**originally published in 2017, updated with new information in 2023

Because there are so many moving parts, navigating the timeline of a top-level executive search can seem complex. For roles like CEO, executive director, or president, the hiring process typically spans 4-8 months. So where does all that time go? It’s not uncommon for a search committee to devote a month or two solely to selecting a search firm, so part of the search timeline occurs before the Staffing Advisors team is engaged.  But once we have been retained to run a search, the largest driver of the search timeline is scheduling.

Scheduling: The (Necessary) Bulk of the Timeline

Almost 60% of a typical search is spent extending simple courtesies to both candidates and search committee members. These courtesies are essential to ensure both committee members and candidates have ample time to prepare and can work these meetings into their (already packed) schedules.

For example, if we are asking for a few hours of time from busy search committee members to review a document, we often give them a week or so to complete the task (unless we have previously agreed to handle that task at a scheduled time.) Similarly, it can take a week or two to find a suitable time and/or location for a search committee meeting. Even virtual meetings take time to schedule, accounting for differences in time zones and the availability of committee members. The larger the committee, the longer it typically takes.

A pie chart with a percentage breakdown of a CEO search timeline.

Unlike committee members, candidates cannot be scheduled in advance, so the number of days allocated for candidate scheduling is often greater than the number we allocate for scheduling committee work. When you add it all up, all of those scheduling courtesies consume almost two-thirds of the total timeline.

By contrast, search committee working days take up only 5-10% of the entire timeline. And through our team of experts approach, with multiple team members working on each stage simultaneously, Staffing Advisors’ intensive work only requires about 30% of the total days in a search.

Senior Staff Searches Have an Entirely Different Pace

As a point of comparison, senior staff searches are three times faster than CEO searches. It’s so predictable that we can actually develop an accurate project timeline during the very first week of the search. (Hiring is like any other task; the faster and more predictable it becomes, the less it costs.) When we are working directly with a single hiring manager (and not a committee) helping to fill positions at the vice president or director level, the total elapsed time needed for scheduling courtesies is less than a week for our clients and less than three weeks for the candidates.