Probably the most challenging search ever conducted by our firm was for a large, national healthcare plan located in the Washington, DC area. The organization asked us to conduct a confidential search for a new CFO. The need for confidentiality was that the incumbent CFO, who was well known throughout the region, was terminally ill and both he and the company wanted to keep his illness confidential.
Accordingly, we were not able to divulge the name of the client to candidate prospects, nor were we able initially to introduce candidates to the CEO or members of his executive team. It became evident, very quickly, that in order for this search to be successful we would need to build strong relationships with our prospects in order for them to have sufficient trust in us that they could rely upon our judgment regarding the propriety of their potential “fit” within the client culture.
In order to remain credible with our prospects and maintain a professional quality to the search, it became necessary to create a fictitious organization to represent to the candidate prospects, including information pertaining to:
- Company Size/Department Size
- Direct Reports & their Responsibilities
- Overall Financial Reviews by Department
- Plan Membership
We had to provide all the materials that the candidate would need in order to make an educated assessment as to whether this was an organization and a position worth pursuing. We actually created a “peer group”, describing each member of the Executive Team, his/her skills, abilities and working relationship with the incumbent CFO. This “peer group” also had to include the incumbent CFO’s direct reports in order to give the candidates some idea of who was going to be on their team and also to give them an “early opportunity” to decide what their team members’ responsibilities were going to be.
We were able to find the appropriate successful candidate person for the position within 60 days of starting the project, and the incumbent CFO was able to “retire”. He passed away shortly thereafter.