Believe it or not, it will soon be the fourth anniversary of the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we came out of that, we encountered something not seen previously: “The Great Resignation.” Many people realized they were unhappy with their jobs — whether due to the circumstances surrounding them, the work itself, or some combination — and simply quit.
Since then, nonprofits that conduct their own searches have found it harder to find qualified people for open positions. And those who are interested in the positions are asking different questions than years past. Questions like:
- Do I need to work during “standard” business hours?
- Do I need to come into the office five days a week?
- Do I need to come into the office at all?
Of course, hiring well has never been easy. But it has become a great deal more difficult given today’s smaller pool of candidates and the larger demands those candidates now place on organizations.
Under such circumstances, it is easy to take the path of least resistance — to fill the position as quickly as possible, even if it means settling on a less qualified candidate. This is a critical mistake. When qualified candidates are in short supply, the hiring process needs to be slowed down, not sped up.
Indeed, hiring the “wrong” person is among the costliest mistakes an organization can make. The old saw about investing in people, not ideas, is as true as it has ever been. If the people are not right, the organization will struggle to succeed, regardless of what other assets it may possess.
But managers with open positions already have full-time jobs. Further, they are (usually) not well-equipped with the training and skills needed to make quality hiring decisions.
How then can your organization ensure hiring is done carefully and thoroughly, and that you are identifying and engaging with those individuals who can contribute the most?
Create a Formal Process
If we are being honest, most organizations have a haphazard, undefined approach to hiring — something akin to a Rube Goldberg cartoon come to life.
Instead, it is important that you delineate, in writing, a clear description of what your hiring system looks like — from the moment you become aware of an opening, all the way through the new hire’s first month of employment.
We recommend that senior management comes together every few yearsto review the process and make sure everything possible is being done to identify, engage, recruit, and retain the very best people.
Assess Behavior, Not Just Appearance
How many times have we hired someone simply because they looked impressive, spoke articulately, and told great stories? Yes, those things are an important part of the presentation these individuals will make on your behalf as they seek to further your cause.
But it’s not enough, and it can be misleading. Shift your focus to the candidate’s capabilities and proven accomplishments.
If your organization offers programs and services that can be observed, ask the candidate to visit one of your sites and write up a summary of their impressions. If you don’t have such programs, ask them to look at your web site and provide a written assessment. These actions offer a window into how they think and communicate, while shifting much of the burden back to the candidate and away from the hiring manager.
Dig deep into their past track record. Speak in depth to their references and to others in your network who may know them in a different context. Do whatever you can to assess how they have functioned elsewhere, to envision how they may fit within your shop.
One positive outcome of the pandemic is that we are all now accustomed to Zoom. This tool can save you and your team a great deal of time when used as a prescreening device.
Prior to inviting candidates in for a face-to-face interview, assign someone on your team — not necessarily the hiring manager — to speak with these people. You want a screener with a well-honed BS detector. Someone who has a good sense of the company culture and what it takes to fit in. Only those who clear this initial hurdle are asked to move forward in the process.
This type of first-level screening can go a long way in culling those who are a poor fit for the job at hand, while making best use of the hiring manager’s time and attention.
Effective Hiring Is Not Luck
For any position in which human interaction is paramount, there will always be a great deal of subjectivity involved in the hiring process. That’s not necessarily a negative — ours is an industry in which how things “feel” plays an important role.
Still, a process that is too random and too dependent on impressions is likely to result in candidates who are not up to the task or who are not a good match for your organization. In today’s tight job market, a deliberate and well thought out approach is vital.