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Structuring Roles in the Hiring Process

An important aspect of any effective hiring process is the Role Structure, which refers to the people involved in the search and the roles that they play. Developing an appropriate structure for each search will ensure that the hire is made in accordance with the needs, values, and capacities of your organization.

In developing the structure, make sure that each of the following tasks is designated. Specifically, decide who will:

• Manage the overall process and design the tools and systems that will guide it

• Write the job description and posting

• Post the job and ensure that it is distributed widely to your organization’s networks

• Provide administrative support such as tracking applications and scheduling candidate interviews

• Conduct the resume and phone screens and determine which candidates will advance

• Communicate with candidates promptly at each stage of the process, including notification of regrets

• Be involved in interviews and making final decisions

• Complete reference checks

• Make and negotiate the final offer

• On-board, orient, and manage the new hire

Generally, the people involved in these various stages include internal hiring managers, administrative support staff, and HR representatives, as well as possibly board members, funders and other external stakeholders. Determining who to involve in what ways depends on several criteria.


Seniority of the Position:

Generally, the higher the level of the role, the more senior people will need to be involved in the search. For a CEO or Executive Director search, for example, it may be appropriate to utilize a search committee involving board members and other external stakeholders. For an entry-level position, it is possible (though perhaps not advisable) to have only the position’s direct supervisor manage the search.

Style and Values of the Organization:

Is your organization highly collaborative or are most decisions made by just a few people? Does your organization value input from various team members or is it more autonomous? If your organization values collaboration, then input from staff in any hiring process is probably important to consider, regardless of the level of position. Make sure not to diminish or frustrate any team members who were not asked to participate in the process.

Structure of the Organization:

Does your organization have a human resources department? If so, what is its role in any hiring process? It may range from leading the entire process to only being involved in a sign-off for the final candidate. Similarly, does your organization have support staff? Many of the stages in the hiring process can be handled by strong administrative staff.


Finally, consider the availability of each of the people you are thinking about involving. Of course, in most nonprofits, everyone is already doing much more than their job description, but if you know that there is no way that one director will be able to dedicate the time to interviewing candidates for a particular position in the coming months, then there is no sense in including that person in the search structure. You want to make sure that the search will be able to progress quickly at each stage, with no roadblocks or bottlenecks. Here again, when an organization has administrative support staff available to support the search, senior leaders will be more highly leveraged in the process.

So, what are some options available to you? The following are several commonly used search structures:

Single Hiring Manager

In some cases, a single hiring manager will be responsible for almost all of the responsibilities in the search including recruiting, screening, interviewing, and decision-making. This model is particularly common in smaller or more resource-constrained organizations.

Typically, this individual is the person who will ultimately supervise the future hire, and as such, they have several valuable strengths in the process. Namely, they will be able to: understand the position in detail, sell the role as well as the experience of working with them as a manger, personally select the person with whom they will be able to best work, and form bonds with finalists even before the first day of work begins.

To manage a search effectively, however, a single hiring manager may need to carve out 1-2 hours every day over the course of 2-3 months for search-related tasks. It should be considered whether or not this is a realistic time commitment before beginning the effort. Whatever early adjustments need to be made, hiring is too important to entrust to someone who may not have the time, experience or commitment to ensure that the process is efficient in terms of time-to-hire, effective in selecting the right person, being respectful to all applicants and consistent in maintaining the organization’s brand. Sadly, these risks are often only appreciated in hindsight.

In addition to owning the candidate-focused and public-facing aspects of the search, the hiring manager is also responsible for timely communication with other staff about the status of the search. This communication should be directed toward both senior management and fellow team members and will help to prepare the organization for the addition of a new staff member.

The benefits of this structure are that it can be efficient and that one person does not need to build a consensus decision to make a hire. These advantages are generally overshadowed by the structure’s drawbacks, however, including the amount of work placed on one individual relative to that person’s experience and capacity, as well as the lack of different perspectives and opinions in decision-making processes.

Hiring Manager with Human Resources Department Support

For organizations with a human resources department, a partnership between the hiring manager and the HR team can compensate for the disadvantages of conducting a single hiring manager search. This can make for an organized and professional process, although one that may also be more bureaucratic and present some “hurdles” for jobseekers to leap.

HR can participate in a variety of ways, including: (a) providing tools and advisory support, (b) managing the logistics of recruitment but allowing the hiring manager to conduct all screening, (c) managing the recruitment and screening and serving as a liaison between candidates and the hiring manager, and (d) having input in the final hiring decision and offer negotiation, which is particularly valuable to have led by a neutral third party such as an HR staffer. Candidates often appreciate the ability to negotiate offers with someone who will not be supervising them and who is well versed in the group’s compensation and benefit structures.

Board-Driven Search Committees

Board committees are typically comprised of five to eight people and can include various stakeholders such as management, staff, board members, funders, program participants and community members. This structure provides a lot of “buy-in” or distributed engagement in the process, as well as providing many people to shoulder the work of the search, which can be intensive. However, committees can also be unwieldy structures that are difficult to coordinate, manage and bring to consensus. For that reason, it is important to differentiate roles for different members and establish clear decision making parameters at the beginning of the search.

The committee is typically chaired by either the most senior person in the group, the person with the greatest knowledge of the position, or the person with the largest amount of general experience with hiring. It is the role of the committee chair to set the rules for the group and to make sure that those rules are followed, as well as to ensure that the search proceeds according to plan throughout the process.

Individual committee members or support staff may be assigned specific tasks such as overseeing postings, networking, resume screening, etc. You should decide at the beginning of the search whether or not everyone in the committee is going to review every application that comes through the pipeline. If a person or sub-committee is going to decide which candidates make it through initial screening, then those individuals should be completely aligned with the group’s expectations for screening criteria at the start of the process and empowered to make those decisions.

Since no two people will have the exact same vision for what an “ideal candidate” looks like, it is also essential to decide early on who will have the final say in the hiring decision, if the group is largely advisory to the decision maker, or if a majority vote rules the determination, etc.

Staff-Driven Group Process

For most hiring situations, a group structure will be most appropriate and effective. A group differs from a committee structure in that it is a less formal association that is generally made up entirely of staff as opposed to higher level external stakeholders. Like search committees, however, group hiring teams require a great deal of up-front planning and preparation, especially when creating systems and tools to facilitate the hiring process. For example, the group must decide how often it will meet, how it will debrief candidate interviews, what tools are required for assessing candidate information, and how it will come to decisions.

Groups may divide tasks, such as posting and sourcing, but may choose to collaborate on other tasks. Typically, each member of the group will be assigned different roles during the actual interviews, such as one person probing on skill fit, while another explores experience, and yet another pursues elients of personality fit with culture. This division of interviewing topics is useful when conducting a series of one-on-one interview with candidates, so that the jobseeker does not have to answer the same question over and over again.

In conclusion, the following chart provides a summary: