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Commongood Careers

Recent Posts by Commongood Careers:

Reference Checking: More Than a Necessary Evil

You have found a perfect candidate! His job experience is a perfect match, the culture fit is just right, and everyone in the office loves him! It's a done deal, right? Not so fast; it's now time for the reference checks.

Too often hiring organizations treat the reference check stage as a necessary evil, as the last "required" stage before the excitement of finalizing an offer. It is important to realize, however, that reference checking is not the end of the hiring process but rather the bridge between the hiring and onboarding processes. Not only will reference checking help you make the best hiring decision possible but it will also support the hired candidate's successful transition into his or her new role.

Checking references is the last step of a process designed to help you identify the candidate who will be most successful in a specific role and within the organization as a whole. At the beginning of the process, you should have outlined the competencies required for success in the role. During the interview stage, you gathered data about each candidate's ability to be successful in that role. The résumé and cover letter gave you some information, the in-person interviews gave you a lot more, and your ongoing interactions and any assignments you had the candidate complete added to the picture. The reference check process is your first opportunity to gather data from an outside source; take advantage of it!


Avoiding Common Hiring Pitfalls

There are a number of ways that recruiting and hiring processes can go wrong, and hiring the right people into the right positions is too important to leave to chance. Whether your organization has dedicated human resources professionals or not, there are a number of common hiring mistakes that can be easily avoided.


Weathering the Storm: Ensuring Your Organization's Continued Success through Tough Economic Times

The current global economic crisis is having a significant impact on the nonprofit sector. While mission-driven organizations have seen an increase in demand for their services and predict that the demand will continue to increase, they are also extremely concerned about the philanthropic environment and worry about how they will be able to support an increase in services with an expected decrease in charitable contributions.

How can organizations deal with the strain presented by the current economic situation? Of course, they need to ensure that the organization can remain financially viable during the economic downturn, but they also need to ensure that the organization remains strong and healthy, which means focusing on its people.


Working Your Organization's Network

When an organization has an open position, it typically relies on advertising the job through traditional means, such as on-line job boards and newspaper classifieds. Many organizations, however, overlook one of the most useful resources available to them in the hiring process: their personal and professional networks.

According to a 2001 study by the U.S. Department of Labor, almost half of all job seekers (48 percent) obtain their jobs through referrals. Additionally, numerous publications report that between 60 and 80 percent of executive-level positions are filled through networking or referrals. In fact, the executive search industry in the United States is built upon the premise that senior-level positions are filled through actively making connections with a targeted set of people pre-identified by an organization. The ability to leverage and extend an organization's known relationships—and to market an organization and its opportunities to this group—is key to making networking work as a viable recruitment source.


The Case for MBAs in the Nonprofit Sector

There is a lot of buzz out there about MBAs joining the ranks of the nonprofit sector. We wanted to find out what is behind all the buzz. Are nonprofits really hiring MBAs? Are MBAs interested in working in the social sector? What are some of the challenges that nonprofits face when considering hiring candidates with MBAs?

The Aspen Institute, in its 2007-2008 publication Beyond Gray Pinstripes, reports that over 30 percent of 112 schools of management offer a special concentration focused on social and environmental issues. Additionally, coursework and academic research on social and environmental issues has increased dramatically in the past few years. Even with increased access to such curriculum, Net Impact, a nonprofit organization that helps business school students use their skills for social impact, reports that only 6 percent of MBA graduates plan on pursuing careers in the social sector.

What will it take to get more MBAs into the social sector? Is there even a demand for these types of hires? This article describes the success that two organizations have found in hiring MBAs, outlines some of the challenges associated with hiring candidates with MBAs, and provides some suggestions for overcoming those challenges.


Communicating Your Organization's Culture to Job Candidates

In our daily conversations with nonprofit hiring managers, we constantly hear how cultural fit is one of the most important criteria for hiring. A challenge for some nonprofits, however, is communicating organizational culture in every stage of the hiring process. Can a hiring process genuinely reflect an organization's distinct personality and values? The answer is yes, provided the organization is aware of its organizational culture and makes an intentional effort to demonstrate the various attributes of its culture to job candidates.

Transferable Skills Open New Talent Pools to Nonprofits


Many career counselors advise nonprofit job seekers—especially sector switchers and recent graduates—to identify and market their transferable skills. Do organizations really consider these candidates without feeling as if they are taking too great a risk? How open-minded are nonprofits when it comes to looking at candidates that offer skills and experiences gained in other sectors or environments?

In a sector of close to 2 million organizations, the answer is: it depends. Organizations that consider themselves entrepreneurial are generally open to hiring talent from other sectors or nontraditional backgrounds. For many organizations, candidates with transferable skills are welcomed in some job functions, such as operations, management, and finance, but not in others, such as fundraising and program management.

Cultivating a broadly skilled talent pool is key to developing the next generation of nonprofit talent. In the current climate of explosive organizational growth and the pending retirement of "baby boomer" leaders, there will be a huge need for new talent in every functional area in the very near future. These issues require us to start thinking creatively about what a qualified and skilled nonprofit professional looks like, and to be willing to embrace the potential impact of hiring people with transferable skills.

The Softer Side of Skills

In the nonprofit sector, soft skills play a big role in hiring decisions. For example, in a recent inquiry conducted by Commongood Careers, a group of 20 nonprofit hiring managers ranked cultural fit and personality traits above more traditional hiring considerations of experience, skills, and education.

Knowing the soft skills that are most important to your organization allows you to consider candidates based on their personal qualities and abilities, in addition to the positions they have held or where they have worked in the past. Although desired soft skills vary between organizations, we've found that there are some personal qualities that span many nonprofits, including:

  • Being entrepreneurial
  • Being a self-starter
  • Having a positive attitude
  • Being resourceful
  • Working collaboratively
  • Being creative, particularly in a resource-constrained environment
To evaluate the presence of these or other transferable soft skills in potential hires, follow two rules of thumb: stay open-minded and do your homework. Begin by thinking broadly about a candidate's past experience in work, school, and civic life. Research the companies listed on candidates' résumés to understand their past work environments; many desirable soft skills are developed when working in start-up, fast-growing, or highly creative work environments. When speaking with candidates, ask for specific examples of times they were called upon to use a certain soft skill. Demonstrated past success is the best predictor of strong performance in a new role or organization.

In addition to evaluating a candidate's transferable soft skills, probe on personal qualities that demonstrate a mission-fit with your organization. Not all candidates are going to come to you with extensive work or volunteer experience in your specific field, but that does not mean they do not possess the personal qualities required to connect with and embrace your organization's mission. Share as much information as you can—including brochures, videos, or other collateral—with strong candidates in order to give them a sense of the importance of your organization's mission. With openness and candor on your part, candidates will understand the importance of your organization's mission and will be able to demonstrate their personal connection to it.

Are Hard Skills Really Transferable?

It's common for nonprofit hiring managers to have a very specific picture of the hard skills required for a given role. A grant writer needs to have written grants before. Someone working in community affairs must have experience with the community being served. But how hard and fast are these rules? What candidates might you be missing out on by not considering candidates with demonstrated success from different work environments or roles?

We mentioned earlier that many nonprofits are open to hiring people who possess hard skills in operations, management, and finance. Whereas skills required for these functional areas easily cross sectors, there are other skills that can also be successfully transferred to nonprofit roles, such as:

  • Sales and Marketing–Skills learned and honed in the fields of sales and marketing can be easily transferred to the field of nonprofit development and fundraising, which is the area of most need within the sector. Even if a candidate doesn't have direct experience in development (e.g., fundraising, grant writing, event planning, corporate partnerships), don't overlook candidates with hard skills in building high-touch relationships, producing collateral, giving presentations, or "making an ask." People with sales experience, particularly those with a background in identifying prospects and cultivating relationships, can often make a smooth transition into the field of major gifts fundraising. Finally, be open to considering candidates who possess experience in volunteer event planning or other fundraising activities, are members of a nonprofit board, or are strongly networked in philanthropic and/or corporate circles.

