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THE CLIENT: COO of a world-renowned non-profit organization


The organization, a prominent non-profit with a large community of passionate supporters and donors, wanted to hire an outstanding VP of Communications with demonstrated success as a leader, an expert in relationship management, and proficiency in working with national and international media outlets and contacts.

At the outset, we understood that this would be a highly desirable role that would attract hundreds of Communications professionals. What we did not anticipate was the magnitude of interest of candidates from the non-profit membership, donor base, and/or friends of the influential Board of Directors. These factors added a layer of complexity to our search, which would require us to both find the “needle in the haystack” candidate while also carefully and thoughtfully managing a large group of applicants, who were very passionate about the role and the organization. It was essential that they feel good about the process and critical that they remained engaged and avid about the non-profit all along the way.


There were more than 3000 applicants. In any search, it is MICA’s standard practice to ensure seamless communications with candidates. In this case, we implemented the protocols of our retained search process. The VP of Communications role was posted on our clients’ website, but all applicant submittals were sent directly to the MICA team to ensure that every single candidate was effectively and personally managed through the process.

Resumes and CVs of candidates, who were referrals from involved members, friends of the organization, donors or board members were reviewed jointly with our client/hiring manager the COO and the MICA team. MICA then managed each referral with in-person conversations and interviews. In order to preserve key relationships, significant one-on-one time was spent explaining the criteria and credentials required for the position. When candidates did not fit these criteria, it was thoroughly explained.

Simultaneously, MICA conducted an exhaustive national search for candidates who fit the search criteria to a tee. The “must have” requirements were extensive:

  • Media relations – experience with local and national major news/press outlets

  • Social media strategy experience using Social as communications tool

  • Crisis communications planning and execution for complex large-scale events

  • Strong leadership skills in building and leading a team

  • Expert- level writing skills

  • Executive presence to meet with high ranking public officials and CEO’s

  • Cultural fit to the organization

Because the list was extensive and we knew each candidate would have variable levels of experience with each of the key requirements, we established a behavioral interview for each of the criteria. We also crafted specific interview questions for each member of the interview committee so they could focus in on specific areas. We then created a weighted grading system to collect feedback and establish grades for each skill set by candidate.


We were able to identify 6 candidates for our client to interview. Two of these were from donor or Board referrals. The balance were 4 candidates that MICA identified. Working closely with our client, we managed the interview process to 3 finalists -- none of which were referrals -- and helped them in selecting one of those outstanding candidates to fill the position.

Furthermore, key stakeholders who had referred themselves or candidates that were not chosen reacted positively to the experience and seemed very pleased with the final outcome. Our client was very satisfied and continues to turn to us for key Marketing and Communications roles in the organization.

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