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Why CEO Searches Take 6 Months to Complete

Posted by Bob Corlett on September 22, 2017

In a typical CEO or Executive Director search, the hiring process can take 4-8 months. But just where does all that (elapsed) time go? 

Candidly, some of it occurs before we even know there is a search need. It's not uncommon for a committee to devote a month or two solely to the search firm selection process.  But once Staffing Advisors has been retained to run a search, the largest driver of the search timeline is scheduling.

As you can see from the chart below, almost 60% of the elapsed time (time from start to finish) on a typical search is spent on extending simple courtesies to both the candidates and the search committee members. For example: If we are asking for a few hours of time from busy search committee members to review a document, we often give them a week or so to complete the task (unless we have previously agreed to handle that task at a scheduled time.) Similarly, it can take a week or two to find a suitable time and location for a search committee meeting. And the larger the committee, the longer the delays.

Elements of Executive Search Timeline - 9.15.17.jpg

Of course, unlike search committee members, candidates are not pre-identified prior to a search beginning, and therefore cannot be prescheduled months in advance like search committee meetings. Consequently, the number of days lost to candidate scheduling is often larger than days lost in scheduling committee work. When you add it all up, all of those necessary scheduling courtesies consume almost two thirds of the total days required for an executive search. By contrast, the work days needed by the search committee are only 5-10% of the entire search timeline. (Our intensive work on the search only requires about 30% of the total days in a search.) 

As a point of comparison, senior staff searches are literally three times faster than CEO searches. It's so predictable, we actually plot it all out on a project plan on the very first week of the search. (Hiring is like any other task; the faster and more predictable it becomes, the less it costs.) When we are working directly with a single hiring manager (and not a committee) helping to fill positions at the VP or Director level, the total elapsed time needed for scheduling courtesies is less than a week for our clients, and less than 3 weeks for the candidates.

 

Hopefully you found this post useful. If you did, you are welcome to learn more about the executive search and hiring process in our Resource Center. 

Topics: Search Committee, Association Management, Nonprofit Management, Executive Search, CEO search