  • Writing and Research–Individuals with experience in journalism, corporate communications, and other fields that require strong writing skills can often leverage their transferable skills into other types of development and fundraising roles. Additionally, recent graduates from master of public administration (MPA) or master of public health (MPH) programs typically possess the research and writing experience needed to break into development.

  • Consulting–Management consulting experience is sought after in the nonprofit sector because of the analytical, research, project management, and client management skills that people with this kind of experience bring. Consulting experience transfers extremely well to certain roles, such as portfolio manager at a social venture fund or other areas where a nonprofit organization provides professional services to other nonprofits. Corporate partnerships, community outreach, and board relations are other roles in which consulting experience can be valuable.

    One challenge of transitioning from a management consulting (or other corporate) background to a nonprofit role is the shift from working for an internal client to an external one. For example, some management consultants work in the trenches of customer research but do not interact with clients face-to-face. When considering these candidates, probe their knowledge of and experience in client-focused environments and be prepared to connect these hires with mentors or other internal staff to support their transition.

  • Information Technology (IT)–Thinking creatively about IT staff can yield great results for nonprofits. Coined by TechSoup.org as "accidental techies," administrative or operational professionals who have been responsible for technology and systems management in past jobs can easily transfer these skills to a nonprofit environment. Similarly, technology professionals who have been specialists in a large department or corporation, but who are seeking more autonomy and ownership of their work, also transfer well to the nonprofit sector. In addition to technology skills, look for strong customer service skills and a friendly, patient demeanor.
Finally, many graduate degree programs—particularly master of business administration, MPH, and MPA—provide excellent training in hard skills that can be transferred into a range of nonprofit roles. For example, most MPH and MPA programs require coursework in grant writing and nonprofit finance.

When it comes down to it, a candidate's past success using a specific set of skills and competencies is the best indicator of how he or she will perform in a new role. Whether a hire is new to a job function or to the sector, remember that this person's ability to call upon his or her soft and hard skills in a new role is what most ensures success. By considering candidates with a variety of transferable skills, you will diversify your staff and increase the impact of your organization.

Commongood Careers
© 2007, Commongood Careers

Commongood Careers is dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.

Structuring Roles in the Hiring Process


An important aspect of any effective search strategy is the search structure, which refers to the people who will be involved in each hiring process and the roles that they will play. Developing an appropriate structure for each search will ensure that the hire is made in accordance with the needs, values, and capacity of your organization.

In developing the search structure, you will want to make sure that the following stages in the search process are appropriately designated:

  • Who will provide overall management of the process?
  • Who will be involved in scoping the role and writing the job description?
  • Who will post the position and distribute it to your organizational networks?
  • Who will design the tools to be used at each stage of the search?
  • Who will provide administrative support (i.e., scheduling candidate interviews, communicating with candidates)?
  • Who will provide an initial screen of candidates?
  • Who will be involved in interviewing candidates?
  • Who will complete reference checks on finalists?
  • Who will be involved in decision making?
  • Who will make the offer and negotiate with the final candidate?
Generally, the categories of people who may be involved in these various stages include board members and other external constituents, internal hiring managers, administrative support staff, and human resources representatives. Who is involved in each stage depends on the following criteria:

  • Level of Position: Generally, the more senior the position, the more senior the group involved in the hiring process should be. For a CEO or executive director search, for example, it will be appropriate to have a search committee structure involving board members and possibly other external constituents (more on search committee structure below). For an entry-level position, it is possible (though not advisable) to have only the position's direct supervisor involved in the hiring process.

  • Style and Values of the Organization: Is your organization extremely collaborative or are decisions made by one or just a few people? Does your organization value input from various team members or is it more autonomous? If your organization values collaboration, then input from staff in any hiring process is probably important to consider, regardless of the level of position.

  • Structure of the Organization: Does your organization have a human resources department? If so, what is its role in any hiring process? It may range from leading the entire hiring process to only being involved in a sign-off for the final candidate. Similarly, does your organization have support staff? Many of the stages in the hiring process can be handled by strong administrative staff.

