Onboard or Onward: Ensuring the Success of Your New Executive Hire

“About 40% of executives who change jobs or get promoted fail in the first 18 months.”

Fortune Magazine

Where does it all go wrong? Too often, the onboarding process is where things fall apart. I am not talking about “orientation”, which often is done day one and generally involves the basics of assigning a building pass, conducting a benefits overviews, meeting the team and reading a few policies. Onboarding is a longer process, and if done well (typically in partnership with Human Resources and managed by the new executive’s manager, or the Board Chair if they report to the Board of Directors) can almost guarantee fit. It is holistic and gradual. It is also very deliberate, and will require constant check-ins and open communication.  Here are five key activities that will help to ensure that your new executive will be successful in their new role:

Start to Onboard Before They are Actually ON BOARD!

The time between an offer being accepted and the executive starting is sensitive. They may be dealing with a counteroffer, having to say goodbye to much-loved colleagues, and are nervous about this new venture. Keep in touch. Reiterate your excitement to have them joining the team, and have a few people in the organization reach out. If there are organizational overviews, annual reports, strategic plans or other things that that they can read up on ahead of time, get those to them during this time so that they start to feel like part of the team.

Send an announcement out to the staff and the board a few days before their start date explaining their background and the job they are filling. This will help make them seem more familiar to the team when they come through the door, and as an added benefit they will not have to review their resume and background with absolutely everyone in their first week or so.

Relationship Before Task 

Ideally, new executives will meet with their team and people across the organization. One-on-one meetings are great, but remind those who will be meeting with the executive to get to know them before delving into the inner workings of their role or the issues they face. Building rapport with new colleagues and direct reports is critical in the early days.

Learn By Doing 

Too often, in an effort to get all the information to a new hire as soon as possible, they are introduced to processes way too soon. Guess what? They will not remember how to do an expense report or change their password or complete a sales report 30 to 60 days in when they actually need to do it if they are taught how to do it their first week. Have the right people meet with them at the start to review the process at a high level, and then have them set up a time to do it later when they can sit down with real data and learn from it real-time.

The Buddy System 

What we learned in grade school still applies: the buddy system works when the new kid starts. This should not be the executive’s manager, but a peer or high-performing direct report who has longevity and the personality to be an effective buddy. The buddy can manage the nicety of taking them to lunch on day one and being available to explain the intricacies of culture, relationship dynamics, and certain pitfalls to avoid, which are things that the executive may not be comfortable asking of higher-ups.

Check In Early & Often

I too often hear that executives join, get a ton of attention the first day or two, and then are largely left on their own. It does not feel welcoming, and it runs the risk of them going in a direction that is difficult to course-correct later on. Meet with them daily, even for 10-15 minutes, in the first few weeks. Move on to twice weekly, weekly….you get the point. Let them know where they are doing a great job. Let them know where they need to take a different approach. But LET THEM KNOW. Being clear on what is a success will lead to more success.

While by no means a complete onboarding process, following the steps above will help to ensure that your new executive hire is one of the 60% who will be a success in the first 18 months.

Cindy Joyce is an Executive Recruiter and the Founder of Pillar Search, an Executive Search and HR Consulting firm located in Boston that works with clients nationwide. She can be reached here.

Lights…Cameras…Your LinkedIn Profile Picture!

In the acting world, headshots are a must for actors and actresses, whether they are just starting out or have reached “celebrity” status.  Headshots are their calling cards.

Treat your LinkedIn profile picture as if you were in Los Angeles or New York chasing a big acting job and as if that picture were your calling card. It is often the first impression that you will make on potential clients, employers, and vendors.  Make sure that the impression you leave is a positive one.  Plus, you may not be actively looking for a new job, but you never know when a hiring manager or executive recruiter will be looking around on LinkedIn and come across your profile.

