Search Committee Best Practices

Posted on 06-04-2019

Filling an executive position is often a long and challenging process that requires a high level of strategic planning. Not just anyone can waltz into your C-suite and take control. This crucial level of authority requires someone with proven knowledge of and success in your industry, strong leadership skills, and the ability to mesh with your company’s culture.

Hiring an executive can be a complicated process and often too big of a decision for only one or two people to make so most organizations leverage an internal search committee.  A committee comprised of people with strong knowledge of the company and its needs will add immense value by providing different perspectives and insights into the decision-making process.

When it’s time to fill a spot in your C-suite, consider these best practices for establishing an internal executive search committee.

Establish Guidelines

Before you begin putting together your search committee, it’s important to have a clear set of guidelines for what is expected of them. While the exact responsibilities will vary for each company, the basic role of the committee is to recruit candidates, screen them to determine if they are a good match for the position and make recommendations for who the company should hire.

The committee should also be given a timeline for the search process and an explanation of the roles and responsibilities of this position. For instance, explain what success would look like in this role, what is the most important problem the person in this role will solve, and what would make a potential candidate want this job. It’s necessary for each member of the committee to have a clear understanding of the position that is being filled.

Finally, it’s important to provide the search committee with legal and professional guidelines as well as a list of best practices to follow. This group is playing an essential part in the hiring process and they need to understand the gravity of this role as well as any critical legal or professional protocols, such as confidentiality responsibilities and following appropriate interviewing procedures.

Select the Right Members

Choosing the right people to join this team is crucial to the success of the search committee. It’s important to select a mixture of people who are well-respected, come from varying backgrounds, and are knowledgeable about the company’s past and where it is heading in the future. The team needs to be small enough to be manageable and large enough to offer a well-rounded recommendation, but not so large that it runs the risk of having too many differing opinions and never reaching a unanimous decision. Ideally, you should aim for five to seven people.

When asking people to join the search committee, be clear about the time commitment that will be required of them. Executive searches can often last for several months and may require a few hours every week for candidate interviews or committee discussions. Be sure that each member of the committee is willing and able to make this large time commitment before accepting a role on the team.

Be very strategic about who you ask to join this search committee. Look for employees who are passionate about the company and want to see it succeed. Choose people who have a deep knowledge of the company and the industry as well as an understanding of how this role will affect the future of the business. Select employees who will take the responsibility of being a member of this committee seriously and see their role on the team as an opportunity to make a positive impact on the future of the company, rather than as a burden they’re having to shoulder. Finally, try to select members from different areas of the company who will be able to provide a variety of intellectual viewpoints.

Select a Search Committee Chair

The Search Committee Chair will play an important role in the success of this process. This person will need to be able to devote more time to the process than the other members and will need to be able to exert a certain level of leadership to help keep the committee on track and focused on the process. Because of the authoritative nature of this role, the Chair should be someone that the other members respect and trust to make decisions.

Among his or her many responsibilities, the Search Committee Chair will be in charge of scheduling and leading meetings, keeping committee members engaged in the process, acting as liaison between the committee and the recruiting firm (if applicable), and even making executive decisions in the event that the team can’t come to a unanimous vote. Be sure that the potential Chair is fully aware of all responsibilities that may be required of him before he accepts the position.

Define the Process

Once the search committee and Chair have been established, the team must then determine the process it will follow in the search for the ideal candidate. Things to include in this process are:

  • How candidates will be recruited and screened
  • If a recruiting firm will be involved, determine which firm will be used
  • The process for communicating with candidates
  • Who will be involved in each round of interviews
  • How recommendations for which candidate to hire will be made
  • If support will be needed from the search committee after the candidate is hired
Choose an Executive Recruiting Firm

An executive recruiting firm can provide extensive support to the internal search committee. Since the committee will not be working on the search full-time, a professional recruiting firm can assist with locating and screening applicants. These firms have access to databases and vast networks so they can provide a larger pool of candidates for consideration. Also, many firms specialize in specific markets, so they have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the needs and qualifications required of different roles in those industries.

Keep in mind, an internal executive search committee can be a great asset in the search for your next C-suite executive, but be sure to select the right people who will respect the process and be excited about the opportunity to have an impact on the future of your company.

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