Hiring a new executive director or other senior position? Most nonprofits assume it will be some work, but within their board/staff’s skills. They believe they just have to follow some basics steps:
- create a job description
- post it on the major sites
- screen the candidates
- interview the best
- hire your dream choice.
Then, Bob’s your uncle (read: you’re all set). Of course, if it were that easy, there would be no need for executive recruiters like Mersky, Jaffe & Associates.
There are many honed skills in the executive search process, but one in particular is much harder to avoid if you are hiring someone to work with your staff and board. The problem is that we, as human beings, are unintentionally biased, thanks to a phenomenon called homophily. Homophily, literally makes us genetically predisposed to hire the wrong candidate. Of course, they seem like the perfect candidate at the time.
Homophily is defined as our tendency to surround ourselves with people who are like us. The phrase, “birds of a feather flock together,” is no coincidence. We look towards those who look, act and react in the same way as we do. And that explains some of the historical lack of diversity at both for-profit and nonprofit organizations. White males were the majority of the workforce in America for centuries. They then, in turn, have hired other white males. They may have interviewed and truly valued the skills of women and people of color, but they unconsciously thought the white candidates were better.
Unless your nonprofit has unlimited resources, hiring someone who is similar to current staff is wasteful. Those comparable skills may provide (unconsciously) confidence in the decision to the board member or staff doing the hiring. But, that doesn’t make the person the best hire. It simply makes that candidate the one that feels as if they would fit the best.
The best candidate will almost always be the candidate with completely different, yet complementary skills. Hooray for diversity!
So how do you ensure you don’t hire the wrong executive search candidate? Hire Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. Or, take an assessment of your staff’s current skill sets and determine what really needs to be the priority in the new hire. The more conscious you are about the reason a person is appealing to you, the less likely you will unconsciously hire the wrong person. And, hopefully reduce costly turnover at your nonprofit.
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