How to select a Search Committee Chair

The correct Search Committee Chairman is vital to the ultimate success of the search; they keep everyone and everything moving forward by leading the process and guiding decisions.

In the final analysis the search chair is the one who convinces the candidate there is a fit, articulates why the backgrounds/skills/opportunities/challenges align, and explains why there is wealth to be made.

The Chair must make certain everyone on the committee is heard without letting the dissenters and detractors run away with the group. Their challenge is to gain consensus from the group, remembering that you can’t always please everyone all the time.Selecting a Chair

The Search Committee should appoint a Chair at its first meeting.  Who should you choose?  While evaluating the potential Chair, it will become apparent who has the relevant experience, time and interest to invest in the project. It is highly recommended that the be an outside Board member who can remain detached from the internal politics of the organization.

The Chair is responsible for leading open discussions, promoting honest communications, as well as gaining member commitment and consensus to achieve the goal of bringing new talent and expertise to an organization. More challenging and equally important, the Chair must be able to develop personal relationships with the candidates.  This will become critical in the closing process

[more about this later].  Above all, the Chair needs to be extremely accessible and proactive in the pursuit of candidates throughout the entire search process.

Success Factors

A successful search is dependent on a myriad of variables.  The Chair needs to insure the following basic components are in place before the search begins:

  • A detailed process;
  • Realistic expectations clearly defined;
  • A concise and descriptive time-line;
  • A competency based profile of the ideal candidate;
  • A disciplined recruiting strategy;
  • Talent acquisition sources; and
  • A disciplined interview and final selection process.

The Chair should also appoint an internal coordinator to work with the committee. Your coordinator is responsible for managing the calendars of the participant’s, interview logistics and feedback loops; on a day-to-day basis they ensure that all elements of the search process remain on track. They are also the central repository of all documentation for the company.  I’ve found that your most trusted executive assistant works best for everyone because they likely already have a working relationship with the board members.

Duties of the Search Committee Chair

The following are the directed responsibilities of the Chairman and can not be delegated or ignored:

  • Create and manage an appropriate timeline;
  • Select a search firm and hire the Executive Search Professional [if appropriate];
  • Negotiate terms and fees with the search firm;
  • Serve as the “voice” for the Search Committee in the creation of position profiles;
  • Drive the process with the search firm; [critical if you want to achieve a hire in an ideal time-frame]
  • Manage information flow between the Search Committee and the Board;
  • Help the search firm gather data about recommended candidates from all Board members and “friends” of the company;
  • Evaluate and manage any internal candidates with the ESP;
  • Create an internal and external message regarding the search and manage the release of such information at the appropriate time;
  • Build an emotional link between the right candidate and the opportunity (this is absolutely crucial);
  • Drive the creation, development and presentation of the appropriate offer;
  • Be personally involved in checking references, ensuring due diligence, negotiating the offer, and closing the candidate; and
  • Play “good cop” if and when the Consultant needs to step aside in the negotiation phase.

This last point is critical – especially for funded ventures.  Cap structures are often complex and it’s hard for a newcomer to anticipate how much additional funding will be required and in how many tranches.  Only the search committee chairperson can see and tell this story.