MB Connection

Characteristics of an Efficient Search Committee Chair

January 2023

So, you think you can be a super search committee chair?  Most of the focus of a nonprofit executive search often surrounds the outcome – successfully closing the search with the perfect candidate for the role.  However, the search process is just as important as the result and a successful search starts with a cohesive Search Committee guided by a strong leader.  Below are the ideal qualities of one of the most important roles in a nonprofit executive search, a Search Committee Chair:

  • Communicator: As the main contact for the executive search firm, and a liaison to the Board, the Search Committee Chair needs to communicate clearly and effectively with all parties involved.  What are the expectations?  What is the anticipated timeline?  When and what information needs to be shared with the staff, those board members not on the Search Committee, candidates, or any external partners?   Distrust arises when people don’t know what is going on, so a good Chair will work with the search firm to ensure that milestones are communicated, and expectations are clear at the onset.
  • Listener: A good Search Committee Chair must be someone open to all voices and opinions, even those they may disagree with; this is essential when working with both the search firm and other members of the committee.  Group members must feel free to share their thoughts and unique perspectives during a search and the search firm should also feel trusted to share their advice.  A good Search Committee Chair will be able to foster a safe space for open discussion on the organization’s needs, challenges, and opportunities for improvement.  
  • Consensus Builder:  An effective Search Committee Chair will not only be able to encourage others to share their opinions, but they will also know when it is time to move the debate forward and make decisions.  While it is important that all voices feel heard, the Chair’s role is to gather the information and help the group come to a consensus on the next steps. 
  • Confidant: Confidentiality during a search process is paramount.  The Search Committee, led by the example of the Chair, needs to keep sensitive information such as candidate names and places of employment confidential.  A good Chair will ensure that conversations happen during Search Committee meetings and will discourage offline discussion.  Outing a candidate can jeopardize the integrity of the search, cause candidates to withdraw, or worse, lead to legal action.  
  • Manager: Being Chair of the Search Committee is a huge job and time commitment.  The Chair should understand from the start that they will be expected to respond to emails in a timely manner, be present at all meetings, and ensure that meetings are well run and timely.     

While being Search Committee Chair may seem like a daunting task, a successful search is a team effort and your executive search partner will be there to guide you through the process to ensure a positive outcome for all.