by Floyd Rumohr
An empty position often leaves small nonprofits and emerging leaders thinking I need to fill this position now!
From that vantage point, the well-intended nonprofit leader will see many candidates who seem to fit the bill: attractive, confident, professional and immensely qualified on paper. You like them. You really like them.
“It is just at this moment that the biggest hiring mistake is possible,” says Lou Adler, recruiter, author, and CEO of Power Hiring, a consulting company in Southern California. “What typically happens when you like someone is that you tend to go out of your way to reinforce what you like about that person-even if it’s subconsciously. You tend to support your conclusion and don’t look for facts to preclude it.” (SHRM)
A co-dependent hiring storm is created: an open position with urgent functional needs and a pool of likeable candidates. Each circumstance serves to fuel a belief that both are true. As a result, many time-pressured nonprofits administrators enthusiastically jump-in to hire the candidate liked best before thoroughly examining skills, experience, and compatibility with the organization.
Adler recommends training yourself to “wait 30 minutes before drawing any conclusions” in order to become more objective and tame overactive emotions (SHRM). While waiting is a great way to avoid impulsive decision making, nonprofit administrators often have another resource that engenders discipline in the hiring process: board members, staff, and outside consultants.
Multiple perspectives help to avoid common mistakes like hiring a version of any one person doing the hiring or enlisting a candidate because that person is well liked. In addition, they:
- Build credibility: the degree to which the judgment and conclusions resulting from the process are trusted and believed by others. If only one person is involved in hiring, then it is possible that several like-minded clones could appear and diminish organizational performance over time. In this case, how trustworthy is the hiring process at a nonprofit or within one of its departments?
- Reduce the effect of personal bias: one person cannot see and hear everything. Multiple people involved in planning and interviewing discourages any one particular bias, either positive or negative, from dominating the decision-making. Biases can sneak up in unforeseen ways and, in the worst cases, be the culprit behind discriminatory practices.
- Invest stakeholders in the process: staff, board, and others with whom the new hire will work most closely become acquainted before the new staff member’s first day. Relationships invested in each other’s success are one way to build a high-performance team from the get-go.
Different perspectives do not imply that authority for hiring rests with a committee. While the information gathered is more credible than going it alone, every organization will have to determine with whom or what (in the case of a committee) accountability rests.
Next up: evaluating candidate responses.
References and recommended reading:
“Avoid the Top Two Hiring Mistakes” by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). December 2002/Reviewed January 2004.