Five tips to hire an amazing admin person for your NFP

Every organisation has them. And a bad one can cause serious problems for a team – while a good one can be be a god-send.

So what do you look for when you’re recruiting an admin person for your team?

First of all, it’s critical to get the basics of your recruitment right. That means you’ve successfully:

But once you’ve got your applications back – and given that admin roles are often the most popular jobs, there’s probably more than 100 of them – how do you decide who’ll make a great admin person for your team or organisation?

That’s what we asked our NFP People community in a mini-survey last month. And we’re pleased to report that we received some fantastic responses from recruitment pros in a range of organisations across Australia.

So here are the top five tips on how to hire admin staff for your organisation, thanks to the NFP People community:

1. Pay close attention to the applicant’s cover letter and resume

You’re clearly already going to read through all the cover letters and resumes you receive.

But for an admin role, the little details of these documents need speak louder than usual. In particular, a strong admin candidate should be able to write a flawless cover letter and resume, and address the selection criteria competently and coherently.

That’s a key tip provided by Primary Health Tasmania’s Deenie Campbell, who also says that given “most entry level job seekers are bound to apply regardless of their admin skill level”, a focus on small details in cover letters and resumes is an easy way to weed out bad applicants and “assist in assessing the applicant’s attention to detail and ability to follow instructions, demonstrating their level of administration skills”.

2. Look for people who clearly love administration systems

Linda from NSW CID noted in the survey that:

“Often people apply for administrative jobs as a way into the organisation or NFP sector. Although these people may do a good job they are normally looking to move onto the job they really want.”

As such, she recommends looking for “people who clearly love administration, systems etc”, if you want someone who’ll actually stay in the role.

For similar reasons, Advocacy for Inclusion’s Christina Ryan recommends looking for someone “on the way up so they find the role a challenge”.

“In my experience, if it’s just a filler role then they are likely to move on the minute something more ‘exciting’ comes along,” she says.

So how do you attract these kinds of candidates? Deenie Campbell from Primary Health Tasmania says to focus on the the wording of the job ad and supporting materials:

“Be very specific in your standard of administration skills required – for example, ‘high-level administration skills’ – and include addressing the selection criteria in the position description to assist with the short-listing process,” she says.

3. Use “in-tray” or other practical exercises

Evidence shows that performance on practical tasks/tests in the recruitment process is actually the top predictor of success in a job.

And for admin roles, “in-tray” simulation exercises should form part of the selection process.

Simon Warren from the Alcohol and Drug Foundation recommends these exercises “especially if you need specific skills, such as in Excel or using a database system”.

So how exactly should you conduct a test like ths?

Blooming HR’s Rebecca Till says she usually asks candidates to perform five basic exercises tailored to the role.

“For example, for a PA role I often set the exercise based on letter drafting, diary planning, travel planning, and construction of a basic spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation,” she says.

Meanwhile, Kirrilee from community services organisation Workways says she invites admin candidates to undertake a skills test in ‘office reasoning’ before making an offer of employment.

Revelian have a fantastic scenario-based test that shows how a candidate prioritises tasks, shows thinking patterns and ability to follow instruction within a deadline environment,” she says.

And Kirrilee also suggests a practical test of how a candidate handles communicating with your team when lining up an interview:

“Pay attention to how candidates answer the phone when you offer an interview – and if they have trouble navigating a careers page or converting documents to PDF [in their application], it can be a direct reflection of their office skills.”

4. Look for attitude and work-ethic over experience

“Admin” can include an incredibly diverse range of tasks and ‘curveballs’ that call upon staff to deal with competing priorities and sometimes under intense pressure. And that makes finding someone with the right attitude critical.

That’s why Rebecca Mulvogue of Anchor Inc advocates only hiring an admin people who have a “can-do attitude”:

“Generally, we find our admin workers are thrown all different types of tasks, so employees who are willing to at times work outside their position description requirements to help others or be flexible are the best.”

The ADF’s Simon Warren concurs:

“Look for attitude and fit as much as skills. A can-do outlook, and the ability/experience of learning and adapting are far harder to develop than an understanding of processes and procedures.”

Sarah from disability organisation My Supports sums up why hiring they also “look for a general work ethic over a particular skill set” – and it’s all about thinking long-term:

“As most admin jobs can be trained, we really want to ensure we are putting our time into somebody who will be with us long term. We seek reliability, punctuality and a bubbly personality over skills – however skills such as previous admin experience or reception can still be highly regarded.”

5. Ask what’s in it for them – and look for clear interest in your NFP’s purpose

It’s hardly surprising that those drawn to the not-for-profit sector seek meaning and purpose in their work.

In fact, research shows that more than 50 percent of millenials – who’ll make up three-quarters of the workforce by 2025 – say they are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for meaningful work.

That’s why a number of respondents said forging a clear connection between your organisation’s purpose and its admin people is critical to finding – and keeping – the right person. And it’s something you should be doing from your job ads right through to your onboarding process.

The McGrath Foundation’s Erin Murray explains:

“Find what’s in it for them. Admin roles can be repetitive, and ‘career’ administrators can get bored easily or be a lacklustre performer because their role doesn’t require anything more from them.”

“Finding out how they can impact as part of their role in a way that is meaningful to them will help retention, performance and collaboration.”

A huge THANKS to everyone who contributed their perspectives to our mini-survey!

Got any more tips for hiring admin staff? Let us know in the comments below.

Image: flickr/michaeljzealot

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