The best place to start looking is in the community where the program is based. How should that search be structured? Some Lead Sponsors conduct the search themselves for the ED. Others rely on the organizations they’re working with—usually their CBO or the local IHDF Affiliate ED—to oversee the process of hiring the PD. If the local Affiliate has an active board, the members can use their community connections to recruit candidates, and then review resumes, or conduct initial interviews.
Another approach is to create a formal ED search committee including the Board Chair, the Lead Sponsor and representatives of the Program’s major organizational partners such as the school, CBO, housing authority, and a local business. This approach has an added advantage. Those who have a role in this important early decision may be more supportive of the staff, more interested in the success of the Program, and more likely to be heavily involved along the way. Here are some suggested steps to take when planning a search:
Determine how to publicize the position. Once the search committee is formed, it should use networking to recruit candidates. Networking includes distributing the job announcement to contacts at CBOs, veteran PDs, youth service agencies, religious organizations, colleges, and universities. The advantages of networking are the job announcement reaches a narrower audience of people who are likely to possess the required qualifications for the position; it generates a manageable number of potential candidates; and it is likely to generate candidates that someone familiar with IHDF or the Sponsor knows and recommends for the position.The committee may also decide to place a job announcement on online job listing sites. This will help encourage a diverse pool of qualified candidates. The search committee must be prepared to manage the responses. They may wish to set up a special email address for inquiries.
Establish a procedure for responding to applications. Two or three members of the search committee should screen the resumes to select a first round of candidates for an initial interview. Set aside time periods for conducting interviews and then designate one person responsible for scheduling. Usually an hour is long enough for a first interview; leave some time between each appointment for the interviewers to take a break, discuss the candidate, or make notes on the interview. After an ED is hired and the committee is sure it does not want to review any of the applications of the candidates who had not been accepted for an initial interview, the Board Chair should send a letter to each of these candidates thanking them for their interest.
Conduct initial interviews. The initial interviews can be conducted by the Board Chair, the Lead Sponsor, or members of the search committee can narrow the initial pool down to a few top candidates. The interview can also include more than one interviewer, but it is best if the same interviewers see each candidate so that they can make good comparisons. The committee should also have a reasonable deadline in place so that it can give the candidates an idea of when they should expect to hear the committee’s decision.
Conduct subsequent rounds of interviews with the top candidate. The number of rounds of interviews that the search committee will have to conduct depends on how many qualified applicants there are, how many decision makers need to meet the candidates, and whether a clear choice rises out of the process. It is important for the Lead Sponsor to participate in the interviews after the initial round. The Board Chair and Lead Sponsor will certainly benefit from the guidance and opinions of the search committee members, but ultimately, the selection is the Board Chair’s choice.
Screen the top candidate. “I Have A Dream” staff are entrusted with the care of the Dreamers and will work with them in sensitive situations. To protect the Dreamers and the Program from any misconduct, the search committee must check the references and complete a criminal history screening for the top candidate. This means running the candidate’s name or fingerprints through the state’s criminal history records system and/or any child abuse or molestation registry that the state maintains. Since the screening process can be expensive and may take several weeks, Programs typically make an offer of employment to the top candidate contingent upon the background check being clear. The ED can start working while the check is being conducted. Any negative findings result in termination. The school, CBO, or another youth-serving organization in the community should be able to advise the search committee on how to proceed with a screening in its locale; procedures differ from state to state.
Make an offer. Once the candidates have been screened, the Board Chair should decide on his or her first choice and compile an offer for the candidate. The offer should consider the candidate’s experience, salaries for similar positions in the community, the local cost of living, and the available benefits. If the offer is accepted, the search committee should draft a formal letter of hire to the ED setting forth the agreed-upon salary and benefits. See below for further discussion of extending an offer to a ED candidate.
Follow up with remaining candidates. Once a final decision is made, the search committee should notify each of the applicants that the process is complete. Most of the candidates can receive a standard letter, but it is good form for a member of the search committee or the Board Chair to send a more personal letter to candidates who were interviewed several times or who were finalists for the position.
Don’t be discouraged if the process takes longer than the estimated six to eight weeks. It is not uncommon not to find the ideal candidate on the first try and sometimes this is a blessing in disguise. It takes time to select the right individual for the vital position of ED, so they can get started hiring a PD.