Written by: Kelsey Chalifoux

I have spent most of my executive search career consulting with leaders of sales-driven, high ROI corporations. That is until recently, when I had the opportunity to step over and explore an unchartered territory to me, that of those not churning a return but still out there with goals to meet and missions to fulfill… the non-profits of course. While ROI driven organizations and non-profits share a similar desired end game, I learned very quickly that their methods in achieving it are stark in contrast.

It was evident that this not-for-profit search was going to be a different kind of beast right from the introductory meeting. We set aside time to speak directly with the executive overseeing the role in regards to the must-have’s, the must not’s and core criteria for new addition to this non-profit team. I have been a part of a countless number of these meetings in corporate America. I am programmed to prepare for the deafening sense of urgency, with talks of tight deadlines and an emphasis on “we’d like to have found this leader yesterday”. This time, while my client described his desire to close this role by a firm date, the feeling of hurriedness that is usually so palpable was almost nonexistent.

As our search progressed more and more variances between the two worlds of for profit and not came to light. I often see large corporations with strict and rigid interview guidelines, here the non-profit displayed a great deal of flexibility. This kind of fluidity allowed us to maintain the passive candidate’s interest with more ease, create a positive experience for the interviewer and consequently, a reputable name for the institution amongst the talent pool.

However, what our non-profit client was able to offer in flexibility in their interview process, they faced challenges with elsewhere. It became clear that there was much of the proverbial “red tape” that we often fear and many signatures and nods of authorization needed to actually accomplish the goal. In the corporate environment, I often see our hiring executives working close to the top, if not the tippy top of the ladder, allowing for rapid movement and quick decision-making in a time-sensitive process.

I understand the vast benefit that these two types of organizations stand to gain through understanding each other’s hiring philosophies. Bottom line, whether the organization is for-profit, not-for-profit or none of the above, executive hiring requires a comfortable balance of both fluidity and rigidity to attain the best possible outcome, which just happens to be in this case, the best possible leader.