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Expert Describes Best Practices For Conducting Executive Searches

The selection of the next Pittsburgh Public School superintendent has brought practices regarding executive searches to the forefront. Recently, PPS board members launched an investigation claims by Anthony Hamlet, who was tapped to lead the district. Media outlets allege he’d falsified some of the information on his resume and in a speech.

Nonprofit Talent is a firm that assists organizations in selecting a candidate for an open executive position. Michelle Pagano Heck, a principal with the company, said some nonprofits may not be aware how to easily access background information for potential employees.

“The access to information in today’s technology allows for organizations to look much deeper into a candidate than previous time,” said Heck. “Now you can verify, and I think that is a very important step.”

Heck’s firm offers the opportunity to revise information before submission to the final candidate pool with hopes that the applicant rectifies any application inflation.

“We find time and time again that when a candidate is asked directly about information, either in their cover letter or their resume, that they’ll be truthful,” said Heck.

Pittsburgh, Heck explained, has an advantage to finding top executives because it boasts a healthy nonprofit and philanthropic sector.

“We have been very fortunate to identify the value of nonprofits here, and as a result, cultivate leadership.”

The biggest challenge is the underestimation of time. According to Heck, and executive search can take between 240 to 270 hours.

“Do not be in a rush to hire,” said Heck. “When you’re hurried and you’re rushed, you’re far more susceptible to making mistakes.”

Firms, such as Nonprofit Talent, relieve some of the time burden by vetting potential candidates, getting to know the company and creating applicant pools.

“The best hires have to do with the fit for the organization and not necessarily their experience or their skill set,” said Heck.

However, the process of choosing an executive is never foolproof.

“People have to be forgiving of themselves if somewhere along the line if something doesn’t quite work,” said Heck. “This is art, not science.”

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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