Hired! How to Recruit and Hire in this Economy

March 14, 2009

Posted in Management.

Last month, Camp Fire posted a new job – our Executive Director.

This was a big step for us. We’ve done it all wrong for quite some time, relying on a volunteer ED and trying to squeeze as much water from as many stones as possible. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to suffer from burnout than to abuse your volunteers and demand heroic efforts.

Fortunately, we resolved to finally hire someone to take the job. There’s a whole different mentality when you hire someone than when you’re recruiting volunteers. You can be a lot more selective when you hire. They give a resume, you interview them, and you weigh the nuanced details of one candidate over another.

Camp Canoeing Trip from http://www.flickr.com/photos/tannadoonah/2710915746/

Define the Position

The first step is knowing what you need and putting it on paper. We’ve been running loose for a while, and HR is one area we’ve neglected. Position descriptions and policies and benefits and all that jazz – it’s pretty much nonexistent. So we looked to our national organization for some of the tools, and crafted a position description around that framework. More importantly, we decided what we really needed to focus on: programs first, fundraising second.

Honesty is the best policy

We’re not a big, strong organization. We’ve struggled and are currently digging our way out of some long-standing problems. It’s certainly a positive outlook, but not everyone wants to come into a fixer-upper of an organization. So we were honest about our history and situation. We really wanted someone who would be eager to take on the challenges and build something great. The worst thing you can do is hire someone who later feels duped and ends up leaving the job.

Post the Job for Free

Getting the word out was the most intimidating challenge for us – we had no idea how many people would apply, and we wanted to get as many applicants as possible. So we started with some obvious areas, and ended up spreading the word through some unusual places:

  • Local community websites
  • Craigslist
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local United Way
  • National Camp Fire organization website
  • Our personal networks

We didn’t spend any money posting the job. No paid classifieds, no paid listings, not a dime. As it happens, most of our candidates came from our personal networking – people one to three degrees away from us. Any good HR recruiter knows that’s how the best job matches tend to happen – through their networking and relationships, not through blind application and resume sifting.

Sort the Resumes and Interview

We took in dozens of resumes, and our hiring committee (of 2 volunteers) sorted them, made phone calls, and scheduled interviews. After narrowing down to a core set of candidates, they scheduled a second round of interviews with a larger group of board members (including me). Having met with this core group, I have to say: there’s a lot of talent out there looking for jobs. Any of our candidates would be an excellent addition to any organization, but we only had room to hire one. (The thought crossed my mind that all of these candidates would be great board members, though I’m not sure how they might react to that conversation.)

Retaining Good Staff when the Economy Turns Around

The economy certainly plays a role in all of this. Some people have been laid off or had their savings hit by the market. Others are simply looking for a new challenge. There’s a lot of talent on the market. But one factor to consider is how your new hire might react once the economy improves.

  • If your organization is a place that people enjoy working,
  • If there are continued opportunities and challenges,
  • If your people have invested themselves and are seeing returns – having built something great – they won’t want to give that up.

1 Comment

  1. Jun Loayza — May 20, 2009

    We’re actually looking to hire for our startup, so I’m going to use these tips in our recruitment strategy. Thanks!

    Just stumbled and submitted your blog to Viralogy. Hope it brings you some great traffic!

    - Jun

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