  • Availability: Finally, consider the availability of each of the groups you are thinking about involving. Of course, in most nonprofit organizations, everyone is already doing much more than their job description, but if you know that there is no way that one director will be able to dedicate the time to interviewing candidates for a particular position in the coming months, then there is no sense in including that person in the search structure. You want to make sure that the search will be able to progress quickly at each stage, with no roadblocks. When an organization has administrative support staff available, senior leaders will be more highly leveraged in a hiring process.

Common Search Structures

So, what are some options available to you? The following are four commonly used search structures:

Search Committees

Search committees typically comprise five to eight individuals and include representatives from a variety of organizational stakeholders, such as senior management, the board of directors, funders, and organizational members, participants, or alumni. The committee is typically chaired by a board member or whoever will supervise the hire, if different. Depending on the nature of the hire, internal staff may not be involved. This is especially true for high-level searches for a CEO or executive director, or for any search where information is confidential.

With a search committee, there are typically different roles for different members. At the start of the search, significant work is put into collectively scoping the position, identifying candidates within personal networks, and defining the systems needed to support the search—such as feedback collection and decision-making tools. Typically, the committee participates as a group in search-related tasks such as interviewing. The committee will also have regular meetings to review top candidates, share feedback, decide on next steps at each stage of the process, and ultimately make a hire.

While the committee members manage the majority of the search directly, it is preferable if there is administrative support available for the logistical aspects of the search, such as posting job descriptions and scheduling interviews.

Single Hiring Manager

In some cases, particularly for nonprofits with small staffs, a single hiring manager will be responsible for the majority of the search-related responsibilities. Typically, this individual is the person who will ultimately supervise the hire. Others might be involved in providing administrative support, but the onus of screening, interviewing, and decision making lies with the hiring manager. To manage a search adequately, a single hiring manager should carve out approximately two hours per day for search-related tasks.

In addition to owning or overseeing the many search-related tasks, the hiring manager is also responsible for communicating with other staff about the status of the search. This communication will help to prepare the organization for the addition of a new staff member and will initiate the before the hire is even made.

Group Process

For most hiring processes, a group process will be most appropriate and effective. There are a variety of ways to structure a group hiring process. In some cases, an entire department manages the search; in others, representatives from different functional areas may each own an aspect of the search. For more senior hires, a representative of senior management or even the CEO or executive director should be a member of the hiring team.

Like search committees, group hiring teams require a great deal of up-front planning and preparation, especially when creating systems and tools to facilitate the hiring process. For example, the group must decide how often it will meet, how it will debrief after meeting candidates, and what tools are required for collecting and assessing candidate information.

Groups will divide and conquer tasks, such as posting and sourcing, but may choose to collaborate on other tasks. For example, the group may work together to scope the role and write the job description or to create interview questions and evaluation tools. Typically, each member of the group will be assigned different roles during the actual interviews. In general, the person who will supervise the hire will handle the tasks of extending and negotiating the offer with the chosen candidate.

HR/Hiring Manager Partnership

For organizations with a human resources department, an HR/hiring manager partnership can make for a highly organized and professional search. In these searches, HR can participate in a variety of ways, from providing purely administrative support to acting as a liaison between the hiring manager and the candidate to having decision-making input. An HR representative can also act as a neutral third party when it comes time to make an offer and negotiate salaries. Candidates often appreciate the ability to negotiate their offers with someone who will not be supervising them directly.

For Quick Reference

To help inform what type of structure works best for your organization, consider the benefits and challenges of each search structure outlined in the table below.

  Benefits Challenges
Search Committee
  • Effective for high-level positions reporting to the board of directors, e.g., CEO, ED
  • Candidates gain diverse perspective into the organization through meeting a variety of stakeholders
  • Communicates a high level of commitment to this hire and shows respect for the search
  • Requires significant time
  • Can be difficult to get to a shared vision for process and decision making
  • Process can get extended due to the need for consensus building
Single Hiring Manager
  • Single vision for the role simplifies the process
  • Works well when hiring manager has internal administrative support or is working with an outside search firm
  • Process moves quickly
  • Hiring can be too subjective, e.g., hiring manager can be looking to replicate self in new hire or find someone to compensate for personal weaknesses
  • Can be hard to "sell" candidates on the position and organization when they just have one point of contact
Group Process
  • Involvement of multiple staff members brings diverse perspectives on position and organization
  • Onboarding and team buy in are built into hiring process
  • Can take time to develop tools and processes and make hiring decision
  • Roles of different staff members need to be communicated clearly to candidates
  • Risk of alienating staff who are not involved
HR/Hiring Manager Partnership
  • HR expertise woven into the process
  • Supervisor relieved of negotiation aspects of the offer
  • Can be seen as more bureaucratic
  • HR process can be perceived as a "hurdle" to candidates


