08/09/2012 09:38 am ET Updated Oct 09, 2012

When You Are on the Hiring Committee

There will come a time when a Board you are on -- or your children's school or your religious organization -- will tap you on the shoulder and ask you to serve on the hiring committee for the next head or CEO.

Here's what to do when it happens to you:

  • Determine whether to hire a search consultant to help you. The best way to figure that out is to talk to board members of similar organizations and ask about their experiences with or without headhunter help. If you decide to go with a headhunter, interview three and make your choice.
  • Be sure of your charge. Are you to select the next CEO or to make a recommendation to the full Board, which will select the CEO? Either way, make sure you develop some mechanisms to be informed by and to, in turn, inform the rest of the Board
  • Determine your timeframe. Is this a sudden need for a successor? Or is this a planned succession a year or more ahead? If the latter, consider whether you have the opportunity to undertake strategic planning at this juncture.
  • Consider what your needs are now. It may be a missed opportunity simply to dust off the job description you used before and look for a carbon copy of your current CEO.
  • Plan what you can afford to pay the new hire. Do not assume it will be the same as your current head. It can be more or less.
  • Unless you are using a headhunter, you probably have to draft a job description. Check the internet for examples, before reinventing the wheel.
  • Set meeting dates (conference calls, committee meetings, and interview dates) as soon as the hiring committee convenes. If you wait, it only gets harder to schedule.
  • Reexamine your assumptions about advertising the post. Much help-wanted advertising is a waste of money. It may suggest transparency. It will seldom lead you to right candidate. Better: post on the organization's website and relevant nonprofit list-servs.
  • Plan the interviews. Don't "wing" them and risk covering different topics with each candidate. Review the procedures for legal interviewing -- the questions that can be asked and those that cannot.
  • Plan how you will conduct reference checking and commission any background checks.
  • Obtain a copy of the benefits booklet for the organization as prospective hires will want to see this.
  • Determine who will draft the offer letter. Don't lose two weeks and perhaps a good candidate by saving this for the last minute.