Movers Extra: CohenTaylor Executive Search Services

(Movers Extra presents additional insights from business people featured in Movers & Shakers, which I write for the Star Tribune’s business section).

A past recruiting success helped lead to creation of CohenTaylor Executive Search Services, a boutique Minneapolis firm specializing in placements in nonprofit and public organizations.

That winning effort occurred in 2011, when executive recruiter Chris Cohen persuaded nonprofit executive Don Taylor to make the move to her industry.

Chris Cohen - Don Taylor (003) copy

Chris Cohen, Don Taylor (submitted photo)

Cohen, a recruiter since 1997, had often sought input on nonprofit recruiting from Taylor, whose 30-year nonprofit career included serving as vice president of development and client services at the Minneapolis Foundation.

“Chris would lean in to me once in awhile,” Taylor said. “To be an effective recruiter she wanted to understand the space totally and completely.

“Eventually she tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘What about you? Would you be interested in working in search?’ ”

He was, and they worked together at a Twin Cities executive search firm for four years before forming CohenTaylor in 2015.

Cohen and Taylor launched their retained search firm to help address disruption in the nonprofit and public sectors and in the search industry itself, as they explained in a recent Star Tribune Movers & Shakers feature, which you can read here.

Here’s more from that interview:

Q: What differentiates CohenTaylor from other recruiting firms?

Cohen: Our inside-outside approach. We came into this with this history, my experience in the for-profit side, in the recruiting side, and Don, the insider, where he’s been inside the nonprofit space for almost 30 years.

What we continue to hear from our clients is that combination of insider-outsider status, insider-outsider knowledge feels very helpful to them in getting to the outcomes they’re looking for.


Q: How did you identify the opportunity to start a new search firm?

 Taylor: If you think about the way search might have been done in an old-school way, our outcome was to get a slate of four to six candidates who could present the competencies that our clients were looking for. While that’s still part of what we do, what our clients are looking for is more the “so what” on the other side of that.

While that’s still part of what we do, what our clients are looking for is more what have they done, what kind of impact have they had had in organizations where they’ve served in leadership. Our search model is changing to understand that better for clients.

Cohen: We’re going to get behind measuring outcomes. It’s a lot more emphasis on outcomes, deliverables and our placed candidates, how successful they are.

Q: How has finding talent changed and how are you responding to that?

Taylor: It used to be, let’s go back to that little black book and that doesn’t work anymore. Chris and I like to think about our success in cross-sector recruiting. There are a number of folks who want to be engaged in mission-focused work that’s so big in the nonprofit sector and want to transfer what they can in terms of their business skills across to that sector that will help nonprofits work more effectively or efficiently. A second part of that is the use of social media. Most folks now that are actively looking for new roles are using their phones and going to various websites. LinkedIn is huge.

Cohen: LinkedIn’s “2015 Nonprofit Talent Trends” reported that 57 percent of individuals go to social networks when they go to find a job. In the same report, 70 percent said they would consider working in the nonprofit space. On top of that, the majority of people are not sitting with a resume on the corner of their desk.

We joke that we disrupt other people’s lives. What you’re getting with this retained search firm is we’re going after that passive candidate. And how you get to that passive candidate is really different today than it used to be.

We work in partnership with our clients to figure out with them and the board what they’re looking for. Once you can get your arms around what the core leadership’s needs are for the outcomes they’re looking for, that inform where we’re going to go.

Q: Can you describe the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) tool that you’re using to recruit diverse, culturally competent candidates and your emphasis on understanding intergenerational differences in today’s workforce?

 Taylor: The IDI is a self-assessment in terms of cultural competency. We want to understand where we are individually as search professionals, our own cultural competency, and from that develop what are some key questions or conversations we can have with candidates to help understand what their cultural competency is.

Because of the changing demographics in the community, a lot of the nonprofit sector wants their leadership to look like their client base, so they’re looking for culturally diverse folks who can take leadership roles.

In terms of intergenerational, the workforce in terms of how a baby boomer might work in the workplace vs. how a millennial might work or not even bee in the workplace to do their work is very, very different. Leadership needs to understand that because they can’t afford not to understand that in terms of how the workplace is changing.

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