Commongood Careers, September 2007
© 2007, Commongood Careers

Commongood Careers is dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.

Introduction to Competency-Based Hiring


Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about utilizing core competencies in the hiring process. You may be wondering what exactly core competencies are and how they can help your organization make better hires.

The term core competency was originally introduced in 1990 by the Harvard Business Review to describe the management concept of corporations possessing specialized expertise in a specific area. Corporations quickly adopted the concept of core competencies to communicate what they did "best" and to leverage the competitive advantages of their brands.

Since then, core competencies have been applied to other aspects of management and have become a key strategy in the hiring process. This article explores competency-based hiring and how nonprofit organizations can best use this technique in the hiring process.

What Is Competency-Based Hiring?

An individual's core competencies are determined by two groups of factors: (1) skills, knowledge, and technical qualifications and (2) behavioral characteristics, personality attributes, and individual aptitudes. Although traditional hiring has focused primarily on evaluating a candidate's skills and technical qualifications, a competency-based approach includes an analysis of a candidate's behavioral characteristics as well. Competency-based hiring is grounded in the identification of core competencies required for success and the subsequent evaluation of each candidate's demonstration of those competencies in their past experiences.

From a hiring perspective, there are two different kinds of core competencies: position-specific and organizational. The following is a brief overview of each type.

Position-specific competencies refer to the abilities and behavioral characteristics required for success in a specific role. These characteristics may include attributes of an individual's work style as well as personal qualities such as being analytical, resourceful, flexible, or creative.

Organizational competencies refer to the qualities and attributes that characterize success across an entire organization. These competencies include fit with the organization's management style, risk tolerance, work pace and volume, employee demographics, and physical environment. Organizational competencies play a major role in determining what type of people will "fit" in an organization, regardless of their specific roles. For example, a bureaucratic, autonomous manager may not succeed in a management role at a highly entrepreneurial nonprofit where all decisions are made by consensus.

Sample Core Competencies

  Development Director, Tutoring Organization Program Associate, Youth-Outreach Organization
Position-Specific Competencies Develop and maintain effective relationships

Use innovation and creativity to create opportunities
Motivate participants through ongoing support and dedication

Demonstrate awareness of the community and ability to translate needs into services
Organizational Competencies Focus on demonstrable results in every aspect of work

Be entrepreneurial, take action, show initiative
Value every person, regardless of circumstance and past experience


Demonstrate personal self-awareness and be reflective

Core Competencies in Action

The first step in adopting a competency-based hiring model is to determine both the organizational and position-specific competencies required for a given position. To figure out organizational competencies, we recommend convening a focus group or implementing a carefully crafted survey to identify the top three to five characteristics and traits that typically make someone successful within the organization. Be sure to include all key stakeholders, including management, staff, board members, funders, and other constituents as appropriate. In order to determine position-specific competencies, you will want to employ a similar process, focusing on those who know the position best. Depending on your organization, it may also be helpful to define department-specific competencies, particularly for highly specialized departments such as finance or development.

After you have determined the competencies for a given position, you can use this information to inform all subsequent stages of your recruitment and hiring process. For example, your job description should focus on the core competencies successful candidates will demonstrate, not just academic or technical qualifications. In terms of recruitment, a focus on core competencies will lead to a broader candidate pool because you will be seeking professionals who possess the desired competencies required for a position but may come from less traditional backgrounds. To learn more about developing your search strategy and recruitment plan, click here.

