Recruiting amazing students' union chief executives - an amazing year

The last year has been incredibly busy at Peridot. Since June 2018, I’ve worked with 10 incredible Students’ Unions to recruit their new CEOs. This works out at just under 10% of all Higher Education SUs.

We have supported SUs of all sizes from c£300k income to some of the largest with £10m+ turnover. The support we have provided has seen us work in partnership with English, Welsh and Scottish SUs (Student Associations for Scotland) and meet inspiring, transformational people passionate about the student movement and how it makes a difference.

We’ve also brought new people into the sector – out of the 10 appointments, three of our newly placed CEOs hadn’t worked in students’ unions before but were able to demonstrate clear transferable skills and experience.

We supported four candidates to make the transition to their first chief executive role, making a step up to lead and being confident in their ability to take SU staff and trustees with them as new leaders.

Students' Union CEO Recruitment

Students' Union CEO Recruitment - Peridot impact

Working with these organisations, and using my experience as a Sabbatical Officer and now Lay Trustee at Wolverhampton SU, I’ve listed some observations and feedback to help you recruit senior leadership for your students’ union.

Top tip: Recruiting SU chief executives directly

Be honest about your challenges.

The SUs that articulated their challenges the clearest saw the strongest fields of candidates produced. When we have interacted with candidates, discussing the challenges that the SU has faced, how it’s looking to address them, and what they could do as CEO has been a powerful driver for recruitment.

It’s also helped to discourage those who are not up for the challenge, saving the SU problems later down the line.

“I worked with Peridot to recruit our next CEO. Right from having their proposal for how they could support the Union, they were engaging and supportive.  The process can be difficult at times when you’re nervous about making such a huge decision for the Union but Bill and Drew both made sure we understood all aspects of the recruitment, offered us support and advice whenever we needed it and delivered an excellent candidate that will support the development of our next strategy.”

Catherine O'Boyle, Education Officer, University of Nottingham Students' Union

Top tip: Looking to be a Students’ Union CEO?

Be proactive.

There were candidates that reached interview stage having submitted an application with no engagement with us or the SU. However every single candidate who was appointed had interacted with us during the recruitment campaign – they wanted to know more, they seemed generally interested in the process.

Many of the appointed candidates had submitted draft applications for feedback and had asked for a tour of the SU before the closing date.

They also embraced our feedback between interview stages. The additional information/context that candidates had gained from conducting their own research and investing time in the process clearly enabled them to produce better applications and better responses at interview.

“Going through a recruitment process is generally speaking, a stressful and uncertain experience.

Peridot (Bill in particular) however, made the whole process straight forward, clear and actually a pleasure to be a part of. No question was left unanswered, Bill was very easy to talk to and went above and beyond, speaking to me at times outside 9-5 when commitments in my current role meant I was unavailable during the day.”

Sarah Ellis, appointed as CEO, Keele SU

Want to recruit inspirational leaders for your SU?

This year, we didn’t just recruit Students’ Union CEOs, we also helped support Sabbatical Officers and CEOs to recruit SU Trustees and senior managers.

If you think we could help you recruit a brilliant, forward thinking Students’ Union CEO, Trustee or senior manager then I’d love to arrange a coffee or an informal chat and see how we can help.

Find out more and drop me an email: bill@peridotpartners.co.uk