AI and Nonprofit Hiring

By David A. Mersky

Do you know much about AI (Artificial Intelligence)? We have written a bit about it — Abigail did a terrific piece recently about AI in fundraising. I confess that I am far from expert. However, lately I have been thinking quite a bit about AI’s potential impact on the nonprofit hiring process.

And then I came across a very interesting study published by the MIT Sloan Management Review. Among other things, it found that job applicants who use AI receive 7.8% more offers and have starting salaries that are 8.4% higher than those who don’t.

Since this blog tends to concentrate on executive search, let’s flip the AI focus to hiring.

If you are not aware of how AI is being used by candidates as you set out to hire your next great team member, suddenly, it is no longer a level playing field. Not only because you are competing for those same candidates with organizations that utilize AI, but also because the candidates themselves have more tools at their disposal than ever before.

AI Makes All Candidates Seem More Attractive

The 2024 job applicant will be using AI in any number of ways.

For example, many job postings contain very detailed requirements; AI can check that one’s resume meets all the necessary prerequisites. AI can also act as expert copywriter and proofreader — crafting cover letters, removing typographical errors, eliminating improper grammar, and polishing one’s presentation overall.

In larger organizations in which the first reader of a cover letter and resume is a computer, AI’s ability to match the candidate’s profile to job requirements and remove obvious errors is clearly to their advantage. But this improvement to the initial submission of materials is just step one…

If the candidate is fortunate to get through your initial screening and be invited to meet with you on Zoom, they will first brainstorm every interview question they can imagine (often with the help of an AI tool, such as ChatGPT). Next, after asking AI to consider articles you’ve written, your organization’s annual report, your web site, etc., AI can provide on-target answers for the candidate. From there, it’s just a matter of adding some personal stories and humanizing the responses.

AI: Threat or Opportunity in Hiring?

The short answer, of course, is probably both.

As it improves in capability and ease of use, allowing more and more candidates to employ it as a job-search enhancer, AI will increasingly complicate the already challenging process of separating the stars from the duds.

On the other hand, the best candidates have always done the most in-depth research and thorough preparation. By using AI to improve how they present themselves to you and your organization, they demonstrate a willingness to innovate, experiment, and engage with the newest ideas and technologies. After all, isn’t that what you are looking for in a new hire?

As for me, I believe the jury is still very much out regarding AI’s ultimate impact on the hiring process. But clearly the tide is overwhelming; AI will continue to play a greater and greater role in not just hiring, but in how we conduct business overall.

And, because of that, I think the human element will become even more essential. There will be a greater need to hire people who can think strategically, act tactically, and cultivate relationships with donors that are genuine and characterized by integrity. I don’t think AI will be able to screen for those attributes for quite some time.

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