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Don's Corner

The “Hire” Calling

Board members should make the CEO selection process a team effort.

The most important work a camp or conference board will ever do is selecting an executive director or CEO for the ministry-the board’s only true employee. A good selection process includes several phases. The amount of attention the board gives to preparing for the search process determines the result. Candidates need to have a good understanding of the current ministry, the vision, and core values of the organization-including a self-assessment of the organization through a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis.

Good search preparation also addresses transition issues: Why is the current director leaving? Are there any unresolved issues? What is the timing for the new start? These are the kinds of questions staff, donors, and others will ask, and the board needs to have accurate, timely answers.

To begin the search process, a well-written position description should be developed. It outlines the necessary-and desirable-qualifications for the position, as well as specific job responsibilities. A search committee must be established, consisting primarily of board members, with one or two additional individuals with passion for and significant involvement in the ministry-perhaps past board members, past staff members, or pastors from a supporting denomination or church.

Clear, comprehensive communication about the search process benefits everyone: potential candidates, people referring candidates to the board, the staff, and the entire board. The board must decide if it will ask any of the current staff to consider running. Will you accept unsolicited applications from the camp’s or conference’s current staff, or are you seeking an external candidate? Must the candidate be from a specific denomination?

After you decide who is eligible to be a candidate, you begin to collect résumés through letters of referral, calls to other camping leaders, and advertising. Review these résumés thoroughly and narrow the field to three or four candidates. Let the candidates know they are being seriously considered and let all other applicants know that they’re no longer “in the running.” Conduct reference checks, some type of personality and leadership-style testing, and an initial interview.

Reference checks are perhaps the most critical, and sometimes the most sensitive part of the search process. A thorough reference process goes two or three layers deep as you ask the candidates’ references for additional people to contact. Network with other camping leaders regarding your shortlist of potential candidates. Remember that a telephone interview will always produce better results than a written form.

From your reference checks, testing, and initial interview, select two to three finalists for a second interview. These finalists should be 90 percent committed to a “Yes!” (if offered the position) before the second meeting. This ensures that the interest is mutual between the camp or conference and the candidate. If the salary range and benefits were not outlined previously, they should be brought up at this point to make sure that the organization and the candidate are reasonably close in their compensation expectations.

During this second interview phase, keep two key ingredients in mind: First, the location. Whether or not the interview takes place at your camp or conference, it certainly needs to include a tour of the facility and be conducted in a warm, relaxed atmosphere. Second, the interview should be part of a weekend visit of at least two days, and include tours of the community and the opportunity for individuals to host the couple or individual for a meal. These additional eyes and perceptions can be extremely helpful in reaching a decision.

Once the final candidate is chosen and the salary and benefits are finalized and agreed upon, inform the other candidates that the position has been filled. It is imperative to stay in touch with the candidate (new CEO) and let them know how important their arrival is to the board and ministry. After they arrive, host a reception for the new director and his or her family as a way of saying welcome (with the understanding that a proper event has been held for the departing executive director).

Finding a qualified executive director is hard work, but boards that do it well have the blessing of seeing their work benefit the organization for years into the future.

Call for the Question:

  • Does your board have a long-range plan, vision statement, and core values that will attract top candidates?
  • If you do not have board members with search-committee experience, do you plan to recruit them?
  • Are your policies regarding salary, benefits, housing, and company vehicles outdated and ambiguous?

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