Kittleman & Assoicates

Consider These Recommendations

Over the years, search committees have asked us to share our knowledge about what makes for a successful search. Here is what we know, why we know it and why it is going to save you time during your search.


Who should be represented on the Search Committee?

What’s the right size for a Search Committee?

Should staff be represented on the Search Committee?

How long does a search for the top leader generally take?

How much time will be expected of Committee members?

How would you describe the responsibilities of the Search Committee Chair?

Should the Board Chair also serve as the Search Committee Chair?

Would it make sense to appoint an interim leader until we find the permanent one?

If we hire a firm but we find a candidate on our own, do we still owe a fee?

What if the candidate selected doesn’t turn out to be the right fit and we part ways?

What if we don’t like any of the candidates you find for us?

Is it typical to reimburse the travel expenses of candidates whom we select for an interview?


Who should be represented on the Search Committee?

The selection of a chief executive officer is one of the most important decisions the Board will ever make. Thus, it makes sense to populate the Committee with current board members who are the most attentive to and knowledgeable of the work of the organization. Some search committees have included a former board member, like the immediate past president of the Board, or a key stakeholder, like a donor or a close advisor. Remember, you are trying to assess and vet candidates but you are also trying to attract a leader. So you want to put your best organizational foot forward with Committee members who are the most informed, engaged and passionate about organization and their role as a member of the Committee.

What’s the right size for a Search Committee?

The ideal Search Committee is comprised of either 5 or 7 members. The larger the Committee, the more difficult it will be to organize meetings, conduct candidate interviews and hold discussions with everyone around the table. With larger Committees, there is also a tendency to drift from the original timeframe as you try to accommodate the schedules of busy people. Efforts to be inclusive and not leave anyone out of the process inevitably protracts the search and this can often lead to the frustration of other Committee members.

Should staff be represented on the Search Committee?

Typically, staff does not have a place at the Committee table. But, staff can and should participate at critical points. Input from staff is best received at the beginning of the search so that the Committee can consider those viewpoints in shaping the candidate requirements and qualifications for the position. Often the Committee will offer an opportunity for senior staff to meet the finalist(s) toward the end of the search. Even then, it is typical for the finalist to lead a discussion with staff rather than staff interviewing the finalist. From the candidates’ standpoint, answering (and asking) questions from the Committee about staffing and staff issues during an interview, in an open and honest way, is best done without staff in the room.

How long does a search for the top leader generally take?

Typically, a full search takes 4-5 months, from the time you launch a search until you have an acceptance of your offer from your final candidate. It is likely that the final candidate will want to give at least 30 days prior notice to his or her current employer. In some cases, this notice period might even be longer. So you will need to factor that into your timeline.

How much time will be expected of Committee members?

A reasonable and conservative estimate would be approximately 25-30 hours spread out over the course of the search. Like other ad hoc committees, the Search Committee is organized and charged with one major purpose or goal, around which certain activities are planned in advance and implemented over a relatively short period of time. When the purpose or goal has been met, the committee dissolves. With that in mind, a Search Committee member should be prepared to clear his or her calendar at attend to Committee work as scheduled. It is important to set the expectation that Committee members are to personally participate in every key milestone of the search process.

How would you describe the responsibilities of the Search Committee Chair?

The Chair of the Committee is the key to a successful process and her or his responsibilities can be summed up in three phrases: Devotion of Time, Commitment to Process and Exertion of Leadership. It is the Chair who is responsible for calling meetings, making sure each member of the Committee is engaged, and facilitating dialogue and consensus among all members. The Chair should obviously have a thorough understanding of the organization and be a person who can keep things moving, even if it means facilitating Committee decisions in the absence of unanimity. This person should enjoy the respect and trust of the Committee members because there may be times when the best interests of the organization are subject to various interpretations. An effective Chair will have the ability to inspire preparation, diligence and involvement among all Committee members in pursuing the ultimate purpose of its work: to recommend an outstanding leader to the Board.

Should the Board Chair also serve as the Search Committee Chair?

No. However, it is important that the Board Chair serve as a member of the Committee. Like any other ad hoc committee, subcommittee or task force that the Chair establishes, seldom does he or she appoint herself or himself as the Chair.

Would it make sense to appoint an interim leader until we find the permanent one?

If your leadership transition is an unplanned and sudden event, the appointment of an interim may be advisable since it may be 6 months or longer until you have a new leader on board. A leadership transition is always an anxious time the Board and staff, even when it is a planned event, so an effective interim leader with the right skills can reduce some of that tension. Some boards identify a current senior staff member to fill this role. Others hire someone outside of the organization. There are advantages and disadvantages of both so you should carefully examine your situation and make your own decision.

If we hire a firm but we find a candidate on our own, do we still owe a fee?

Yes. Kittleman is a retained search firm not a contingency firm. In the retained firm industry, it is standard practice that any candidate presented, regardless of the source of referral or when the identification of the candidate was made, becomes part of the search process. This also applies to candidates that might have been identified before the search firm is engaged.

What if the candidate selected doesn’t turn out to be the right fit and we part ways?

Most search firms provide a guarantee of placement which means that if the candidate you selected is no longer employed by the organization at a certain point in time, the firm will conduct a replacement search and not charge a full fee. The guarantee period varies throughout the industry. Kittleman provides one of the longest guarantee periods in the industry.

What if we don’t like any of the candidates you find for us?

We go back to the market and identify additional candidates for your review and evaluation. Kittleman’s goal is to find the right candidates for the organization and that drives everything we do. We don’t stop until you have hired your next leader!

Is it typical to reimburse the travel expenses of candidates whom we select for an interview?

Yes. Thus, the cost of search services should include a budget for such expenses. We can advise you on this.

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