Many moons ago I was dating a gentleman we’ll call “Bob”. Things were getting pretty serious when, as fate would have it, I ran into my ex-boyfriend. We’ll call the ex “Josh”. Josh and I made small talk and caught up on life. Just as we were about to part ways, he hinted at maybe going out again sometime. I gently let him know I was dating someone else. I remember walking away feeling kinda bad for the guy. That ship had sailed, ya know?
Roughly 24 hours later, Josh appeared with a diamond ring and a marriage proposal.
Boy, that escalated quickly.
Incredibly long and sordid story short…I said yes.
Had Josh not moved with such alacrity, I might still be Claire Kittle. Or Claire Throatwobblermangrove. Who knows?
Our story illustrates the importance of recognizing the competition and adapting your behavior to achieve your ends. And it’s spectacularly analogous to hiring in the current candidate’s market.
With that, let me share 5 tips for free-market nonprofits hiring now.
- Move efficiently in the hiring process! If you identify a candidate you like, best to put a ring on it before another organization does. Case in point, we are currently working on 19 (!!) fundraising roles. Therefore, every organization in search of development staff should be moving as expeditiously as possible to mitigate the risk of losing candidates to another vacancy! One of our clients took this message to heart and just filled their fundraising role in 32 days (less than half the average time it takes for clients to make a hire). The organization got the candidate they wanted because they made hiring a priority.
- Offer virtual work options. Many candidates want to work virtually in this (post?) pandemic world. They have enjoyed the two-year commute hiatus, the concept of optional showers, and the flexibility that comes with working virtually. And because the demand for talent is so high, candidates are quite happy to ignore job openings that don’t allow for virtual work and instead focus their attention on the openings that do. In fact, roughly 70% of our current searches allow for virtual work in some form. So, if your nonprofit isn’t offering virtual work, you’re putting the organization at a strong competitive disadvantage. Of course, not all work can or should be done virtually. And if your organization needs someone in the office, then so be it! Just be aware that finding someone might be especially difficult right now.
- Remember it’s a courtship. Hiring is always a two-way street, and in a candidate’s market, nonprofits should be especially focused on courting the best candidates. Unfortunately, we’ve heard some stories lately about organizations that treated candidates more like criminal suspects than in-demand potential employees. One candidate said, “The interview felt like an interrogation. I wasn’t given an opportunity to speak and it felt very one-sided.” Another candidate withdrew from the interview process after talking to what he described as a “prickly” hiring manager. And another candidate described the process as more akin to a “Rorschach test than a substantive interview”. She, too, withdrew from consideration. In all of these cases, the candidates were interviewing elsewhere and didn’t think twice about walking away from an organization that didn’t treat them well.
- Broaden your candidate pool by thinking outside the box. In this market, it might pay to think creatively about the experience and background you’re requiring for candidates. A great illustration of this is a client of ours who was recently hiring for a mid-level development staffer. They ended up interviewing and hiring a more experienced candidate who was willing to do the work on a part-time basis. Sure enough, he did so well and was able to contribute in so many areas that the organization brought him on full-time in a senior level development role after only a few months. It was a win-win!
- Treat your current employees well. One of the best ways to ensure you have the talent you need in this market is to keep the talent you have! That means paying your employees well, treating them with respect, giving them a reasonable amount of flexibility, keeping them challenged, and creating a healthy, high-functioning work environment.
P.S. If you ever want to hear the full engagement story, ply me with alcohol next time you see me. The full-length version is high drama and involves kiteboarding, broken bones, multiple proposals, a ring exchange (for less bling, if you can believe that), road trips, and lots of soul-searching. Hey, at least hiring isn’t that complicated!