Conducting CEO Searches During the COVID-19 Era

The resolve of all Americans to end the coronavirus outbreak is without precedent. We will conquer it, although it will take some time. Many nonprofit organizations across the country have demonstrated extraordinary steadfastness and adaptive innovation during this unparalleled time to ensure that their mission remains strong. Great leaders do that. And the need for organizations to turn to top leadership for critical thinking, creative problem-solving and passionate tenacity has never been greater.

Kittleman continues to conduct successful CEO searches. We have used our own critical thinking and problem-solving skills to adapt the” usual” recruitment process to fit the current environment. This new approach embraces the most critical recruitment techniques while observing social distancing and related restrictions currently in place. Please see below for more insights on questions we’ve received about conducting searches during COVID-19 and please contact us for further information.

Frequently Asked Questions about Executive Search During COVID-19

How have organizations modified their search process to manage social distancing while also carefully evaluating candidates?

We’ve been working with organizations based on a number of factors unique to their circumstances to develop a custom approach to recruitment and interviews that is both respectful of the need for in-depth interaction as well as the restrictions due to social distancing. This has obviously required more utilization of virtual interviews to evaluate the candidates, but we have worked with some Search Committees to outline creative solutions that offer personal interaction between the candidate and the leadership of the organization. Some organizations have opted to make the decision based on the virtual interactions they have had with the candidates. Every search is different, and our efforts would be tailored to the specific requirements of your organization, the Search Committee and the candidates.

Are quality candidates looking for new opportunities given the uncertainty of the public health environment and the economic impact of COVID-19?

Generally speaking, yes. The leaders we are engaging are often weighing two competing thoughts. On one hand, they understand the impact of their departure on their current organization and may have hesitancy considering a new role. On the other, many great leaders understand the opportunity to transform an organization as a result of this challenging moment. While not every leader is welcoming of this approach, many are and are excited about the opportunity to leverage their skills in a different way as the organization adapts to new business models and new needs in the coming years of this “new normal”. We continue to have success in national recruitment and for the most part, candidates are not discouraged about the prospect of an out-of-state move.

Given the implications of this crisis, what can we expect candidates will ask of us as we move through the process?

Candidates are asking most about two important topics: 1) how is the organization managing through the crisis (financially, operationally, culturally)?, and 2) what planning is happening now to prepare the organization for the future? All of the leaders we are engaging feel it is important to get a very detailed understanding of the current financial situation of the organization including a review of current operating statements, balance sheets, and other key financial data (i.e. investments, endowment). Additionally, leaders are curious to understand any planning or changes the organization is making to prepare for its future in this unstable environment.

Are there specific resources you offer to us that will help us get comfortable utilizing technology, including video, to proceed with this process?

Yes. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, we have utilized video interviewing with candidates for our own internal vetting, as well as some candidate interviews and other strategic and planning meetings with the Search Committee. Having experienced the differences between a video vs. an in-person interview, we work with the Committee to offer not only structure to the process, but also helpful resources to better interact with candidates and create an “environment” that is conducive to intimate and engaging conversation with CEO candidates. We also ensure the technology is functional for all Committee Members as well as the candidates, and we can assist in any tutorials based on a variety of virtual platforms (i.e. Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc.) to ensure the Search Committee is able to focus their attention on the evaluation of the candidates as opposed to the technology facilitating the interview.

Beyond the specific questions related to COVID-19, are there important things we should consider as we contemplate our search process?

Yes. Our Frequently Asked Questions page has additional information that many Boards have found useful as they consider the initial stages of their search process.