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Debunking Recruitment and Executive Search Misconceptions

By April 16, 2024No Comments
smiling new hires in an article about recruiting and executive search myths

Whether your organization employs less than ten people or you are in charge of hundreds, you are keenly aware of the importance of having a cohesive and talented team. Teams made up of dedicated professionals and leaders are able to take on the myriad challenges that every nonprofit faces, while teams which experience lots of churn, instability, and which lack experience limit their organization’s capabilities. This make-or-break relationship is why so much effort is spent analyzing hiring, rethinking recruiting best practices, checking in on team happiness and job satisfaction, and so on. The global value of the recruitment industry sits at $868 billion and will grow even more in the coming years.

Even if you’re happy with your current team and aren’t actively recruiting, it’s worth thinking through your potential recruitment pipeline and the network of candidates you can draw from. This is especially the case for executive search and recruitment, which can have outsized impacts on the continuity of your organization and priorities. There are a lot of mistakes and falsehoods about recruiting which are part of what makes it a large and growing point of emphasis for HR professionals. You should consider the extent to which you might be guilty of these recruiting myths:

Recruits only care about how much they are getting paid

Many nonprofit leaders can think themselves into a state of deep worry when considering how their wages and benefits package stands up to the competition. However, overthinking the centrality of wages and benefits can cost you an opportunity to highlight the many good things your organization can offer which can’t be achieved through high wages alone. A good way to assuage these worries is to speak with your current team members about what they like about the organization and about their work.

While it is true that wages are critical to many people and this may put some recruits out of reach, it’s better to think of this as an effective filtering mechanism rather than a limitation. If you focus your recruiting on pitching your organization’s mission, values, high employee satisfaction, and other key points, you’ll develop a pipeline of people who are interested in these qualities rather than just remuneration. This is a better long-term strategy as well; recruiting people who believe in your mission and values and are willing to make a little less will make it much more likely that they will become long-term employees.

You can recruit executives the same way you recruit other staff

executive headshot in an article about recruiting and executive search mythsOn a basic level this could be true — a referral can help you find both a new intern and a new CFO, for example — but in a broader sense this just isn’t the case. Hiring executives has a lot more organizational impact, both on the culture and on the conduct of the organization. Which executive roles you hire and who you hire for them has a massive symbolic weight, communicating priorities to your team and hinting at organizational direction and priorities.

Whether you choose to use a professional executive search firm or to handle recruiting internally, it is critical that you think deeply about how you communicate about your executive search. Both internal and external messaging will need to be consistent and head off any worries that your team members, donors, volunteers, or clients might have. You also need to examine what qualities you feel an executive needs to lead this organization effectively. Whether you use an executive search firm or your own network, having a clear idea of what leadership style your team admires and responds to and what qualities might create tension or worry will help you identify those candidates ideally suited to assume an executive role.

Speed is essential to find the best hires

When you’re recruiting, even for highly important executive roles, it’s important that you maintain good communication with potential hires as they move through the process, and that you are respectful of their time and the fact that they are likely ready to move faster than you are. However, it’s also important that you not prioritize speed above all else. Because the incentives in the private sector are different, there is more of a willingness to embrace a “hire fast, fire fast” approach to recruiting, but this methodology can often be counterproductive, creating cycles of onboarding and then rehiring that can last longer than even the most prolonged recruitment cycle.

Similar to the wage considerations, having a longer recruitment process which gives your team ample time to sort out the best fit can be a highly effective filtering mechanism, giving you a smaller pool of highly committed candidates. Should you choose to move slower, it’s important to let anyone you are recruiting know about the timing of the process so they are free to decide whether they want to continue or not.

It’s best to pick one style of hiring and stick to it

A common mistake committed by many organizations is to pick one method of recruitment and consider your work done, whether the method be using recruiters, hiring through a job board, or relying on your personal network. While this approach can appear simple, it can actually make the recruiting process much more complicated, as it leaves you with little recourse when your approach doesn’t deliver candidates. Additionally, it can lead to your organization operating with certain biases built into your hiring, particularly if you are reliant on referrals and networking.

Although it is more work, diversifying your methods, building contacts with recruiters while using a job board and augmenting your network will maximize the potential hiring pool you draw from. Additionally, having all of these tools available will allow you to adapt to each new hire, as some roles may require a heavier investment in professional recruitment while others are best handled via networking.


For more than 40 years, 501(c) Services has been a leader in offering solutions for unemployment costs, claims management, and HR support to nonprofit organizations. Two of our most popular programs are the 501(c) Agencies Trust and 501(c) HR Services. We understand the importance of compliance and accuracy and are committed to providing our clients with customized plans that fit their needs.

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The information contained in this article is not a substitute for legal advice or counsel and has been pulled from multiple sources.


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