Is A National Search Worth It?

by Mary Ontko, M.P.A., B.A.
Senior Search Consultant
The Moran Company  “We Find Great Nonprofit Executives”

Often, when our Moran Company team speaks with a nonprofit organization about a staffing need they have, the question will arise about where the candidates will come from. The common assumption is that a national search is the best search because it will yield a wider variety of candidates with top-tier talent and the ability to take the organization to the next level. We understand this assumption. At face value, it is absolutely true. A national search will inevitably cast a wider net. But will it yield a higher caliber of candidate? And, more importantly, will the staffer ultimately hired come as a result of this national scope?

At The Moran Company, the searches we conduct are always national in scope. We cast a very wide net in our recruiting, both in terms of job postings to local, regional and national sites, and in our person-to-person outreach. We believe that casting a wide net has the best chance of getting the word out in a broad way about the position and the organization’s needs. But, in our experience, the successful national search often yields a different type of finalist candidate than one would expect. Here are some thoughts and examples based upon our experience.

  1. National Candidate, Local Ties. In our experience, a very promising type of national candidate is one who is already familiar with the organization’s community. Perhaps the national candidate grew up or went to college in the community but relocated elsewhere soon thereafter and later looks to return, maybe to be closer to family or to raise children in a familiar landscape. Especially in smaller cities or communities that are not well known as a destination, where recruiting for relocation is more difficult, a candidate returning to his or her hometown can be an excellent fit – and a great reason to conduct a national search. We have found that the candidate who returns to a hometown often enjoys a more successful and longer-term relocation than one who has no reason beyond a job to relocate.
  2. Geography and Pay Scale Matter. We tend to see very real regional differences in pay scale, based upon geographical area, location, and of course, size of the community. The compensation range for the same position in a similar sized organization may be quite different depending on where the position is located. At The Moran Company, we have expertise in using tools to work with our clients to determine appropriate pay scale for the specifics of the position – including location – and this does certainly impact the candidate pool. It can be difficult for candidates moving to a smaller market – with a lower pay scale but also a more affordable cost of living – to adapt to the idea of a pay cut, even if that new rate of pay goes much further in their new environment. Again, a candidate with first-hand knowledge of the cost of living in that environment is more likely to make an informed decision.
  3. Regional Candidate, National Post. A recent semi-finalist candidate from the same region as our client noted that she had heard about the position not in her local job posting boards, where we had certainly posted the position, but from a colleague several states away, as a result of the posting we placed there. Regional and national professional networks are strong and we were fortunate that this candidate had a professional contact looking out for her. In this case, our national outreach yielded a quality local candidate, and is an unexpected, but very real, reason to advertise nationally.

The bottom line? A quality search firm like The Moran Company with experience recruiting candidates across the country will have expertise in sharing information nationally. The additional cost is nominal and given the examples shared it is easy to see that casting a wide net is worth it, regardless of the successful candidate’s home of origin.

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© 2017 The Moran Company, “We find great nonprofit executives.” We specialize in searches for nonprofit executive directors, directors of development/fundraising staff, and other top nonprofit leadership.