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The Importance of Executive Search

Every day, we all rely on knowledgeable experts to tackle tasks we couldn’t easily or effectively do on our own. And yet, when it comes time to recruit the next great leader for an organization, many folks find themselves falling down the hiring equivalent of a WebMD rabbit hole when they could be scheduling an appointment with a trusted professional.

At Campbell & Company (C&C), we know Executive Search and have been fortunate to partner with trusted experts in the nonprofit sector. We recently asked three of our candidate and client partners to share how working with an Executive Search firm was beneficial:

  • Ivanetta Davis-Samuels is General Counsel at Meharry Medical College, where C&C has placed multiple senior members of the College’s development team
  • Jodi Gibson, President and CEO of Zoological Society of Milwaukee, partnered with C&C to place a new Chief Revenue Officer
  • Tehvon Fowler-Chapman met C&C as a candidate and was successfully placed at LA Opera as Vice President, Connects
Here’s what they had to say:

“It is not a part of our core business. We recognize that this is not our strong suit,” said Ms. Davis-Samuels. “You need professionals to handle this [executive search]. The same is true for attorneys: for us it’s about having an informed partner for this endeavor.” Ms. Gibson agrees: “Not only can a search firm lead the process from end-to-end, but it can actively seek out the best qualified candidates, including ones who may not be looking for a new position, through its extensive professional network.”

Writing a thorough and compelling position description and posting it on any of the myriad job sites is time-consuming, especially when you and your team are doing that work on top of your regular daily tasks. And hiring is no Field of Dreams: even if you build it, the right person might not come to your posting on their own. A dedicated team of search professionals can become your advocates in the job market, actively building a slate of interested and qualified candidates you might otherwise never meet.

“A firm can also help organizations understand the current hiring environment and competition,” shared Ms. Gibson. Keeping up with the latest sector-specific salary benchmarks, benefit package features, and nuances of workplace culture expectations can be a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to become yours or your search chair’s when you partner with an experienced search firm. Ms. Davis-Samuels reflected that Campbell & Company “felt like an extension of [Meharry’s] team,” (precisely the feeling our Executive Search consultants aim for in each collaboration). When people take the time to understand your existing and aspirant organizational culture, that level of trust and alignment can make a challenging process much less stressful.

The benefits of hiring an executive search firm also extend to candidates: having a dedicated party leading the process can help you ensure that the candidates’ experience is positive. “Of all of my experiences in applying for jobs, the job I acquired through an executive search firm is the job in which I see the most potential,” shared Mr. Fowler-Chapman. “Working with individuals who try to understand you and your place within an organization makes all the difference.” A search firm can take care of every candidate during the process, with check-ins and preparatory conversations at each stage that ensure everyone feels their time and talents are being respected and valued by the hiring organization. “Whereas a hiring manager can just be seeking to fill a role, it feels more like working with advocates who help you put your best foot forward, who are walking the path with you to success,” Fowler-Chapman said.

This open communication benefits the hiring organization, too. As Ms. Gibson observed, “a search firm can play a critical role as a liaison between the organization and candidates to foster more open dialogue with and assessment of candidates.” That assessment can help make sure the candidates you move forward are right for right now and the next five, ten, or more years of your organization.

“It’s a mistake to assume that the cost is prohibitive,” Ms. Davis-Samuels shared. “The value-add of having experienced eyes and ears in recruitment is high, and the return on investment is well worth it.” She also counsels future search committee members to center the voices and viewpoints of everyone on the search team, including the consultants guiding the effort: “If every member is engaged, every voice counts, and every voice valued – then you end up with an efficient search process that can bring a lot of value.”

When asked to share advice she would give to future search committee leaders, Ms. Gibson spoke of the importance of considering all the skills a leader will need to successfully guide an organization: “It will be easy to identify the necessary hard-skills, such as qualifications and experience needed,” she said. “But it may be harder to articulate the soft skills, such as cultural fit and leadership style.” This is where having a partner walking alongside you, co-creating the job parameters, position guide, and messaging around the opportunity can be especially important.


If you see a leadership change in your organization’s future – whether due to an impending departure or because you’re engaged in long-term succession planning – Campbell & Company is ready to partner. With a team of experienced nonprofit professionals and a web of national networks cultivated across our firm, we are ready to be see you through important moments of transformation. Learn more about our process here, or get in touch with us today.

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Every day, we all rely on knowledgeable experts to tackle tasks we couldn’t easily or effectively do on our own. And yet, when it comes time to recruit the next...
Kris Landin McFeely
For more than 22 years, Kris McFeely has worked with Campbell & Company’s Executive Search team to find talented individuals that can make an impact on an organization’s mission for...
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