Associations benchmark for their members and of course for the strategic planning process but I would advocate that those individuals searching for a new position should also benchmark their talents and abilities while also benchmarking the needs and demands of the associations that they are romancing.
In preparation for the introductory interview it is imperative for the job-seeker or candidate to know his/her talents and limitations. Every interview will demonstrate those abilities but it is important like any sales pitch to make it very clear that you have these talents that may be of interest to the prospective employer.
Address results in previous tenures but also make sure you pitch your results in international memberships, government and regulatory relations, communication abilities (writing, speaking, group dynamics and social media), strategic and operational talents, meeting planning, budgeting, finance and administrative capabilities, fund raising, membership growth and retention and of course governance expertise.
Benchmarking your capabilities provides you the opportunity to rehearse and plan for the interview. Contemplate what excites you in association work and also bring to the table what you honestly believe, you as an association exec are proficient at and are proud to tell the world about. It is also important to design professional life stories that can provide examples of your capabilities.
It’s imperative for the job seeker to benchmark the prospective association and their wants and needs. What did the out-going Exec bring to the organization? Was there noticable growth in his/her tenure? How long was that tenure? Are you potentially following a loved legend of the membership and industry (Does any one remember the name of the coach that followed John Wooden at UCLA in 1975 despite the fact that he had a better winning percentage in his 2 year tenure than Coach Wooden? The answer is Gene Bartow who after 2 short years at UCLA ended up with a successful tenure at University of Alabama-Birmingham.) or are you potentially filling the position of an individual who was there only a short period of time and in many of the Leadership’s eyes a failure? Again using the UCLA example, coach after coach, despite winning records could never meet the expectations of the Bruin fans after the 27 year God-like tenure of John Wooden.
It is also important to ascertain how the Board and staff interacted. As a prospective Exec for this association is your personality one that the Board can live with? Some Boards are laissez faire while others historically are micro-managers. Can you live with either mindset and more importantly can they live with you for any length of time?
The bottomline is that the interviewers need to ask questions of you and you, the candidate must be inquisitive. Like many failed marriages, don’t think you can enter a relationship with the mindset that you can change your partner. Positive change so rarely happens and do you really want to spill that much blood along the way? Obviously you need and want a new position but why set yourself and the organization so needlessly up for failure?
If the association’s existence is solely to perform legislative and regulatory relations in Washington or in the state capital and you have little or no expertise in this area, the question must be asked why should a Search Committee waste their time interviewing you? I know all of us should look for new challenges and get out of the box that defines us but in this case I would question, on both side of the equation why time should be spent on a candidate with noticably deficient capabilities.
A candidate must know himself. Know what you excell at and what demands you have difficulty with. Once you benchmark yourself and the prospective association, the interview process will have more likelihood for success in the short-term and hopefully once you indeed get that new appointment. Enjoy the journey and good luck!