Hiring. Let’s be honest. Most employers hate doing it. It removes us from our main day-to-day work. It’s hard. And it takes forever.
I understand. I’ve been there. But hiring is actually the most important thing that any manager does. To paraphrase Jim Collins in his modern-day business classic Good to Great, what separates great organizations from good organizations is the ability to get the right people on their teams and in the right roles.
With hiring such a critical component of our work, and the primary driver of our organizational success, the key is to approach it through an efficient and well-thought-out process. Here are some quick hiring tips to help social impact employers:
Organization and Team Fit First; Everything Else Second
It’s counterintuitive, but when hiring someone for a role in your organization, the most important attribute is not whether he or she has the skills to do the job! The most critical element is whether that candidate aligns with the mission, values, culture and work environment of your organization and team. It is far easier to train someone who is well aligned with your organizational culture and mission, than to convince someone with the right skillset to be passionate about your mission or to work well in your work environment.
Know the Difference between “Must-Haves” and “Nice-to-Haves”
When employers hire, they usually start the process by drafting a job description. This description quickly evolves into a wish list for their dream candidate. There are three problems with this: 1) there are no perfect people; 2) a long list of characteristics is actually a reflection that the supervisor hasn’t prioritized what he or she is looking for; and 3) this long list of requirements (many of which are typically low priority) can actually deter strong applicants from applying because it inadvertently leads them to believe they are not a fit.
Before I start the hiring process, I find it helpful to break out the absolute non-negotiables from the nice-to-haves. This speeds my process of finding the right person and ensures I don’t accidentally hire someone who meets all my nice-to-haves but misses a critical must-have. It also ensures I don’t let a great person go while I’m searching for the diamond in the coal mine.
Don’t Rush and Plan Accordingly
You can’t rush a critical hire. Most hires take at least three months from when you post a job to when the right person starts, and more senior roles usually take even longer.
So, what do you do? Have a plan in place for how the future hire’s work is handled in the interim. And be smart about it. If your plan is to shuffle the work onto your other employees’ plates, that may or may not work. Ask yourself – will your team morale still be high if the search takes three, four or six months to complete? Or will you have just burned out another staff member and find yourself starting yet another hiring process to replace the person who had been shouldering the extra work? At minimum, you should use some of the saved salary from the loss of the prior employee to pay a bonus to the employees who take on the extra work. In some situations, hiring someone for a short-term contract on an interim basis (using the funds that will eventually go to the new hire’s salary) would be an even better course of action. Regardless, this is a conversation to have with your team – make sure you have their buy-in in the final decision.
Don’t Limit Your Search to the Usual Places
Is your role the type that requires deep knowledge of your sector and the cause; is it a functional role that requires expertise with a specific skill; or both? While “front-line” leadership roles usually require an in-depth knowledge of your cause and/or clientele, many back office roles, such as finance, accounting, operations, and human resources, do not. Great employees for these roles can often be found in private sector employees. Don’t limit yourself to assuming that every person on your team must have previous experience in your sector or industry. Remember – there is no substitute for mission and organizational culture alignment. But once that box is checked, many skills are transferable from other sectors.
There is a lot that goes into finding the right talent. It’s hard, and we’re not all experts. As Executive Director of the Southern Region for Education Pioneers, I helped hundreds of organizations that were struggling with the hiring process. Building on the lessons I learned, I recently founded WorkMonger to offer social impact organizations in the U.S. an innovative, technologically-enabled way to find just the right person to join their team. WorkMonger takes the profile-driven approach of online dating (think eHarmony) and applies it to the hiring process to match social impact employers with the right jobseekers.
Whether helping prioritize aspects of your job description, hiring an interim employee while conducting your full-time search, or sourcing candidates from diverse sectors that align with your organization, WorkMonger can help. Here’s how it works: social impact employers and jobseekers each complete a robust profile, including typical employment attributes, such as education, skills and work experience, but also less tangible attributes, such as mission and values alignment, as well as work environment and organizational culture preferences. Through our proprietary matching process, WorkMonger then utilizes these comprehensive profiles to source job candidates from our pool, producing a shortlist of aligned candidates. This shortens the time to find qualified applicants, takes some of the workload off of employers, and positions both employers and jobseekers for mutual success. Better yet – it’s free to sign-up, and employers only pay if they successfully hire one of our candidates. If you’re interested in learning more, check out www.workmonger.com.
John Troy is the Founder of WorkMonger. He learned how to hire the hard way in 9 years as a nonprofit executive.