The Top Ten Nonprofit Recruiting Tips & Best Practices for Hiring Nonprofit Staff
Having and employing cutting edge recruiting techniques has never been more important in our highly competitive digital age. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, just under 60 percent of human resource professionals over the next decade see their largest challenge ahead to be in recruiting, retaining and training the next generation of organizational leadership. Getting ahead of the game, and improving your nonprofit recruiting process has never been more important.
The following Top Ten Nonprofit Recruiting Tips offer best practices that reflect the work and processes of highly effective organizational recruitment and hiring.
- Find the passion. Seek to connect with, and network with candidates that passionately choose to be involved with the mission. The number one reason talented staff stays working in challenging nonprofit positions is their absolute love for the position and the people. Show a candidate prospect how much your organization shows its appreciations for its staff and gains undeniable satisfaction from creating impact through your programs, and position your organization at the top of the candidate’s list of organizations and opportunities they are considering.
Best practice: look for reasons in the candidate’s past history that evidence long term passion for your mission, the work itself, and watch out for candidates who want to work in the nonprofit sector, and would be open to just about any mission. This is a sign they are not a 100% match. So, ask where else they are interviewing, and unless there is a focus and or rhyme to their reasoning, be careful you are not about to hire a staff member that will not stay long-term.
- Watch the Title. Never, ever, try to recruit a job that your salary range is not reflective of. If you cannot pay Chief Development Officer salary levels, do not search with the title. This will not gain you better talent, it will only uncover talent that you cannot afford or talent that is not a match for your size. This practice of providing inflated titles does cause the best talent to choose to not apply with you. There are over 1000 jobs open right not in the nonprofit sector in the US who have made, and or are making this mistake right now. A higher title does not necessarily mean your job applicants will magically be up and coming candidates who are ready for the next step. Instead, it is unattractive, works against you, and does not reflect the salary amount you can afford. In the end, you will miss out.
Best practice: only hire and advertise the title level you can afford.
- Write a truly compelling intro and description for your job. The difference maker between passive talent open to talking and or denying your inmail is about YOUR approach during sourcing. Explain how amazing the team is, how inspiring it to work in the role, how incredible the work is and how lucky this role is to lead. Talk like you are excited, or don’t expect the candidate you are emailing to be.
Best practice: say how excited you are about the candidate’s background, express something about their work you noticed, and talk with awesome incredible excitement about how awesome the job you are reaching out about is!
- Spread the word and network; be a proactive recruiter. If you find yourself only emailing candidates open to new opportunities or following up with candidates that apply you are limiting yourself. The secret to incredible recruiting is using the best tools (like LinkedIn and Foundation List), and getting out there and doing some amazing traditionally networking. The best recruiters in the business already know this. It is all about how many people you have reached out to.
Best practice: Be strategic and always make sure the people you reach out to network with are the true dream candidate match in title, experience, and industry. Go after the same title, experience level and industry you are recruiting for.
- Show the value of the career opportunity! Candidates either move for a better environment, team, compensation package, and or growth in their career. Show prospective candidate you are recruiting why each of these are better than where they are, and you will have a motivated candidate that will see your opportunity as a real long-term strategic career opportunity.
Best practice: think about the organization and the opening you are recruiting on behalf of and effectively sell all the positive aspects that relate to the environment, team, compensation, and or opportunity. If you have not talked about who the position has the pleasure of working with, how amazing they are, the first four awesome projects the position gets to lead, the positive company culture that exists, and the long term career growth opportunities, and the overall goals of the organization you have not done everything in your power to land the candidate. Even if they want the job already, educating that on these areas significantly increases their motivation and the chances they will be leaders on your team. Get creative, make it compelling and cultivate greatness.
- Effectively interview, evaluate and educate potential candidates about the rewarding challenges for the role. An effective process exhibits the following qualities: (A.) approaches the interview and completes it with a focus of attracting each interviewee, (B.) effectively evaluates candidates skills, fit, long-term match, passion for the work and mission in a way that does not turn off talent; (C.) employs interviews that gets each candidate excited about the work and team; (D.) that emulates the work that the individual will be going in the role.
