by Floyd Rumohr
Let’s face it. Hiring is an ancillary requirement of nonprofit leaders and managers of small and midsize organizations. Most are too busy doing other things to give it much thought.
As a result, common mistakes like hiring versions of the person doing the hiring or recruiting someone because of a charming personality can occur. In the worst cases and in the absence of a human resource professional, which is rarely seen at all but larger nonprofits, misjudgments in hiring can catapult a new hire into sudden departure with staff and board wondering what went wrong. Worse yet, havoc can result from a new hire who is a bad fit.
So how can a small or midsize nonprofit appropriately identify, attract, and retain appropriate talent? Thinking of each new hire as a small project might help. It requires planning just like any new mission-driven project or idea and generally has six stages:
- Collaborative Planning: hiring teams can include executive, program, development directors, and board members with whom the new hire will interact most closely. Essential questions for the team to explore include: what do we need to know from the process? what questions are we going to ask? who’s going to ask them? how many interviews are needed? who will assume the responsibilities of a hiring manager? and how will we evaluate the responses?
- Screening: these days, initial screening of cover letters and résumés can be done via e-mail but the speed of our virtual reality should not cheat application evaluation. Standard criteria such as amount of experience, degrees or certifications, and specific skills should be used to evaluate each cover letter and résumé that comes in. Collaboratively agreeing on criteria during planning will help identify the best candidates for a first interview.
- Interviewing: as with screening, a set of standard criteria and questions should be asked of all candidates in order for the process to be credible and fair. Questions requiring a yes/no response can be helpful in the beginning of an interview to help candidates feel comfortable especially when nerves are at their highest. By contract, high inquiry questions are those that stimulate a broad range of responses; penetrate the dimensions of experience, skills, organizational compatibility; and provide indicators of future performance such as in: “What do you think are the critical job challenges for this position and what in your background will help you succeed in meeting these challenges?” A second or even a third interview could be required and something to consider during planning.
- Finalists Selection: these are the top contenders — the best performers so far in the process. Reference checking, academic credentials verification, and salary requirements should occur on or before this stage so inappropriate candidates are not advanced through the process. Finalists can be brought in to meet members of the board, search committee, executive director, or any other stakeholders to provide insight.
- Negotiation and Offer: some verbal back-and-forth might be required at this stage. A written offer in the form of a welcome letter might include start date, salary, benefits package, probation policy, initial steps of the onboarding plan, and any other appropriate information.
- Onboarding: smooth transitions into a new position and organization are rarely accidental. They require leadership and planning. Designating someone on the team to be the hiring manager will facilitate this essential process and help ensure that the new hire sticks around.
Next up: purpose of interviews.