9 essential elements of your NFP’s recruitment process


What does your NFP’s usual recruitment process look like? Is it a haphazard, unruly beast, or a well-oiled machine?

If your organisation either doesn’t recruit regularly, or if your HR person or team doesn’t give you much help, then you probably need to take a good, hard look at the process you use for recruiting new staff – from start to finish.

So at the start of a new year, why not take a fresh look at how you hire staff?

Here’s how to put together a winning recruitment process for your organisation:

1. Formulate a game plan

Why are you hiring? Allow this key question to guide the entire recruitment process – and don’t lose sight of it. Continually refer back to the reasons you’re hiring, particularly when it comes to the development of the job description and selection criteria.

If it’s a new role for your NFP, consider how the need for the position was identified, what purpose the role will fulfil, and how it will fit in around existing roles.

Other initial considerations include where you might advertise the role, how the interview process will look, who’s responsible for making the final hiring decision and how onboarding will occur.

2. Determine the ideal output

What does your ideal new staff member ‘look’ like?

Establish exactly what you want from your new recruit in terms of experience, technical proficiency and cultural fit for your organisation and team.

Ultimately, hiring for attitude and then training for skills – not the reverse – can yield better quality staff. It’s often easier to lean a new skill than learn a different attitude or culture. Design your recruitment process to reflect this.

3. Define the job

What are the specific elements of the job? To best guide the evaluation of each candidate, there are three key areas to qualify: technical requirements, performance expectations and behavioural requirements.

These elements are then distilled into a position/job description. But you should also create a ‘position profile’ that includes the mission, performance standards, specifications and conditions of the job.

Crucially, this step will both guide the hiring decision and help measure the success of the new staff member later on. A poorly defined job description could turn some of the best candidates away – and even the successful person might be missing the knowledge they need to succeed in the role, leaving everyone frustrated.

4. Timing is everything – make a timeline and stick to it

It’s incredibly easy for recruitment processes to take longer than expected, with timing blow-outs possible at all stages. Making a timeline can help solve this problem.

Work out when the new staff member is needed, and consider the cost and benefits of hiring now versus later on. What would happen if the role was vacant for a longer or shorter period? How would the team and organisation be impacted?

Then work backwards and decide how much time you can afford to spend:

  • Advertising the role: Generally, the longer a role is advertised, the more applicants it will receive, and the higher the chance of getting the ‘right fit’.
  • Shortlisting: If you’re expecting to have 100-200 applications, how long will it take to read through them and shortlist? How many people will need to be involved here?
  • Interviewing: How many candidates will be interviewed? Who else needs to be involved in the selection at this stage, and when are they available?
  • Tests and tasks: Will you be asking candidates to complete tasks or take General Mental Ability tests, or Working With Children checks? How long will they need to complete these?
  • Between acceptance and start date: Candidates who are currently working will need to give their employers notice – and, for most roles, that can be up to a month’s wait.

5. Develop a recruitment plan

How is your organisation going to attract applications from the right candidates? How will you ‘sell’ the job?

Write a job ad – this is different from the PD. It’s a marketing document that ‘sells’ the position to potential candidates. Written well, a job ad can have be of huge benefit attracting the right candidates. Done badly, you can turn candidates away and even damage your organisation’s brand.

Then decide where you’ll advertise the position. (Of course, we do have a suggestion!)

Self-promotion aside, make this decision based on where you’ve found good candidates in the past, as well as where colleagues within your organisation or in similar organisations have found good candidates, too.

6. Assess the applications

If your organisation has an HR person or team, they can sometimes be the ones to shortlist applicants. But while that can be helpful to weed out those that aren’t qualified, if possible it’s best to read every qualified application and shortlist them yourself. (Here are some tips to help with this.)

Along with allowing you to unearth the star candidates, being able to see all the applications will give you a good sense of whether your recruiting message is effective – that is, if the effort you’re investing into your job ads is converting into the quality of candidates you’re seeking.

7. Screen the candidates

Once you have a shortlist, it’s time to make some decisions about which ones to pursue.

This might include a short phone screen to decide on which ones to interview if it’s not obvious at this point.

If you’re not confident that any of the top candidates will be a good hire, don’t lower your standards. Keep searching – repost the ad if necessary, and if your timeline allows.

Even if you’re pressed for time, make an effort to immediately inform candidates who didn’t make the cut. It’s the polite thing to do, and it could prove a valuable move for your organisation.

8. Interview

Well-conducted interviews are the cornerstone of a good hiring process – and ultimately, a productive and satisfied workforce. Research shows that structured interviews composed of rigorous behavioural and situational questions will help you find the best-matched candidates.

Logistically, the interview process should be conducted over several stages on different days, and with staff from different levels within the organisation.

Depending on the size and structure of the organisation, the first round interview could be held with the relevant manager and an HR representative, while the second round could include both the manager and a senior leader or departmental head.

Some organisations also include a colleague the staff member will be working with, or a member of the community the organisation works with, on the interview panel.

One valuable thing to ask in an interview is how the interviewees found out about the role. This is important data that should feed back into your future job advertising decisions.

9. Reference checking

Managers may complain that reference checking is a waste of time, since candidates wouldn’t provide details of a referee who’s going to give negative feedback.

But HR professionals estimate that up to 5% of referees contacted supply a less-than-glowing report on a candidate – that’s about 1 in 20 referees.

That means even if the last 19 references you’ve checked have been glowing, it’s still worth picking up the phone again.

Making reference checking worthwhile is all about asking the right questions of referees, including questions that will pick up fraudulent activity or falsified qualifications.

Once your recruitment is done, it’s important to reflect on the process and measure its successes and failures. How will you evaluate the process? How will feedback and ideas gleaned during the process be used to improve it in future?

Is your organisation’s recruitment process working for you? What advice would you have for other organisations that struggle with recruitment? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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