Best practice: create a process that is agile allowing you to hire quickly to match the market, and also gives you a look into how the candidates will work in the role. Ex: if public speaking or partnership will be required make sure to use a panel as part of your interview process; or if analysis will be required make sure ask questions about how they will approach problems; or if writing or administrative functions will be required make sure to review prior writing samples and or consider testing applicants via a typing test and or Word knowledge. The speed of use of technology many times strongly correlates with multitasking abilities.
- Keep the interview process streamlined, communicate the process to whom you interview, and express interest in strong candidates early. If you are currently running an interview process that lasts more than 24 business days for non-C-level roles, you are on the road filled with danger of losing talent, and or makes candidates less interested in you.
Best practice: unless you are hiring for a VP or above, never require more than three total steps in your interview process. Also, try to never allow the three steps to be separated by more than 8 working days. And aim to make all candidates you are speaking with in person they are being highly considered and they have a real shot of getting the role. Employers sometimes fall into the trap of not wanting to get candidates hopes up, which in turn sends the message to your prospective talent they should not be seriously considering the role. Making the process sound long, difficult, or overly competitive does not attract the best of the best unless it is streamlined and makes the talent feel special at each step. Many large corporations and nonprofits who believe they only hire the best of their industry make this mistake daily. While it is very needed to screen talent effectively, it is also important to understand that candidates see the length of your process indicative of how agile, creative and cutting edge you are and will be. Longer methodical processes make elite candidates fear the organizational speed to market and program evolution is limited by set organizational structure. Always understand the messages or assumptions your process is silently communicating to candidates, and seek to overcome any potential negative assumptions.
8. Effectively understand how potential talent see your organization, and incorporate information the counters negative assumptions (about your organization) in your initial first contact with prospective talent. Most candidates who are lost, or decide to not be considered choose this directly after their first initial contact with the organization be it an email or phone screen. Adding in content that overcomes wrong assumptions can dramatically increase your pool of qualified talent.
Best practice: meet with two to three contacts in the same role you recruit for (or industry) that are NOT on the market and learn from how they view you. Buy them lunch and learn about what they assumed about your organization after a brief look. How big they think you are. How fast they assume you make decisions. What your place in the industry is. What experience level they think your staff is. If they see you as stagnant, growing, in need of change, and what they assume about you. The key is learning from people that do not know you well and do it individually. Nothing will help you more in recruiting than truly understanding what people assume about your organization.
- Put the time in and headhunt. If you have an open role that is difficult to fill ask yourself one question. Did my organization network with and our direct reach out via email to 150 candidates in this same role who are a geographic match within a 24 day period. Waiting for candidates to apply via only posts will only get you so far. While the posts at Foundation List go beyond traditional passive posting and help you to email candidates, being proactive is the key.
Best practice: combine use of Foundation List, LinkedIn Recruiter, and email at least 150 potential contacts that are a match for the role. And do so within a 30 day period; the optimal length of time for gathering a round of talent. If this does not work, make sure your communication is attractive, and repeat.
- Watch the little things candidates do and communicate these as an organization to inform the interview process. Small signs candidates exhibit absolutely show you how much care, passion, skill, knowledge and success they will have if you hire them. Watch how long they take to reply; if they only reply to do during the day; if they use professional formatted emails to you or are more impersonal; if they ever reschedule; if they bring questions and how many they ask; if they know anything about you or did their homework; if they have a profile on LinkedIn (all of the best candidates do); if they exist online; how long their thank you letter is and how much passion it shows; if they wrote a thank you to each person they met; how forthright they are about their job search and or how close they play their cards; how upfront they are about salary requirements and or long term goals (if they are not, they may be trying to fit what you are looking for and not vice versa); how upfront they are about layoffs, transitions between employers (unless they are fully upfront this is a bad sign); how much they move geographically, professionally and seek change or stability. Almost every bad hire showed signs during the interview process, which in hindsight should have been viewed as reasoning for further learning, be aware to limit these occurrences.
Best practice: design a process in which all interactions are reviewed from each communication or appointment. Yes, it matters if the candidate walks in fully prepared; brings their resume; needs to borrow a pen; tries to be kind and thankful with your organizational receptionist or greeter; immediately asks to use the bathroom; is late buy even a minute; takes notes; provides you with at least three recent contacts they reported to as references; or is an active listener. Pay attention actively look for signs of preparation, professionalism, and engagement. And if you ever not sure, as they say in acting, “use that,” as it is 100% a sign your instincts are telling you they are not the one, something is not right and proceed with caution.
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