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Nonprofit HR’s Blog

You have a plan for 2016. And most likely, that plan includes continuing to grow your team with top nonprofit talent. Hiring the right people is a crucial step to achieving your mission.

As the job market improves, there are those who believe the “war for talent” is growing more aggressive. But rather than bemoaning growing competition amongst employers, we should focus on the fact that an improved job market means we have a talent pool that is ripe with motivated, passionate candidates. Now, maybe more than ever before, we have a unique opportunity to fill our open positions with people so engaged and in-tune with our organizations that they could hardly imagine working anywhere else.

Yes, job seekers do have more choices—in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors—but what they want in an employment relationship has shifted markedly. As Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy explains, we have entered into a new economic era where top employers are expected to connect people with their purpose. Today, finding a job that is a perfect fit is all about impact, personal growth and community.

For many job seekers, this desire to fulfill their purpose means that a job’s impact and meaning are more important than the latest benefits and big bonuses. Job seekers are searching for organizations with missions that align with their interests and passions. This is true across generations. More experienced executives are taking a broader view of their options as they enter encore careers and grow increasingly interested in leaving a legacy of impact. On the other end of the spectrum, millennials are also being extremely thoughtful and selective about their career choices. A study from Deloitte shows that millennials want to work for purpose-driven organizations where they can build roots and begin to grow.

In this new era, people are looking for opportunities to grow and give—they’re looking for jobs that will allow them to make a difference, contribute to the community and expand their skills and mindset.

The good news? Nonprofits like yours can offer exactly these types of job opportunities.

Today, it’s not about competing for talent. It’s about finding the right talent, and attracting and retaining those who wouldn’t thrive in the same way anywhere else. So how do you recruit the right individuals to fill your open positions? Don’t focus on recruiting a large selection of applicants, but instead on finding those candidates who have a unique combination of applicable skills, experience and personal alignment with your organization’s mission, purpose and culture.

To do that, you must first be able to attract a highly aligned group of candidates. Then, you must understand how to find the best of the bunch and get them to accept your job offer. Here’s how:

Attract the right applicants by communicating your purpose

A study from Gallup shows that the key to retaining employees across generations—Millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers—lies in providing team members with opportunities to do what they do best and emphasizing mission and purpose. It’s safe to say that the same points are also key in initially attracting these passionate, high-performing candidates.

In order to attract people who are purpose-aligned, reassess how you’re positioning your mission-driven story across all channels of communication, from marketing materials to actual job descriptions. Research from Deloitte found that employees’ engagement and motivation fluctuate based on a number of small measures: “whether the company is committed to their growth, whether it really believes in serving a higher purpose, what kinds of behavior are rewarded, how much can be learned from working there, and more.” With this in mind, evaluate your job descriptions and candidate marketing materials to see if you’re hitting on key points such as:

  • Growth opportunities
  • Purpose and mission
  • Employee rewards (tangible and intangible)
  • Mentorship and professional development opportunities

Whenever possible, don’t just tell, but also show your story. A video or testimonial from a current employee does a lot more to illustrate your organization’s culture, purpose-driven mindset and the candidate’s career growth potential than a simple statement from your organization.

If you want those unique “perfect fit” candidates to consider working with you, it’s crucial to give them a compelling reason to apply and a confidence that the position will be the right fit, not just on a professional level, but also on a personal one. Clearly show how they can use their skills to achieve your organizational mission, grow their professional skills and fulfill their personal purpose.

Probe on personal passions to pinpoint the perfect fit

Once you have a pool of stellar applicants, it’s time to ask the right questions in order to identify that one individual who aligns better than anyone else with your mission and goals. During the interview process, encourage candidates to demonstrate their experience in the context of purpose. By moving beyond traditional interview questions and digging into a candidate’s personal background and passions — appropriately and legally, of course, you’ll connect to what they’re looking to gain in their work and what they believe they and only they can contribute to your organization.

Matching your employees’ purpose with your mission can make or break your organization. In fact, a 2013 study by Deloitte found that organizations that cultivate a culture of purpose, rather than focus on the bottom line, are more likely to find long-term success. And cultivating a culture of purpose is all about hiring a team that is so passionate about the work you do that they’d (almost) consider doing it for free.

A question like, “What in your life has led you to believe this is the right position for you?” opens the door to a discussion about personal motivators, interests and experiences. It sparks a conversation about how the candidate’s purpose aligns with your mission.You might even consider asking deeper questions such as “what do you want to be known for when you die?” that will allow you to dig into the legacy your candidates hope to leave and the role your organization could play in helping them get there.

Well-known brands like Google and Amazon put a lot of thought and effort into their interview processes and question selection. They know that recruiting truly exceptional talent requires going deeper; it requires finding out how people think and work, what they want, why they do what they do—things that are not reflected in a typical resumé. These companies are looking beyond skills and stats: At LinkedIn, recruiters believe “passion is huge” and “people wanting to make an impact is a big deal.” They intentionally work to make sure each employee’s passions and purpose are aligned with their organization’s goals and vision, a match that sets up both the employee and the organization for success.

Impactful, forward-leaning nonprofits are taking a cue from these leading companies and focusing more than ever on finding employees who truly embody their mission. For example, in a blog post on VolunteerMatch, Feeding America explains that they are looking for a mutually beneficial match: volunteers and staff who are passionate about their mission, inspired to make a difference in the community and looking to grow personally and professionally. And CAP Tulsa, one of The NonProfit Times’ 2015 top places to work, explicitly says they screen candidates during the hiring process to ensure they hold a belief in the organization’s mission as well as the right technical expertise.

By applying a similar “purpose-aligned” focus to your recruiting and hiring process, you’ll position your organization to build a team that can truly make a difference. What will you do to hire more “perfect fit” candidates in 2016?

Your nonprofit is only as effective as its people, so it’s imperative that you staff your organization for success. But staffing can be a challenge, especially in the face of your nonprofit or trade association’s ever-changing budgets, goals and needs. Check out The Value of Contingent Workforce to learn more about this unique facet of the job market and how you can effectively use it in your organization.

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