Ep 62: Hiring the Perfect Executive Director (with Dara Klarfeld)

by Joan Garry

What is the secret sauce to finding and hiring the perfect ED for your organization? How can you become a “rockstar” candidate? Find out in today’s episode.


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There’s a growing crisis in the nonprofit sector.

Baby boomer Executive Directors are retiring, and in a sector where overhead is a 4-letter word, few nonprofits choose to spend on sophisticated HR departments or for serious professional development.

When it comes to developing a leadership pipeline, some of the most common questions I get are:

  • What are board search committees looking for in an Executive Director?
  • As a board, what should we be looking for?
  • This is my dream job… What do I do to give it my best shot?

Today, with the help of my special guest Dara Klarfeld, we tackle these questions from points of view of both the ED and board. We discuss how an organization can set itself up to make a great Executive Director hire, as well as the secret sauce to becoming a rockstar candidate.

About Dara Klarfeld

Dara Z. Klarfeld is currently the CEO at DRG Search. Dara joined DRG in 2011 as a Consultant, with an eye to building the firm’s practice in education administration.

Before joining DRG Search, Dara worked in the nonprofit sector for more than 15 years in the areas of education, philanthropy and youth development. In her search practice, Dara is known for her client-centered approach, her strong group facilitation skills, and her expertise in working with clients to resolve organizational challenges in order to prepare for leadership transitions.

Her executive search practice is extensive and diverse; it includes partnerships with the Elmer A. Henderson School, The Hearing Health Foundation, The Weber School, Prizmah, The JCC Association, The New Teacher Center and UJA-Federation of New York.

Most recently, as Managing Director at DRG, Dara’s focus has been on laying the foundations for the firm’s growth, expanding resources, and increasing internal capacity. She loves collaborating and leading the DRG team in the development of new tools to continue to build, deepen and leverage networks. She is passionate about creative ways to identify and assess candidates on behalf of DRG’s clients.

In this episode

  • The work an organization must do before even beginning an E.D. search
  • Who precisely should be on the search committee (and who should not)?
  • The key ingredients for a successful search
  • The common elements of great Executive Directors
  • How do you identify a “unicorn”?
  • Advice for candidates about how to approach the interview process and avoid mistakes
  • What milestones do you need to manage this process?
  • What information should be kept confidential?
  • What if you can’t afford a search firm like DRG?