Ep 11: Finding the Best People – with Guest Marilyn Machlowitz

by Joan Garry

Nothing is more important than your people. Nothing. But how do you find 5-star employees? Should you hire a recruitment firm to help?


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Nothing is more important than your people. Nothing.

But how do you find 5-star staff members? What are the signs they’ll be 5-star? What should you ask in an interview? Should you hire a recruitment firm to help? What if it’s for somebody senior like a new Executive Director?

I recently wrote a blog post about how to hire a great Executive Director and I didn’t advocate to work with a recruiter. Instead, I suggested looking at your own network to find the right person.

It’s not that that’s bad advice. But then I got an email from Marilyn Machlowitz, the principal at recruitment firm Machlowitz Consultants. Marilyn’s firm has a particular strength in filling both program and non-program jobs for leading foundations and other nonprofits and working with board-level search committees seeking CEOs.

Marilyn advised me my advice was incomplete. And she’s right. Sure, look in your network, but if that’s all you do, you’re missing out on some amazing candidates. And for some organizations, it would actually not make sense to look inside its network.

I was intrigued. I asked Marilyn onto the podcast. We had a great conversation.

A bit more on Marilyn… her shop is boutique, small, and best-of-breed. She wrote a book called Workaholics (link below), if oft-quoted in The Wall Street Journal and has a cool job – a high-level matchmaker connecting the most remarkable people to the most remarkable organizations.

We discuss everything from the keys to a great search to why sometimes the wrong people end up “on the bus.”


  • The one skill everyone is seeking in a candidate
  • How to build the best search committee
  • Should you hire an insider or an outsider? You might be surprised.
  • The role of the chair of the search committee – what it is and, more importantly, what it ISN’T
  • Things can (and will) go wrong. How to avoid some of those pitfalls.
  • DIY – you can go it alone, but you need to be smart about it
  • Questions to ask a search firm before you retain it
  • How to consider candidates coming from the for-profit sector