Eight Tips for Wooing Candidates

The best candidates are not looking for you, you are looking for them.

When you start your search for an Executive Director, Fundraising Professional, Chief Financial Officer, Public Relations or Marketing Director you might think about who will be lucky enough to land the position with your organization.

Instead, nonprofits should be thinking about being lucky enough to land the right person for the position. It's unconventional thinking in the sector and nonprofit board members and professionals need to do it more. It could mean a big difference in the quality of the candidate hired, especially in times of a tight market for employers.

In a search for a nonprofit executive, the attitude of the hiring body is one of the biggest factors in determining the outcome of the search. Here are eight tips to get your best candidates to fall in love with your organization:

1— Be a good place to work (benefits, salary, support, board involvement, fun, flexible). Before you start hiring, check over your benefits and be clear about what type of compensation and benefits package you can offer your ideal candidate. Many younger employees are looking for places to work that allow them to balance work-life with home-life. Do you offer flexibility in terms of work hours? Is your workplace a fun place to be? A little levity can compensate for long hours and lack of resources that many nonprofit employees face. Also, what support does upper management and board members supply? If the facilities and office are nice, point it out to potential candidates. Offer information about opportunities for advancement or career growth and development, if those exist (and hopefully they do!)

 2—Know what you want. Define what you want in an employee. What skills will this person need? What work-style is preferable? Go so far as to list character traits that you believe would fit in with the culture of your organization. The more specific you get, the more quickly you'll know when you've found the right person.

3—Write an enticing advertisement. If you publish a list of duties and requirements, don't expect candidates to come running. When you are writing a position profile ask yourself, “What is so great about our organization and this opportunity that a talented professional would leave his or her job and come to work with us?” If you can answer that question, you'll create a position profile that will create a broad pool of applicants.

4—Inform candidates about your organization and its vision. Once a candidate is interested in your position, give them all the information you can about this position and its potential. Provide them with enough information about the organization, including the warts, to allow them to make a good decision about whether this opportunity is right for them.

5—Be quick about it. Don't drag out your search. Two weeks probably isn't enough time, but 12 months may be too long. Make your search a priority. If you don't, you'll start to lose good candidates to other opportunities. Also, when your search takes too long, candidates will begin to have concerns about the management of the organization and what they can expect when they are on the payroll.

6—Keep them posted. At every possible juncture, keep candidates informed about what is going on with the search. Share as much information as you can about the timeline, how many other candidates are in the running, when the final decision will be made and what they can expect in terms of being notified about their final status.

7—Have them meet everyone. Before you hire a candidate, it's essential that everyone who will be working with that candidate directly meet the person. Not only will this give you more input about the impression the candidate makes, but it will create buy-in. If you hire this person and board and staff have been able to put in their 2 cents-worth, they'll be more likely to back the new-hire. (Don't let worries about everyone agreeing with the final choice get in the way of this point. If certain stakeholders didn't necessarily agree with your final choice, at least they will feel that their opinions were heard and appreciated, rather than not included at all.)

8—Interact outside of business . There's nothing like dinner or lunch with a candidate to learn more about them as a person. In a more social setting, the candidate and the interviewers tend to relax a bit more. When everyone is less guarded, you can find out information about the candidate that you wouldn't otherwise know. It also allows the candidate to find out the “real deal” about who you are as people and as an organization.

Be open and welcoming to candidates. It's true you are interviewing them, but they are also interviewing you. Be on your best behavior.

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