Adapted by Will Carreras / Ensis Corp.

With the lowest unemployment rates in decades, (3.7% at the time of this writing) it has never been more crucial for a nonprofit organization, or responsible for-profit-company, to position themselves in the best way possible to thrive in this highly competitive hiring marketplace. There’s a variety of best practices to keep in mind in this digital age, and here are some of the best; The Ten Commandments of Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing.


It’s widely believed, (SHRM), that one of the most pressing challenges for nonprofits over the next few years will be the hiring and keeping of the next cohort of its leadership staff. Nonprofits must be super intentional how they go about attracting new talent to their organizations – they just can’t afford to do otherwise.  

Following are the the Ten Commandments, or best practices, of Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing for today’s hiring environment. 

1.       THOU SHALT LOOK FOR THE PASSION – look for, connect with and hire candidates that are passionate about your particular mission. One of the best reasons talent sticks with, often challenging, nonprofit work is that they identify highly with the cause – this gives them a reason, beyond compensation, to go the long haul. Show a candidate how their unique experience and skills will compliment your organization and its mission, and you will move towards the top of their employment possibility choices.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – make it a point to carefully vet potential candidates’ passion in the nonprofit world and make sure it aligns closely with your mission. Hiring someone who just wants to work in the nonprofit world may not result in a lasting investment. Consider their past engagements, where else they are interviewing and what they’re passionate about.

2.       THOU SHALT NOT INFLATE THE TITLE – avoid recruiting for a Job and Title you cannot afford. Don’t advertise for a Director when all you can afford is a General Manager. Advertising with an inflated Title will only lose you candidates, possibly produce short-term hires and overall just cause you to spin your wheels.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – hire with a Title that is an accurate reflection of, and can be easily supported by, your budgeted compensation.

3.       THOU SHALT CRAFT A CAPTIVATING JOB DESCRIPTION – your approach will make a world of difference in how talent, especially passive, (those not currently looking for a job), react to your pitch. Sell! Sell the team they’ll be working with, the benefits, the opportunity, the mission and how they’ll help carry it forward – paint the picture and be excited! If you’re not - chances are they won’t be either.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – show genuine excitement for the Candidate, their skills, background and accomplishments. Then express abundant enthusiasm for your organization, its mission and the candidate’s seemingly great fit; it’ll be contagious.

4.        THOU SHALT SPREAD THE WORD HIGH AND LOW – make sure to go beyond placing, and responding to, ads in your search for talent. You must go after not just active talent (those actively looking for jobs), but also passive. Use a toolbelt which includes not only ads, but networking, and digital sourcing tools. Further, one of the best investments may be contracting the services of a professional recruiter – if they’re good, they’ll be an expert in this field and with these tools and can save you countless hours, headaches and missed opportunities.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – Use a variety of ways to reach active and passive candidates, not just job ads. Consider the services of a Professional, Accomplished Recruiter – this may prove to be a Great Investment.

5.       THOU SHALT SHOW THE WEALTH OF THE CAREER OPPORTUNITY – beyond crafting a captivating Job Description, show how this opportunity will ultimately impact the candidate’s Career. Candidates generally move to a new company for BETTER: for better work environment, compensation and benefits, team and ultimately what is seen as the next best step for their Career. Prove your organization to be the best and right option for them and you’ll start to move them into your fold.

a.      Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – again, sell the organization, job and especially the career opportunity. Even if a candidate initially wants the job, remember this is a highly competitive market with usually many competing opportunities; give your organization the best chance. A little time investment here will prove invaluable in the long run.

6.       THOU SHALT EFFECTIVELY INTERVIEW WITH AN EYE ON THE GOAL – effectually interview, educate and evaluate candidates on the worthwhile challenges of the role; always with your eye on the Goal - and here is the Goal:

i.      Conduct the entire process so the candidate is attracted to your organization not repelled
ii.      Carefully evaluate the candidate’s skills without turning them off
iii.      Get the candidate excited about the Team, Opportunity and Organization
iv.      Incorporate aspects of the candidate’s role into the interview process – better determination of fit. i.e., if the job involves coding, give a coding test. If it involves ample professional writing communication, give a writing test

b.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – ensure you develop an Agile interview process which competes well with the current hiring marketplace and adequately and practically determines if the candidate is a fit.

7.       THOU SHALT BE AGILE, SPEEDY AND COMMUNICATIVE – don’t let your interview process drag out unnecessarily, explain the procedure and express genuine interest in the candidate early.  If you’re hiring for anything less than C-level executives the interview process should not go more than 15 business days; the shorter the better – otherwise you run the risk of consistently losing talent.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – Unless hiring for C-Level, V.P. or above, your process should be characterized by the following:

i.      Not more than three steps, or interviews in the process
ii.      Each interview should not be separated by more than 1 week
iii.      Assure candidates they are strong contenders being seriously considered (why else bring them in for an interview?)
iv.      Making the process seem long, difficult and overly selective will not make your organization more desirable to the candidate but just the opposite. They have numerous choices these days
v.      Keep in mind the interview process will reflect to the candidate your organizational structure. Is the process muddled, long with unnecessary steps? Maybe the organization acts this way across the board

8.       THOU SHALT STUDY AND UNDERSTAND HOW TALENT SEES YOUR BRAND – most good candidates are lost early in the interview process; be it the first email, call or Inmail they receive – reason being is the impression they already have of the organization or get by the initial contact. Understand these latent pitfalls, any potentially negative impressions, and address them immediately.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – meet with individuals you are not trying to recruit but who are in the industry and similar roles to your open job. Buy them coffee, lunch or a beer and ask them how they see your organization, your brand – what’s the word on the street. Are you seen as small, slow, stagnant, having employee turnover, etc. Find out any potential red flags so you can address these with potential candidates early. Knowing how you are viewed in the industry will be of great value in how you communicate.

9.       THOU SHALT INVEST IN HEADHUNTING – if you have a difficult-to-fill role invest in Headhunting time. Reach out / Network to 150 passive candidates within 2 work weeks from job opening. Either do this yourself or hire a Recruiter to do so.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice – set metrics to be reached for your search – calls, emails, Inmails, etc. Determine a goal to be reached by a set time for each search and ensure accountability from your organization or recruiter to follow through.

10.    THOU SHALT WATCH THE SMALL DETAILS FROM THE CANDIDATE – watch the little things the candidate says and does – these can be great indicators on how they will conduct themselves within your organization and in their role.

a.       Nonprofit Recruiting and Staffing Best Practice - design a process that evaluates what the candidate says and does as indicative of the potential fit at your organization. Pay attention to items like:

i.      Before interview – do they have short work stints, gaps between jobs, complaints about past jobs or bosses. Do they respond quickly to requests such as interview availability, etc.
ii.      During Interview – do they bring in a resume, pen, paper, take notes, ask questions, were they pleasant to the receptionist, are they forthcoming with salary requirements or do they ask for next steps when interview is completed.
iii.      After Interview – are they quick to send a thank you note, provide references, are they easily available for the next interview, etc.

Today’s hiring marketplace is a highly competitive one for employers, especially nonprofits. Candidates have many more options today than they did in the past, creating unique challenges to properly hire and keep good talent. Incorporating the above Best Practices in Recruiting and Staffing for nonprofits and responsible for-profit companies will greatly help in the process.

Happy Hunting…

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