Workshop: Personal trainer

I am a chairman. We are appointing a chief executive. My staff team has suggested they should be involved. What do you think?

Oh goodness! Are you running a collective? The next thing they will be doing is suggesting a workers' council and electing their boss.

No, staff should not be involved in the selection of a chief executive.

This is the job of the chair and the selected group of trustees you have appointed to handle the recruitment process.

You need to be rigorous in your approach and ask what purpose staff involvement serves. You are certainly choosing a chief executive who can lead the staff group, but the job is clearly much wider than that. Leadership of staff can often mean making hard decisions. Being able to take disciplinary action and handle redundancies can be a painful process, and you need someone with a strong hand. Would the staff have that focus?

Involving the staff could well send false signals. How would you manage the process - a beauty parade, small group interviews? How would you handle the feedback and take account of this in the process?

I am certainly in favour of candidates having the opportunity to come into the office to look around. At this point, giving the candidate an opportunity to greet individuals may well be useful. However, you would need to ensure a consistency of approach across the candidates.

I support the idea of a rigorous process that involves more than just the straightforward 45-minute interview with the panel. A written presentation (ask candidates to prepare it beforehand) or a presentation made to you on the day at the start of the formal interview is a good idea. Psychometric testing? I am not sure that this adds significantly to the process, and it certainly is very costly.

It is important that all candidates are given an opportunity to find out as much as they can about the organisation. I favour a one-to-one interview before the actual interview so that you can discuss issues less formally.

This is the most important appointment you will make. Get the right chief executive and they drive the organisation forward. A bad appointment and you jeopardise the organisation's future. Be professional. Remember that playing games doesn't help. You are not dispensing patronage to the poor jobless. You are making a contract, and candidates need to be happy that the move is right for them.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to: stephen.bubb@haynet.com.

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