How to Recruit Talented Leaders

December 23, 2021
Checkr Editor

Editor’s note: This blog was written for Checkr by Jeb Banner, founder and CEO of Boardable.

Finding the right candidate for a leadership position at your organization can be difficult. You have to source qualified individuals who have enthusiasm for the role and the experience to back up their motivation. If you often feel like the candidates you want aren’t applying to your job postings, there may be a few things you can do to inspire more people to reach out. 

When you’re hoping to grow your organization by improving your leadership team, it can be frustrating when your hiring process feels stunted. After all, you can’t leave a key leadership position unfilled. As a first step to enhance your recruitment efforts, it’s important to examine your current hiring process carefully and have a succession plan in place for when you finally locate someone who will excel in a particular role.

This process may seem easier said than done, but with some insight into what works well for other organizations, you can pinpoint gaps in your own process that you may otherwise overlook. To help jumpstart your improvements, we’ll cover five tips for recruiting better leaders, including: 

  1. Be responsive
  2. Promote diversity and fair hiring practices
  3. Perform background checks
  4. Write detailed job descriptions
  5. Focus on workplace satisfaction

After you put in the time to find and address potential weak spots in your current leadership hiring process, you’ll be able to move forward feeling confident in the candidates your organization attracts.

Be responsive

Applying for any position can be very intimidating. It often feels like you’re sending your résumé and cover letter into an empty void. You wonder, ‘Will I ever hear back?’ 

This is exactly how you don’t want to make your candidates feel. This is especially important for top-level positions, like on your board, where you are hoping to attract highly qualified candidates. Because of this, you should focus on creating a responsive culture in all of your hiring processes. Even when candidates don’t get chosen for a specific role, having a positive recruitment experience can help build your reputation as a welcoming place to work. 

In the same way that you’re looking for candidates who will be strong communicators and will fulfill the expectations of their role, prospective candidates are searching for organizations where they will have a positive onboarding experience. Another important reason to cultivate good communication between potential employees or volunteers is to avoid any potential issues with conflicts of interest. Being highly responsive and open encourages candidates to be open as well. 

Especially when it comes to roles at your organization that may not be paid, like serving on a nonprofit board, new members do not want to sign up for an experience that will be frustrating and require unnecessary work on their part. 

Depending on the size of your organization, you can be more responsive and communicative by: 

  • Letting candidates know when they will hear back from you. 
  • Setting up automated emails to let candidates know their application, virtual interview, or any other materials have been received. 
  • Giving candidates an understanding of your hiring process. 
  • Notifying candidates even if they have not been selected.

If you’re looking to attract high-quality candidates for leadership positions, it’s important to remember that they’re likely looking for high-quality employers. Being responsive in the hiring process is one way to signal that your organization is a great place to work. 

Promote diversity and fair hiring practices

If you’re committed to exemplifying the kind of environment that attracts top-level candidates, this is another way to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. Making sure that your application process is open and welcoming to as many people as possible will widen your pool for attracting potential talented candidates. A lot of the time, bias can be present without you even realizing it. For example, it might be present in:

  • The required skills on the application
  • The required experience on the application
  • Where you’re posting job listings

There are more ways that bias can be present and it’s important to be aware of this to give every applicant a fair chance. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to throw out all of your requirements for the job. It simply means you should be aware of where you might be excluding potential candidates who are not “perfect” on paper but may be a good fit for the position. Using severe and definitive language when expressing the qualifications of your ideal candidate can discourage people from applying who may be able to do the job better than anyone else.

Perform background checks

To streamline your hiring process and ensure that you’re screening candidates properly, it’s important to implement a thorough background check. A seamless background check process helps to move candidates through your hiring funnel while ensuring they match your expectations. Because leadership roles in your organization can be so influential, this is especially important when hiring for high-level positions.

Often, the word “background check” makes us think of “criminal history.” While background checks can absolutely provide you with that information, that’s not all they can do. Background checks can be customized to fit your company’s needs, from motor vehicle record checks to employment and education verification. Background checks are important for verifying information and familiarizing yourself with a candidate’s publicly recorded history. 

If a candidate’s background check comes back with a criminal report, it’s important to perform an individualized assessment to adjudicate them fairly and accurately. Find more information on individualized assessments here

When executing a background check, employers must follow FCRA and EEOC guidelines to maintain compliance. Ensuring that you use a reputable background check company can also help to smooth this process and get you the best results. 

Write detailed job descriptions

As mentioned above, the way you express your desired qualifications is important. While you want to encourage diverse candidates to apply, it’s still important to give everyone enough information to be able to present themselves well through their application. A lacking job description can be just as discouraging as an overly specific one.

Some potential qualifications to consider would be:

  • Core functions. What does this job look like on a day-to-day basis?
  • Soft skills. Does this role require strong communication, creative thinking, or attention to detail? 
  • Hard skills. Will your candidate need to be familiar with specific software or programs?
  • Personal qualities. What type of person would fit well into your existing team dynamic? 

You likely have a picture in your mind of your ideal candidate but may need some help hammering out the details. Take the time to meet with the team that this new candidate would be joining. Listen to what skills or qualities they say would be helpful to add to their team and take that into consideration when writing your job description. 

Focus on workplace satisfaction

Do you think your current employees would recommend your organization as a positive and welcoming place to work? If you’re unsure of your answer, it may be time to evaluate how you can work for your employees. 

Keep in mind that even if there are changes you can make, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad employer. Employee-employer relationships are always fluctuating with changing expectations on both sides. You may have to adapt and adjust to evolving expectations. 

Here are a few areas to examine if you want to create a better work environment: 

  • Your PTO policies 
  • Family leave 
  • Mental health policies/assistance 
  • Work from home policies 
  • Workplace giving policies like matching gifts or volunteer grants 

If you’re unsure of what changes to make, take a look at what your competitors offer. You don’t need to attempt to replicate every effort they’ve made, but you might get some new ideas. Once you start taking a serious look at possible changes, it might surprise you how much more wiggle room you actually have. 

If you’re ready to increase workplace satisfaction but aren’t sure where to start, Double the Donation’s guide to employee engagement can give you more ideas. From workplace giving suggestions to recommendations for software to ease your efforts, you’ll find a variety of tips to help you get started. 


Finding the right candidate for a leadership position has a lot to do with the day-to-day of how your organization functions, not just your job description. Both areas have the potential to be improved upon, and the tips we covered will help you effectively analyze your current approach. 

As you move forward with updating your hiring process, take an honest look at your current efforts. Don’t be afraid to bring in the perspectives of other people at your organization to help you identify potential areas for improvement. Whether you’re looking to fill a vacant board position or expand your team with new staff members, this will only serve to benefit your hiring process and attract great candidates.

To learn more about recruiting top talent, hear from industry experts in the ebook, Four Building Blocks for a Creating a Delightful Candidate Experience.

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