Charity chief executive recruitment: getting things right

Executive recruitment is fraught with challenges and is rarely a perfect process.

Assuming that you get the right people to apply, an interview situation will not always give robust insight into their style, competencies, resilience and reliability.

When recruiting at senior executive level, these risks increase and getting it wrong can be very damaging. A charity’s chief executive must make a positive influence on the Board of Trustees and important staff roles.

Choose your charity CEO recruitment approach

You may feel that you have a proposition that when advertised or networked through your contacts will attract a good field of candidates.

If you decide not to use a recruitment partner, make sure that you are using advertising and digital media. Ensure that you reach the best prospective candidates and that the story you’re communicating to candidates is attractive, engaging and able to reach people who are not actively job seeking.

Did you know that 9/10 potential candidates for most roles are not seeking a new job but would consider a proposition put to them?

If you do opt to partner with a recruitment specialist, do your research. Invite some consultants in to discuss the vacancy and listen to their approach and track record. Test them. Find the one that fits closest with your culture and can accommodate financial constraints where possible but without losing quality.

Ask for references from your peers. It is not about the brand they work for; it is about the consultant you work with. Will they be proactive and work hard for you? Do they understand your organisation and share your values?

Five steps to recruiting the right chief executive

1. Gain commitment of other stakeholders

From a recruiter’s perspective, our most challenging clients are the ones who don’t understand how important it is to engage other decision makers from the very beginning.

Lock down dates and ensure that all people involved in candidate assessments have the opportunity to share their views on the role before the process begins and during the briefing process with recruitment consultants.

Introducing people at a late stage of the process, without being aligned and informed appropriately to the brief, creates a significant risk and the potential for disruption.

A solid briefing process will allow your Board of Trustees, HR team or recruitment specialist to understand the context of the role. And, if necessary, re-align decision makers at the start of a process, thus avoiding issues down the line.

2. Be honest

Candidates will appreciate honesty. It will make your role stand out in a competitive job market for employers.

Highlight some of the challenges you have faced, or why you need the expertise of this person in your organisation. This will attract the right people.

3. Being personable matters

Include a welcome letter from you or your board chair along with a picture alongside the information you send.

Speak directly to candidates about the role and how the opportunity brings it all to life and adds personality to your organisation.

4. Be organised, map it out

You’re almost ready to go, but don’t forget to map out timescales for the recruitment.

Not just closing dates, but also the interviews. The diaries of trustees and senior stakeholders are difficult to pin down, so do it at the very beginning to avoid issues.

This applies to candidates as well. This is a competitive marketplace and you’re likely to be dealing with senior people already in jobs (or often challenging diaries in the case of trustees applying for a voluntary role).

Map out timescales and processes: who is on the interview panel, is there a presentation, will candidates meet members of the team etc.

This reduces the risk of you losing the best applicants during a process and increases engagement.

5. Make yourself available

Your diary will be busy, but ensure you and your board are totally engaged with the process throughout.

Agree to an informal conversation with suitable candidates when they are considering whether to apply.

It may be that they’re going for other jobs at the same time as yours. Take twenty minutes out to have an informal chat and that can be enough to sway them towards you. Go the extra mile to level the playing field.

Looking for your next charity CEO?

At Peridot, we have helped recruit many high-level executive appointments and are proud of the work we do in finding the right leaders to take organisations to the next level.

For executive and board recruitment or board development services contact Grant Taylor |

Executive recruitment contact Philippa Fabry |