Building a Strong Talent Pool When Time is of the Essence

Sep 16, 2008

This is the true story of how one executive search firm helped the St. Francis Yacht Club of San Francisco hire a new controller and chief financial officer.

The St. Francis Yacht Club, one of San Francisco’s oldest and most prestigious private clubs, has a membership base of more than 2,300 and roots dating back more than 80 years. Finding the right candidate for this fast-growing, progressive club presented an unusual challenge.

The average search takes 60 to 120 days to complete, but the yacht club needed to fill the position within a month so the incumbent could train the new controller before she left.

When the private club turned to the professional recruiters in our San Francisco office, we knew we had to create a strategy, weed out the competition, and find the right candidate.

Creating a Strategy

With little time to spare, the executive recruiters at Stanton Chase International’s San Francisco office sprung into action. After meeting with the club’s general manager and the incumbent, it was time to tour the facility and speak with some of the club members, board members, and department personnel. This was an important step to help identify the personality of the candidate. Often there will be a number of qualified prospects, but matching the values and culture of the client with those of the candidate is as important as finding someone with the right qualifications.

Next, we identified similar organizations where our profiled candidate would be working. We did our homework on those organizations and the current controllers working there. We started making calls to the potential prospects, and from that we picked up additional referrals and introductions.

Additionally, we looked to industry trade groups and functional professional groups to find out who had the best reputations, who would be easiest to recruit, and who could help us in our search.

Weeding out the Competition

It’s important to conduct an extensive amount of research so you can build a very strong talent pool. In this case, since time was of the essence, we had to move quickly. We separated the top slate from the rest of the pack by looking at a number of characteristics:


  • Personality fit with the client’s team. Will they be able to develop strong bonds of trust and camaraderie? Do they share values? Will the candidate reinforce and strengthen the client’s culture?
  • Motivation fit. Is this a good opportunity for the candidate? Why? Will they still want to work here after one, two, even five years?


  • Is the candidate prepared for this role?
  • Does he or she have the right degrees, credentials, past employers, and job responsibilities?
  • Do they dress, talk, and walk like they belong in this role? Have they built strong social networks that will help them be successful?


  • Do they have the necessary technical skills? What kind of preparation have they had?
  • Do their leadership skills fit? Do they have the right people skills?

Demographics and other factors

  • Will the reality of the demographics be motivating for the successful candidate after the first 90 days? After one year? Three years? Five years?
  • Compensation (package of steady cash flow, incentive cash, and long-term incentives such as equity).
  • Location (commute or relocation?).
  • Work/life balance (can they meet the client’s scheduling needs? Not every job is a Monday to Friday, 9 to 5).

Finding the Candidate

There was no defining moment when we knew we found the right candidate, but it was more of an incremental process.

We liked Paul Koojoolian’s reputation and his resume, but we also liked other candidates as well. Paul impressed us with his response to a written survey of questions about his career. This is a unique tool we developed to help us really understand our candidate’s skills match, strengths, values, and circumstances.

He also impressed our team during the phone interview process, and this is where he first broke through the ranks to emerge as a top contender.

After I met with the top six contenders, Mr. Koojoolian really captured my imagination and shared with me his passion for the role and the fit. I knew we found our man.

Today, the new controller and chief financial officer of the St. Francis Yacht Club is our recruit, Paul Koojoolian. The club couldn’t be more excited to work with him, and likewise, he is looking forward to the challenging role as the new controller and chief financial officer.

Despite the tight time constraints set by the client, this is another successfully completed executive search where all parties involved (client organization, successful candidate, executive search firm) all walk away getting what they wanted.