Nonprofit Recruitment Roadmap

Recruitment Interview
Written by - 02 Oct 2018 Category: Non-profit Challenges

It will not come as a surprise to most that non-profit recruitment is different from corporate hiring. The non-profit line of work has particular characteristics that make everything about it unique.

It will not come as a surprise to most that non-profit recruitment is different from corporate hiring. The non-profit line of work has particular characteristics that make everything about it unique. For a newcomer, the difference becomes visible right during the recruitment process - fewer candidates, extended roles and responsibilities, lower pay, and yes, a seemingly ad hoc recruitment team! But there is no reason to be bogged down by these differences. Non-profits can, and must, develop a process to attract, and retain, talented candidates.

This post looks into the 5 core aspects of an efficient recruitment roadmap for non-profits.

1. Describing What You Are Looking For

Plainly put, you cannot find something that you cannot describe! A well-written job description is not only essential for you to hire, but also necessary for a prospective applicant to judge this interest in the position. Unfortunately, most job descriptions are poorly written. Do list roles and responsibilities, but do not stop there. Make sure to describe specific, day-to-day responsibilities and mention performance indicators. This will also be a great exercise for you to identify the right attributes for the ideal candidate. We will see, in a later section, how this is helpful.

For the benefit of the candidate, also highlight meaningful benefits - financial, learning and development, work-life balance etc, as applicable to the position. This will motivate the right kind of candidates to apply.

2. Sourcing Candidates

Most non-profit hiring happens through personal network of the hiring manager. Such hiring is restrictive and may not provide access to the most talented candidates. Non-profits, it is clear, struggle in marketing their job requirements on a wider platform. This can be easily overcome by posting requirements on job portals specifically designed for non-profits - Idealist, Non-Profit Times Career Match, Commongood Careers, Bridgespan Group etc. For local and junior hiring, one can always rely on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Campus recruitment is another efficient method to hire interns. Really, the broader you advertise the job, the better the candidate pool will be.

3. Screening Resumes

Once you start receiving applications, it is now time to process them. Whatever may be the screening workload, it is always recommended to follow an objective assessment mechanism. A scoring matrix is a simple tool you can use to evaluate each candidate on various attributes you identified while writing the job description. This way, weighting each application is an unambiguous process. In case of a score tie, you can always have the same applications evaluated by a number of individuals!

Non-profit jobs often demand donning multiple hats. This may complicate the screening process, because many applicants may not have experience in all areas that your job requires. In such cases, you can come up with one must-have skill score and another nice-to-have skill score, to bifurcate core and complementary skills.

4. Conducting Interviews

It is necessary for the hiring manager to prepare for the interview, as much as the applicant does! This is the most crucial phase of recruitment, and you must ensure that the candidate you are hiring is the most appropriate fit. Preparing a list of questions to judge the candidate’s interests and abilities is a starting point. Maintaining an interview score, on the lines of the resume score we saw earlier, is recommended as well.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to conducting interviews. However, the most effective interviews are the ones that are personalised for the job at hand. Past laurels are great, but don’t get impressed unless you see how they will fit into your organisation and this particular job. Ask specific action-oriented questions - how will you handle such and such situation etc - to know how the candidate responds to situations he/she is likely to encounter. Lastly, don’t forget to get convinced on the “vibes” you get from the applicant!

5. Before Extending an Offer

Congratulations on making a selection! But before you sign that offer letter, make sure you go over a few crucial items. What is the candidate’s motivation in joining your non-profit? Do you have references and how good are they? What about relocation and work-from-home arrangements? Does the financial compensation appear enough for the applicant, given his/her most recent income, age, and social status? Are there any legal aspects you need to be aware of, such as work authorisation, visa etc? There are no black-and-white answers here, but going over these aspects will ensure that you have a concrete idea of what kind of association you are about to kickstart.

On a sincere note, the suggested process is a humble attempt in debriefing a complex, intricate process of recruitment. The above instructions are intended to be a starting point for non-profits that do not have any hiring process in place. For those that need advanced insights, we recommend the following well-researched, renowned resources:

Who: The A Method for Hiring

Hiring for Attitude

The Bridgespan Group's Nonprofit Hiring Toolkit

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This post is the next in the series of addressing specific challenges non-profits face, and builds on top of earlier posts on acquiring the right talent and bridging skill gaps in non-profits.

About CiviHR

CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.


CiviHR is a project to create affordable HR software for non-profit organisations. By developing open source technology the benefits can be shared with non-profits everywhere.