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Do’s and Don’ts for Nonprofit Hiring Managers

For a sector that is committed to equity and inclusion, the nonprofit hiring process can be riddled with bias, unfairness, and a lack of dignity. The way you treat job candidates reflects so much, from your organization’s values to external brand. This post has a few common-sense tips for practices to adopt and behaviors to change.

Do remember that candidates are evaluating your organization. Candidates are looking for the right job as much as you’re seeking the right hire. Put your organization’s best face forward every step of the way. This is as simple as communicating promptly and regularly with candidates, even if there are delays or changes to the process. Provide opportunities for them to get to know your mission by sharing materials or inviting them to an online event.

Don’t give candidates a test they don’t know they’re taking. I’ve borrowed this nugget from the esteemed Kishshana Palmer. Set expectations with candidates in advance about the number, structure, and purpose of each interview. Want to go the extra mile? Share interview questions in advance so that candidates have a chance to process and prepare in advance. This is not spoon feeding; this is providing a means for candidates to put their best foot forward.

Don’t ask candidate to jump through hoops of long project assignments. There’s a whole debate on if project assignments constitute “free work” being performed by candidates. Limit project assignment to work that 1) doesn’t require deep knowledge of your organization and field, 2) genuinely get at a skillset that you can’t otherwise assess through interviews, and 3) do not take more than 2-3 hours to complete. Projects should be included in the process only if they adds value.

Do be transparent about salary range and benefits. The wise Vu Le has written at length about that the practice of not publishing salary ranges. Not including salary wastes everyone’s time, perpetuates the gender wage gap, discriminates against people of color, and drives away good candidates. Go a step further by including details of your benefits package, which is especially important if your salary range is not super competitive in the market.

Do close out candidates with dignity, respect, and authenticity. I speak with so many job seekers who never hear back from organizations after they apply for a job. Most ATS (applicant tracking systems) make it super easy to send auto-emails at any stage of the process. For candidates who may respond asking for feedback – and if this is not a practice for your organization – be clear about that and don’t leave them hanging.

Don’t add rejected candidates to your fundraising list. Not only did they not opt in to receiving fundraising emails, this is all around gross and inappropriate. Stop doing it now.

Do remember that bias is real. It’s so easy to our brains to draw conclusions about candidates because of bias. I would bet $100 that at least one of these biases show up with most interviewers:

  • Halo/Horn: Allowing an either a positive or negative characteristic overshadow other behaviors, actions, beliefs, or attributes.

  • Anchoring or “first impression” bias: Overly relying on the first piece of information offered and discount additional information that contradicts the anchor.

  • Intuition: Making a judgment on the basis of “gut feel”

  • Similarity or “Just like me” bias: A candidate that reminds the interviewer of a successful and especially effective coworker will be viewed more favorably by the interviewer e.g. same alma mater, shared interests or hobbies, or similar appearance

  • Confirmation bias: Creating an hypothesis in their minds and look for ways to prove it.

  • Nonverbal bias: Making a judgement based on a candidate’s body language or nonverbal cues.

At every stage, with every interaction, check yourself for bias, then check yourself again, and then check yourself again. It takes work and practice to un-do beliefs that are deeply ingrained. Keep at it!

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