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What you see is what you get - A Board of Directors' guide to evaluating club management candidates

Search America By Harvey M. Weiner, Managing Partner,
Search America®

Club directors, search committee members and novice headhunters see the interviewing process as some mysterious, secret art, revealed to only a select few. They believe there must be more to the candidate than can be seen in an interview and attempt to cram an inappropriate candidate into an equally inappropriate job. Let's demystify the process of selecting the right manager for your club.

The candidate's approach to the application and interview process clearly demonstrates how this person will manage the club. Put another way, candidate behaviors observed throughout the evaluation/intake process are predictive of what we can expect once s/he is hired.

Today, a few minutes on the Internet or a couple of bucks will buy a candidate a how-to book on producing a catchy two-page resume and a smart cover letter. Three sheets of fancy stock are cheap. Just as easily s/he acquires an interview preparation guide and dazzles you with recently-acquired erudition. Remember that perfection is not the objective so be skeptical when you think you're seeing it. Those who interview best are usually those who have had so many jobs that their interviewing skills exceed their ability to manage a club. So, if what we see is what we'll get how do we make an effective selection of our club's next manager?

First some warning signs:

  • There are just two times in a person’s life when he’s perfect: when he’s born and when he produces his resume.
  • Pass on the candidate who fails to ask questions and doesn't listen. You'll never control him.
  • Reject the candidate who wants to know the hours expected of him. You'll never see him.
  • Eliminate the candidate whose brilliance bewilders. You'll never understand him.
  • Watch out for the candidate who knows all the answers. You'll never keep him.
  • Drop the candidate who sells himself without inquiring about your needs and expectations. Who needs him?

Since 1974, when I started Search America, I've learned a thing or two about club management candidates by monitoring subsequent on-the-job performance and matching that with behaviors exhibited throughout the interview and evaluation process.  Recently, in cooperation with a major university's Hotel Restaurant Management department, we developed a unique private club management-screening tool.

(Following is but a sample of key characteristics incorporated in)

Search America's Profiling system for the ideal Club Management Candidate:

Flexible.   The candidate who adjusts his approach to each prospective position depending upon the circumstances of that job (e.g., environment, culture, and challenges) can be depended upon to show that same adaptability on the job. The candidate who identifies his personal skills inventory, conducts a focused search, and diligently evaluates himself relative to the expectations of your board is likely to be a better fit than one who indiscriminately applies for every opening in the industry.

Manages time.   S/he doesn't waste lots of time in blitzing the industry with a canned resume and a superficial cover letter. He diligently researches the field and proactively goes after the position which, in his mind, best matches his skills and attributes. If stuck in the unsophisticated '50s method of networking then you can predict this manager's management style is also a relic.

Selective.    The right candidate won't simply accept a job, or even an invitation to interview, just because it's offered. It's got to be right . The impulsive, capricious manager is likely to jump ship again and again.

Self-aware.    He's evaluated his own personal and professional strengths and eagerly describes himself. He knows who he is and engages in the interview process in a way that communicates knowledge of the club, its culture, and the board's expectations. He interviews to validate what he thinks he already knows without coming off as a know-it-all.  

Knows when to fold 'em. Not every job is right for every candidate and vice versa. The astute candidate recognizes when the fit just isn't right and wastes no time letting us know. If he can't recognize a dry hole how prudently will he manage the club?

Self-reliant.    He's focused, methodical and energetic. He won't need the board or its president to tell him what to do every minute. Those who arbitrarily respond to any and all openings are the same tire-kickers who stop to look at used cars on the roadside when they've already got a perfectly good automobile.

Resourceful .    Ask for specific examples of versatility and creativity. How was his club's renovation funded? How close was final cost to budget? How was member buy-in achieved? How was the deal pitched to the members and by whom? Ask open-ended, behavioral questions like, "How would you reduce our food cost from 43% to 40%?".

Technologically proficient.    Does the resume look like it came off a Smith Corona or a Laser Jet? Are enclosures relevant and creatively produced or drab and lifeless? Are budgets done in Lotus 1-2-3 or on a columnar pad? Did he find us on The Net or a trade listing? How will the candidate who doesn't know his DOS from his POS bring us up to the next level?

Tenacious.    I don't want somebody managing my client's club who'd give up after just one or two weak attempts to get my attention. Courteous persistence, with on-point justification of candidacy, may be predictive of success. Consistent mediocrity, however, is unacceptable. Most clubs expect their manager to bring them to the next level, not just be a maintainer or a nuisance.

Rebounds from disappointment.      I respect the candidate who, after being told he didn't make the cut, wants to know what he should improve. The club's manager must grow from experience. Failure to confront errors results in repetition and frustration. Today's leading managers seek continual self-improvement.

Available and accessible.    Forget the candidate who can't be easily found. The club's manager must be visible. Fail to return my calls and you're history. There's no way you'll become a finalist.

Decisive.    Ask for examples of difficult decisions he's made.  What will his reaction be if this position is offered to him? How will he handle a club emergency, harassment issues or a tipsy member?

Direct.    We can disagree without being disagreeable. Don't make us guess what you're thinking, say it. Are the candidate's responses clear, on point and presented respectfully?     

Focused.    This candidate knows where s/he's going, has a plan, and believes this club is the right place at the right time. S/he researched our opportunity, appreciates the challenge and can articulate why s/he is the right candidate for the job.

Fit.    Ask yourself, throughout the interviewing process, "Can I picture this person managing my club?"

When you do identify the right candidate don't sacrifice positive momentum because somebody once told you that multiple interviews are important. You don't need to have him come back for another visit. What you see is what you'll get so get on with it. Make the offer contingent upon background checks, but don't miss out on a winner. They're too hard to find.


Harvey Weiner, AKA The Club Doctor, is Managing Partner of Dallas based SEARCH AMERICA® , specialists in private club management recruiting since 1974. Send your confidential questions or comments to: SEARCH AMERICA®, Board Consultants for Club Management Selection. 5908 Meadowcreek Drive, Dallas, TX 75248.  972.233.3302, [email protected] or   © Search America

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