When it comes to hiring employees, the social sector can take a cue from the dating website, eHarmony. eHarmony connects people looking for long-term relationships and matches them based on dimensions of compatibility. In making a commitment to long-term relationships, people want to know if the individual is capable of being a good spouse or parent, shares the same goals and whether he or she is “the one.” The search for employees to help carry out our missions is not much different. We need to know if the candidate can do the job. But, today, we also want to know: do they share our vision of success? And, are they the right fit? Here are some eHarmony-inspired recruitment tips to help your social sector organization find the right matches.

Tip #1: Determine Your Dimensions of Capability
Even before you post a job description, develop a list of capabilities the position requires and screen applicants accordingly. These capabilities vary by level and function. For example, if you are hiring a fund development director, the candidate should have strong relationship-building and -influencing skills. Fund development assistants, however, may not need to be as strong in relationship building, but should have strong execution skills like attention to detail, ability to focus and follow through, among others. To ensure your hires have these capabilities as true strengths, organizations may also ask candidates to take assessments like StrengthsFinder.

Tip #2: Test for Capability AND Compatibility
When you sign up for a dating website, you pressure-test your matches before making a commitment through emails, phone calls or dates. Likewise, when hiring an employee, you should pressure-test candidates by running simulations and asking behavior-based questions to see if they have the skills and characteristics that make them a strong fit for your agency. Simulations can be used to mimic on-the-job situations like client or donor interactions. Behavior-based questions, which assume past performance is the best predictor of future performance, can be used to ask candidates to describe a time where they exhibited certain behaviors. Both simulations and behavior-based questions will help you test capabilities as well as that all-important cultural fit.

Tip #3: Rate Your Candidates Against Dimensions of Capability and Compatibility
It can be easy to be swept away by a candidate’s charisma. But, when hiring, especially for leadership roles, it is important to evaluate your top choices against all criteria and involve staff from relevant departments using an objective decision criteria process. Be sure to revisit the list of competencies and criteria you developed at the start of the search and rate each candidate in every area to see who surfaces to the top. You may be surprised! Once the data is in, look at the trade-offs between candidates and find the best fit for your organization.

Tip #4: Right-Size Your Candidate for Success
No one is perfect. After you have hired a candidate, sit down with them in their first week to create a 90-day onboarding plan in which they can learn from others, gain skillsets that may be underdeveloped and better understand the culture. This time spent upfront will pay great dividends in their future and help ensure their success at your organization.

With estimates suggesting that the loss of employees costs organizations 30 to 400 percent of their annual salary, the social sector has much to gain (and save) by hiring right the first time. If you have innovative hiring practices or insightful interview questions, please share them with us and other Social TrendSpotters.

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