Board Recruitment Series: Alternative Candidate Search Tools (Part 3 of 4)

Dear Board Doc:  My board will have retirements in the next several years.  Because we have a long time horizon to identify candidates, we would like to conduct the search ourselves.  However, we are mindful that we would like our search to be as diverse as possible.  Can you suggest some tools and organizations that may help us identify a broad slate of qualified candidates? 

Especially for boards that want to reach candidates with less traditional board backgrounds or from under-represented groups, your board may want to work with one of the numerous services and organizations that work with board candidates. This is a varied group with a broad directive, including organizations that offer board training and services designed to make networking connections between boards and candidates.

Diligent Boards’ Diversity Network, Athena Alliance, and Equilar are software solutions to help boards identify potential candidates. To use these tools, the board pays a fee to either gain access to a searchable Database or to receive support in identifying candidates from a pool. Organizations such as LCDA, NACD, Take Your Seat, Extraordinary Women on Boards, and others work with prospective directors on board preparedness and networking with current board members. In these cases, your board may be able to search the membership of the organization, attend events to network with prospective directors, or post openings to a website or listserv to receive submissions from candidates directly or through a representative. Each organization functions slightly differently, and costs vary. The Forum’s Director Candidate Database falls somewhere in between a software and a board readiness organization. Available to member boards for free, the Forum uses a board’s criteria to build a shortlist of candidates from a pool of approximately 500 profiles. The costs associated with these options vary, from free to upwards of $15,000. These costs are significantly less than hiring a search firm, so taking this route can be appealing for cost-conscious boards. For boards like yours that have a long time horizon and are looking to build a pool of candidates or those that have multiple vacancies to fill, these tools can be additionally cost-efficient by allowing a nominating committee to identify candidates within multiple “profiles” or “buckets” within the same time frame or membership.

Your board should keep in mind, however, that working with multiple different groups and lists may be time-consuming for the nominating committee and may require a certain level of skill and tech-savviness to use a software to use search terms, tags, and filters to identify potential candidates within large and varied pools. Having access to a wide universe of candidates can also lead to a paradox of choice leading to more stress and less satisfaction with the candidates available. This does vary within this category, though. Some offer more concierge search-firm like services or take responsibility for some, or all, of the identification step.

Working with these services and groups enables a board to expand its network to include people that it would have had a hard time reaching through personal networks alone. Many of these organizations specialize in working with candidates from under-represented groups, so they are well-positioned for boards who are seeking new directors who will bring perspectives from other industries, roles, or identities into their board rooms.

The final installment of this series will cover developing and using personal and professional networks to recruit candidates and will wrap up the series with some general guidance that may be applied across methods. An earlier post, available here, explored using executive search firms.