I recently updated my own profile picture, and in the process did my research asked some friends who are photographers and in the image business to give their suggestions for a great headshot.  Here are some tips for a winning profile picture:

  • Hire a professional, or ask a friend who takes good pictures to help out
  • Thou shalt not take a selfie.  Deb Liljegren, NYC-based photographer, tells me that your outstretched arms may not be visible, but you are not fooling anyone.  Selfie sticks do not help, either. There is a clear difference between a DIY picture and one taken by someone else
  • Susan Tran, a photographer in Boston who did my recent photo, suggests that people smile big but not TOO big.  According to her, too big a smile can look forced.  Think of someone who makes you happy so that you capture your most natural smile
  • Boston photographer Stephanie Olsen says to BREATHE! Stephanie points out that everyone holds their breath when being photographed. This makes their shoulders rise up a bit and does not let their true smile come through. Stephanie guides people by telling them to exhale a smile. This also make them a laugh a bit and the smiles that follow are the most natural.
  • Wear professional attire suitable to your industry.  Dark colors work well so long as you do not have a dark background, in which case you would want lighter attire.  Contrast will make the picture “pop”.  Avoid prints, which can be too busy and could blend into the background
  • According to Brad Duncan, Boston’s top skincare guru, you should exfoliate your face a few days prior to the photo and drink tons of water in the days leading up to the photo being taken.  This will help skin look smoother and more even in the photo
  • If you wear makeup, go for a lighter hand for a soft effect.  Pretend you are going for that soft, fuzzy, super-forgiving Barbara Walters interview lighting
  • Speaking of lighting, Deb Liljegren also suggests shooting outside or near a window with filtered lighting


Remember, LinkedIn is a professional networking site and your photo should reflect that and portray your best you.


New Search Announcement! WildAid’s Managing Director of U.S. Operations

Pillar's New Search

GetAttachment (4)


Pillar Search is pleased to have been selected to partner with WildAid on their search for the new role of Managing Director, U.S. Operations.



Founded in 1999, WildAid is an international organization based in San Francisco, CA. WildAid’s mission is to end the illegal wildlife trade in our lifetimes. WildAid envisions a world where people no longer buy wildlife products such as shark fin, elephant ivory and rhino horn.

While most wildlife conservation groups focus on protecting animals from poaching, WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products by persuading consumers and strengthening enforcement.

With an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and global network of media partners, WildAid leverages nearly $200 million in annual pro-bono media support. Their message reaches up to 1 billion people every week.

WildAid’s strategy for achieving this goal is to reduce demand for these products using their slogan When the Buying Stops, the Killing Can Too.


Reporting to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and the Managing Director – Programs (MDP) in his absence, the Managing Director – US Operations (MDUS) will primarily be a manager, overseeing all US staff. The MDUS will assess and ensure organizational performance in areas both internal and external: non-programmatic fundraising, finance/accounting, human resources, information technology and organizational communication, against the annual budget, work plan, and strategic plan.

The MDUS will be responsible for recruiting and hiring all US staff and managing their well being. S/he will bring her/his experience and talent to bear on improving the global organization infrastructure to accommodate continued growth and geographic expansion. S/he will plan and lead the organizations non-programmatic fundraising and non-programmatic organizational communications strategy and should have extensive experience in both areas. Currently funding is mainly foundation and high net worth individual driven. The organization raises approximately $10 million annually.

The MDUS serves as counsel on short- and long-term fundraising, financial, staffing, and administrative decisions. S/he will set goals, monitor work, and evaluate results to meet departmental and cross organizational objectives. The role also includes oversight of WildAid’s headquarter operations and international administration and fundraising, as well as maintaining close professional relationships with staff in all locations to facilitate innovative and effective policies and procedures. They will negotiate and manage external vendor relationships such as legal counsel, insurance, technology providers, and facilities.

The MDUS will have the depth of financial experience to ensure compliance with audits, as well as regulatory and government requirements. This individual will collaborate with the Controller to oversee investment and asset management, the annual budgeting process, and ensure that multi-year financial modeling is consistent with strategic plans.

Finally, the MDUS will oversee HR strategies for recruiting, retaining, and training WildAid’s global workforce. The strategies will ensure the alignment of HR systems, compensation and benefits, and implementing a performance management system with the goals of the organization. S/he will also play a key role as champion of WildAid’s values-based positive culture.