Using core competencies to drive the screening and interviewing phases of the hiring process will provide more relevant information upon which to base hiring decisions than matching candidates against a list of requirements or assessing whether the hiring manager "likes" the candidate. We recommend using behavioral interviewing, which refers to asking questions that require candidates to describe past experiences in which they were able to demonstrate specific competencies. Based in the premise that "past behavior predicts future behavior," research and experience have found behavioral interviewing to be a more effective way of gauging how each candidate has performed in certain types of situations and therefore how successful each may be in a certain role. To learn more about behavioral interviewing, click here.

Hiring and Beyond

Adopting a competency-based hiring model requires an investment of time and effort up front, but that investment is well worth the effort because it enables you to make more appropriate and sophisticated hiring decisions. After the hire is made, core competencies continue to be useful in setting goals and positioning new hires for success, identifying areas for professional development, and making appropriate decisions about future promotions and raises. These factors lead to increased employee engagement and retention, two hallmarks of successful organizations.

For more information on competency-based hiring, we suggest the following helpful resources:

Commongood Careers, July 2007
© 2007, Commongood Careers

Commongood Careers is dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.

Developing a Search Strategy: Your Roadmap for Hiring


Navigating the hiring process can be daunting for even the most seasoned managers, particularly if hiring is not their primary responsibility. When faced with an open position, most managers want to hire as quickly as possible and therefore may try to shortcut the process. We have found, time and again, that the organizations that lead the most effective searches have a clearly defined and strategic process outlined before they even post the position. This is what we refer to as a Search Strategy, and this strategy directly affects the efficiency and effectiveness of any search process.

An effective Search Strategy includes defining the position, creating a job description and a job posting, developing a recruitment plan, and planning for the different phases of screening. This article will outline each of these phases in more detail.

Defining the Position

Doing a thorough needs assessment is the first phase in developing your Search Strategy. With key internal stakeholders and decision makers, start with looking at the needs of your organization (or department) fully; what are the key functional responsibilities that need to be included in order for your organization/department to succeed? Next, determine what key competencies are needed in order to fulfill those functional responsibilities. Look at your current staff and map their responsibilities and competencies to your needs. Where are the holes that need to be filled? Is there anyone currently in your organization whose role could be adjusted in order to meet those needs? If not, you will need to make a new hire.

Once you have defined the needs, it is time to define more thoroughly the particular position and identify the profile of your ideal candidate. To ensure an equitable process, gather input by survey or committee from other staff members to help shape the definition of the role. Some questions to consider:

  • What are the key roles and responsibilities for the position?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges presented by the position?
  • What competencies are required for success in the role?
  • What organizational values would an ideal candidate reflect?
  • What kinds of people are generally successful in this organization and in this type of role?
  • What kinds of people are generally not successful in this organization and in this type of role?
  • Where does this position fit in the organization?
  • What is the background of the ideal candidate for this role (e.g., educational background, professional experience, skills, cultural/personality characteristics)?

Creating a Job Description and a Job Posting

It is now time to develop two different documents: a job description and a job posting. A job description is an internal document that will lay out, in detail, the exact roles and responsibilities of a particular position. This will be used during the onboarding phase for the new employee, to set expectations and to help the manager supervise. It will also be useful during evaluations and performance reviews.

A job posting is an external document that is created to motivate candidates to apply to the open position. As such, it is viewed as a marketing tool. Visiting on-line job boards is a great way to see a variety of different types and styles of job postings to inform the creation of your posting. A strong job posting will include:

  • A compelling but concise description of the organization's history, mission, and key programs; communicate what an exciting place it is to work

  • An overview of the position that summarizes the key responsibilities while demonstrating the importance of the role to the overall success of the organization

  • A well-constructed and organized list of key roles and responsibilities; highlight the appealing aspects of the position, such as decision-making authority, participation in strategic planning, etc.

