuitive for us to tell you, after all we make a living selling executive search services, but the best way to fill a position may be for you to promote from within.

“Wait a minute,” you say, “I don’t have anyone working for me who has the qualifications to fill this position.” Well, that may or may not be true. Do you really know the full breadth of qualifications that each employee possesses? Is there anyone who has some of the qualifications and is able to learn and grow? Maybe this someone is a loyal employee from a different area of the organization. Or perhaps someone who recently took a job at your organization because they believe in your mission and wanted to achieve a better quality of work/life actually has experience that might qualify them. Nonprofits often have a high rate of under-employed and under-utilized personnel.

Need more convincing? Hiring from within will have a positive ripple effect throughout your organization. It boosts moral, loyalty, offers higher job satisfaction –which in turn lowers turnover– and reduces costs. The cost of a new hire is much greater than providing training to a current staff member.

When you promote from within, you may still have a job opening to fill. But, it may be at a level that has less impact on the organization as a whole. In addition, the employee who has been promoted may know people who may be interested in his or her old job. And, positions that offer growth possibilities get filled quickly – saving money and time for everyone.