The MDUS will examine the current operational systems in place, apply global best practices and strategize with the CEO to improve efficiency and implement solutions to support the organization as it continues to scale. They will build a cohesive team that includes necessary expertise in donor relations and fundraising, finance and accounting, technology, human resource and administrative support services that work collaboratively to advance WildAid’s mission. Specific duties within key areas include:

Fundraising/Donor Relations

  • Development: Work closely with the CEO and the MDP to meet aggressive fundraising goals; drive the execution of annual development plans for foundations, high net worth individuals, special events & other alternative sources of income.
  • Coordination: working internally and externally to ensure that all program, development, and communication initiatives are aligned and well-coordinated.

Human Resources

Manage and oversee the human resource function for WildAid, including:

  • Recruitment, hiring, compensation, benefits administration and performance management.
  • Design an execution of systems to develop, motivate, and retain top talent.
  • Create a more unified team across departments and offices.


  • Work plans and operations: Together with the CEO and MDP, develop and implement coordinated country and program strategies and work plans for non-programmatic staff, and monitor progress against metrics and milestones.
  • Board of Directors: working with the CEO, provide staff support and guidance to WildAid’s Board and act as staff liaison to relevant board committees.
  • Office leadership: Effectively execute standardized policies and procedures across regional offices in the San Francisco headquarters and country offices.
  • Risk management and legal activities: implement letters of agreement, contracts, leases, and other legal documents.
  • Information technology: ensure the ongoing 
maintenance and updating of information systems and infrastructure, including hardware, software, and necessary applications.
  • S/he will manage the non-programmatic budget and the following direct reports: Major Gifts and Events Planner, Development Assistant, Controller, Communications Manager, Administrator Associate, and Social Media Manager.  SF-based Video Editor, Video Producer, Climate Campaigner, US Campaigner (open), US Media Manager (open) will also be managed as well from a human resources aspect, but these positions will fall under the Managing Director – Programs in terms of direction.

Financial Management and Oversight

Working with the Controller, manage and oversee all financial and business planning activities, including:

  • Lead and support organizational budgeting process, including development of an annual operating plan with programmatic milestones and targets/deliverables linked to budgets.
  • Direct and administer all financial planning and provide overall financial oversight and monitoring.
  • Support and advise the CEO in decision-making and review and analyze financial reports and ensure that relevant financial data is presented to the CEO and Board of Directors.



WildAid seeks a passionate, experienced team player, who is deeply committed to WildAid’s mission to end the illegal wildlife trade. This individual will have senior management experience in fundraising, human resources, operations, and finance/accounting and have an understanding of nonprofit budget models. The successful candidate will have worked with senior-level stakeholders, such as a Board of Directors, leadership teams, and country directors, to secure commitments and manage execution against shared objectives

Since WildAid is a global organization undergoing rapid growth, the ideal candidate will share best practices for creating the proper infrastructure, systems, and processes to allow for sustainable expansion. Ideally, candidates will have spent part of their career working in the area of international conservation.

The successful candidate will be a pragmatic, action-oriented leader who will enjoys working in an entrepreneurial environment. The MDUS will think strategically and creatively; this leader will need experience identifying problems and implementing solutions and best practices. S/he will be a big picture thinker, but will also possess a strong work ethic and ability to act as a hands-on manager when necessary. This individual will show sensitivity and the ability to establish respect, credibility and trust with regional office staff and in multicultural settings. The successful candidate will be comfortable with ambiguity and excited by the opportunity to work in a dynamic, nimble, start-up-like environment. The MDUS will need to remain organized and calm when under pressure.



The candidate should have a minimum of 15 years related work experience in relevant positions of increasing scope and responsibility and possess excellent management and people skills, and personal qualities of integrity, credibility, and a commitment to WildAid’s mission. An ability to fundraise on a large scale is required. Proven experience working for an international and/or nonprofit organization in a similar capacity is highly desired. A Bachelor’s degree in finance, accounting, business administration, or a related field is required. An advanced degree in business, finance, or a related field is preferred.



WildAid is an equal opportunity employer and all qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. For immediate consideration, please address a cover letter and resume to Cindy Joyce, Pillar Search, at cindyjoyce@pillarsearch.com.