  • A list of the qualifications required; try to focus on competencies, such as "exceptional relationship-management skills, especially working with high net worth individuals"

  • Clear instructions on how to apply

  • A statement describing your organization as an equal opportunity employer

Creating a Recruitment Plan

A strategic recruitment plan outlines the methods you will use to solicit qualified applications for your open position. It includes three key components:

  • Internal Distribution: Send a thoughtful e-mail to your organization's staff. This message should include a brief and appealing description of the role and the ideal candidate and should have the full job posting attached or included in the body. The e-mail provides an opportunity for you to invite internal candidates to apply for the position, if appropriate. In addition, your colleagues are very good sources of referral candidates because they know your organization best and have an idea of what it takes to succeed there. Be sure to thank them in advance for their willingness to distribute the posting to their personal networks and, if possible, consider offering a referral bonus.

  • Distribution to Your Constituents: Next, share the job description with your constituents. Post the job on an appropriate section of your organization's Web site and include information about the position in any newsletters or other external communications. If this is a new position, use it as an opportunity to highlight your organization's growth and development. If appropriate, contact donors, board members, partners, and other contacts; you never know who may be the source of a great referral.

  • External Posting: Broaden your reach beyond your inner circles by advertising the position externally. For most positions, gone are the days of placing a want ad in the local newspaper; these days, it is usually more cost-effective to post positions on multiple on-line job boards. Even so, you should budget at least $500-$700 for external postings. In order to determine how to spend your recruiting dollars most efficiently, research the relevant job boards or publications where you would find similar postings. Ask staff who have similar roles where they would look for jobs. Find out what professional associations people in the field belong to and see if those organizations have a job board or listserv. Remember when evaluating posting channels to consider both flow and quality; most hiring managers would rather have a smaller pool of qualified candidates than a larger pool of unqualified candidates.

Outlining the Screening Process

The goal of the screening process is to assess each applicant across consistent criteria in order to facilitate the most informed and effective hiring process possible. Determining the screening protocols in advance also ensures internal alignment and accountability among all staff involved in the hiring process; be sure to share all relevant materials with appropriate staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to allow for any necessary adjustments before the screening process begins.

Screening is a process of gradually getting more and more detailed information about a smaller and smaller candidate pool and generally includes at least three stages:

  • Résumé Screen: Before you review the first résumé, determine what information you want to learn from the résumé. Return to the job description and come up with a list of criteria you are looking for in a candidate. Now, cut this list down to include just those criteria that can be gleaned from a résumé. Use this list to create a résumé-screening worksheet to complete for every application.

  • Phone Screen: Start by going back to the full list of criteria that you developed. Figure out which questions you are going to ask during the phone screen based on the information you are looking for. Types of questions for the phone screen typically fall into three categories: skill fit (e.g., "Tell me about your success managing employees new to the workplace"), culture fit (e.g., "In what kind of organizational culture are you most successful?"), and logistics (e.g., "When would you be able to start a new position?"). Make sure that you are consistent in all of your phone screens in order to prevent possible claims of discrimination and to allow for easy comparisons between candidates.

  • Interview: In-person interview(s) are typically the last step in the screening process. Use the in-person interview to probe for information you did not gain in the earlier stages of this process. Plan your questions in advance, while building in time for the candidates to learn about the role and the organization. Remember that an important part of the interview process is marketing; at this stage, you think that you might be interested in hiring this candidate. You need to make sure that the candidate is interested in working for your organization. For more information about structuring effective interviews, click here.

Communicating with Candidates

It is vitally important that you plan, in advance, how you are going to communicate effectively with candidates at each phase of the process. Remember that every single person who comes into contact with your organization is a potential donor, supporter, volunteer, board member, staff member, etc. Although most hiring managers feel bad telling candidates, "No," candidates would rather hear "no" than nothing at all.

Ready, Aim, Hire!

Once you have a comprehensive Search Strategy, you will be armed with the tools you need to begin the actual hiring process. Taking the time up front to discuss the strategy and develop the required materials will pay off in the long run, ultimately leading your organization to the best possible hires.

Commongood Careers, May 2007
© 2007, Commongood Careers

Commongood Careers is dedicated to helping today's most effective social entrepreneurs hire the best talent. Founded by nonprofit professionals, Commongood Careers offers personalized, engaged services to job seekers and organizations throughout the hiring process as well as access to a wealth of knowledge about careers in the social sector.