[When Recruiting] Begin with “What” NOT “Who”

Dec. 15, 2017

David Edell

At the beginning of almost every search, we at DRG Search often hear, an executive or search committee leader say, “we need someone who…”

The client usually continues with a list of the things that the outgoing executive did not do well (or did not do) and suggests that excellence in those areas will be the most important qualifications for the new executive.

This approach misses two critical opportunities and severely limits the organization’s recruitment efforts.  First, every transition provides an opportunity for self-reflection and critical evaluation.  This is a moment to review what is working and what’s not working, reasons behind it and who are the people responsible for those outcomes.  Organizations should do this mini SWAT analysis and review their resources, (staff, finances, board, reputation), challenges (staff, finances, board, reputation) and opportunitiesAn honest presentation of this review is often much more effective in attracting serious candidates than postings filled with adjectives about the position.

When you begin with WHO as the main question you don’t consider WHAT you want someone to do and accomplish in the position or how success will be defined   for that role.

WHAT needs fixing?  WHAT needs to be significantly expanded?  WHAT are new initiatives? How will you measure success?

When clients say we need someone who will “get us to our next phase” they need to define what that means and how they will measure success.

Two things happen in recruiting when you begin with the question WHAT. First, the qualifications for WHO (the person) change as you focus on the skills and experience required to succeed in achieving those specific goals.  Second, you might be able to consider a broader range of places where you might find candidates with relevant experience, therefore expanding your outreach and potentially your pool of candidates.

In recruiting professionals at any level, we advise our clients to always begin with evaluating WHAT they want the new executive to do.  That will help them to identify WHO the best candidates will be to accomplish those specific tasks and “get them to their next level”.