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Finding the right hire

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Question:

What are three ways to know you’ve found the right candidate?

Answer:

* Write a detailed job description

Make sure you’ve written a detailed, well-thought-out job description.

Take a good look at where your organization has been, where it wants to be and what the specific skills and experiences are of the person who will get you there.  If you haven’t done this, you won’t know when you’ve found your star candidate.

You must realize what you need for your organization, otherwise it will be difficult to look past a candidate’s personality and suspend judgment long enough to focus on their track record.

Hiring managers tend to hire what’s comfortable, and that means what they’ve hired before.  A very specific description can be used not only to market a job, but to make sure the hiring manger has hired what they’ve set out to hire and to evaluate that employee’s performance six to twelve months later.

* Conduct a broad outreach effort

You’ll know you’ve found the right candidate if you’ve done broad-enough outreach.

Make sure you’ve used paid and unpaid sources, including all the list serves, newsgroups and associations your candidates might be involved with.

Make sure you’ve used your networks, including your board, staff and advisory councils, so all who are interested and qualified will hear about the job.  Have everyone in your network go through their rolodex and give you names.

At the end of the day, if you’ve done enough outreach, you can rest assured that you have scoured the universe for the best candidate.

* Conduct in-depth reference checks

Conduct in-depth checks of the references a candidate provides, and of references they don’t provide.  It is not unusual to spend one to two hours in an interview and 10-15 hours checking references.

Interviews are never indicative of reality.  The person who arrived for an interview on Monday morning after a weekend of preparation is not the person who will be there at 2:00 a.m. in a crisis.

Past is prologue.  Rather than making hiring decisions based on interview performance, reference checks will help you better understand how they did in their last job when faced with an organization and challenges similar to yours.

The obvious use of reference checks is to help you to rule out a candidate.

The more strategic use of reference checks is to help you turn a great hire into a great employee, guiding you on how to manage the person better and understand what makes them tick as an employee.


Laura Gassner Otting is president of the Nonprofit Professionals Advisory Group, a Boston-based firm specializing in unbundled executive search services for the nonprofit sector.

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