Starting a Board-Led Search? Here’s How to Make the Right Choice

For a lot of companies and positions, the process to search for new hires is simple — the interviews and final selections are handled by a hiring manager, or by a hiring manager and one or two other people.

This kind of search works well for lower-level hires. However, when you’re hiring someone higher up in the company, like an executive, it’s usually a good idea to have multiple people participate in the process.

That’s where the board of directors comes in. When hiring for important positions, many companies put the board of directors in charge. As you might imagine, getting all of these people together for the hiring process can be quite an undertaking. Here are a few tips for conducting a successful board-led talent search.

Put Careful Thought Into Your Selection Committee

You might think that for a board-led search, the selection committee would be made up of the board of directors — and only the board. That’s one way to do it. But if you want to go to every length to ensure you’re picking the right person for the job, consider putting together a selection committee that accurately represents who your company serves. 

In addition to board members, consider adding to your search committee some people in these roles:

  • Company Executives
  • Staff Members
  • Shareholders
  • Stakeholders

The committee you have might be diverse already. If it’s not, consider including people of different ages, races, sexual orientations, genders, etc. When a diverse group of people can agree on one candidate, it’s an indicator that the candidate will be well-liked at the company.

Consider Committee Size and Engagement

Having a diverse selection committee is important. However, you also need to make sure the committee you choose is a manageable size. If you assemble a group of 20 people, coordinating their schedules for committee meetings — and ensuring everyone gets a voice in the hiring decision — is sure to turn into a nightmare. Often, selection committees of three to eight people are successful.

You should also make sure that each person will be equally engaged. For example, suppose that you have a selection committee of eight people. The committee meets three times every week, but two members can only be there once per week.

This kind of schedule is likely to cause a problem. When your board needs to choose an employee, every member of the selection committee must be on the same page.

Plan How You’ll Fairly Evaluate Candidates

Whether your selection committee is made up of your entire board or just a few people, those people are on the selection committee because you value their input. However, as you’ve likely observed, many group discussions end up being dominated by one or two voices. 

In a selection committee situation, other committee members may bend to these people’s wishes, effectively creating a “groupthink” scenario. When this happens, your candidate is effectively being chosen by one or two people — not the committee as a whole. 

To stop that from happening, your committee must decide how to evaluate candidates fairly. One especially effective strategy is to create detailed feedback/evaluation forms. For every candidate interviewed, committee members must fill out a form. They do this in private so other members’ opinions don’t influence their answers.

At the next committee meeting, members then bring in their forms. The selection committee can look closely at these forms to identify trends and get a sense of the committee’s overall view of each candidate.

If you want to make things even more efficient, have committee members fill out online forms using software that can automatically aggregate and graph data. That way, you can get an overview of the committee’s opinion of each candidate in seconds.

That being said, you shouldn’t treat the answers on these evaluation forms as a final vote. The idea is to use them as fodder for a group discussion while ensuring each committee member’s actual views on each candidate are represented.

Outline the Decision-Making Process

Before you embark on your hiring journey, your committee will need to decide what the process looks like for candidates. Make sure to plan out rounds of interviews, skills assessments, etc. If you want to fairly assess the candidates against one another, you need to make sure the selection process is standardized.

Most people organizing selection committees understand the importance of standardizing the process for candidates. However, not all of them take the other crucial step — outlining the expectations for committee members. Essentially, this means talking to your selection committee and clarifying how members will participate in each step of the screening process.

Are you going to require every committee member to be present for every interview? Or will you split into smaller sub-committees in the early stages? How do you decide which candidates move on to the next step? If the selection committee does not include every member of the board, will the board members need to interview candidates before they vote?

Some companies make this step easy — they outline how the interview process should go in their bylaws. If yours does not, it’s worth sitting down with the rest of the board and outlining each step of the process. Make sure each person understands their role. In order to get the full benefit of the diverse perspectives of your committee members, do your best to ensure each person has an approximately equal role.

Quality Searches for Quality Candidates

You undoubtedly want to make the best choice possible when it comes to hiring. If you’re starting a board-led search for an executive or another high-level employee, keep in mind that choosing a quality candidate starts with a quality search. 

When you create a strong search committee, ensure its members are equally engaged, and have a clear process for evaluating candidates and making decisions, you’ll be much more likely to find the right person for the job.