A few weeks ago I presented at the Centerlink Leadership Summit which I thought would be a great opportunity to get to listen to a podcast with audience feedback, some questions to enrich your experiences. Apparently, however, my lapel mic had other plans. So we are recording today back in my home studio on the same topic: How you as a nonprofit can do an even better job of hiring your team members of hiring your staff.
Listen Here or read along below!
(2:35) Mindshift number 1: Why we need to stop lying to our job candidates.
(6:00) Mindshift number 2: You CAN’T fix fit.
(8:45) Mindshift number 3: An empty seat is better than a bad hire.
(10:35) Mindshift number 4: Encourage candidates to vet you.
(13:15) Why it is possible you can hold to these mindset shifts while still finding people to hire
(20:10) Mindshift number 5: In your hiring process, you must be committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Episode 137 Transcript
Dolph Goldenburg (00:00)
Welcome to the successful nonprofits podcast. I’m your host doff Goldenberg. A few weeks ago I had mentioned that I was going to be presenting at the Centerlink leadership summit and it was my plan to actually record those presentations and then share them with you, our podcast listeners. I thought it would be a great opportunity for you to hear some audience feedback, get some real questions that were coming from the audience and kind of enrich your entire experience. I brought a lapel mic with me and as fate would have it, while that lapel mic tested really well in my home studio, it did not work quite so well in a larger room. And so the sound quality for neither of the presentations was exactly what I would want it to be here on the podcast. Now the first presentation was on hiring, right. And so that’s what this episode is going to focus on.
How you as a nonprofit can do an even better job of hiring your team members of hiring your staff. So most executives often are able to go back and say this, and this is certainly true for me. My biggest successes and my greatest failures have all been about the people that I have hired. And that’s essentially how over the past many years I have crafted a very different hiring process. You know, if currently, about one out of every four people that you’re hiring are duds people that you know don’t work out for one reason or another. Imagine if you could cut that in half and only one out of every eight did not work out. You wouldn’t be able to spend so much more time on executing your mission and so much less time on managing HR problems. Now we actually had several possible running titles for this presentation.
One of them, and this is actually not the one that center link chose, but it was actually my favorite is you can’t soar with the eagles if you’re hiring turkeys. And another one, another title was the five mind shifts to changing your hiring process. But either way, this presentation is about how you can develop a more effective hiring process that will really drive your organization forward at a much faster rate. And what we explore in this presentation are five mind shifts to really making better hiring decisions. So let’s jump right into it.
Mindshift number 1: We need to stop lying to our job candidates.
The very first mind shift is that as organizations and as hiring managers, we need to stop lying to our job candidates. You know, I hate to sound this way, but there are typically two people that really stretch the truth, I won’t say lie, but really stretched the truth in the hiring process.
Those are the hiring manager and then also the candidates. So we can’t control what candidates say and whether or not they stretch the truth, but we can control what the hiring manager says and you know, so often hiring managers really just put the best possible picture together for candidates. You know, they don’t really say, Hey, let’s be really clear and upfront with you what the issues are with working here and you know, some common lies or things like: “Oh yeah, we offer great life-work balance”, or “Oh we always work together harmoniously. We have some differences, but we always work them out in a way where absolutely everybody is happy now”. you know, for the most part in probably 80 to 90% of the organizations that stretching the truth just a little too far. Now in the presentation to this point, I put up on the screen a photo of a couple of people by the side of the road that are breaking really big stones into smaller paving stones and landscaping stones.
And I took that picture when I was on a motorcycle trip in Vietnam. I spent about two months in Vietnam and Cambodia when I was on sabbatical. And you know, typically when I was on this trip, if I saw people doing a job that I had never done before, I might hop off the motorcycle and you know, offer to pay them a little bit for them to teach me how they do what they do. It was kind of a unique and interesting experience and you know, frankly a way that I got to get a better sense of what the everyday experience for a Vietnamese person might be like. And so if you were to see this picture at the show notes, you would see these two people. One is kind of in a beige, a jacket, another is in a pink jacket. And you know the both of them are hunched over these really big rocks.
And if I were thinking about maybe with a hiring manager might say to these two folks, they might say, Oh my gosh, this is a great place to work. We offer a paid exercise program. And by paid exercise program, of course they mean, Hey, you get to break rocks all day long from humongous boulders into small paving stones and small landscaping stones. And then they might say, and we offer incentive pay. But when you dug into it, what that would really mean is that those two individuals are paid by the number of landscaping stones they actually make every single day. And then the last thing that the hiring manager might say is, Oh, and we have promotion opportunities, which means that, well, if one of these two people get seriously injured, the other person becomes the boss. So, you know, I think so often in the nonprofit sector we do this as well where we just try to put the rosiest possible spin on the job and we’re not being honest with our candidates about what it’s actually like.
Mindshift number 2: You CAN’T fix fit.
Now the second mind shift is you fix fit. And I just cannot say this enough. You cannot fix fit. If a candidate is not a good fit, they are never going to be a good fit. There is nothing that you can do that will help make them a good fit. And let me give you an example of this. Let’s say you have a data specialist position open and you know, you’ve found someone who’s interviewed really well, they’ve got great qualifications, their references check out. But you know, when you, when they presented the interview, they seem pretty extroverted and pretty outgoing. And when you look at their resume, they have a pretty extroverted and outgoing resume. So what does that actually mean? Well, you know, that might mean, for example, they’ve been a case manager and then they had um, a job where they were a corporate trainer and you know, then they had a job where they led tours, let’s say.
So really extroverted types of jobs where you know, they really have to go out in front of people and interact. But you’re not considering them for a case manager or a trainer job. No. You’re considering them for a data specialist position. Now, of course, they’ve done what you would expect they would do. They have sold themselves in the interview process. They have said, Oh my gosh, I am so burned out working with people. What I really want is just to sit in front of a computer all day and enter numbers. But you know, things just aren’t checking out because as I said, the person is presenting in a really extroverted way in the interviews and you look at every single one of their jobs and they’ve been really extroverted. That person’s not going to be a good fit for a data specialist who’s literally just gonna sit in a cube or in an office all day and punch numbers into a computer.
Now the same is also true, right? So you know if you have a job that requires some extroversion and a lot of empathy, say the person is a case manager or a social worker and those both of those jobs require a tremendous amount of empathy and you sit down with someone and everything else about them is great, but they just don’t really seem to exude empathy. Probably not a good fit for your case manager or social worker position. So no matter how hard we want to fix fit, we just can’t. And as a hiring manager, I have certainly made that mistake where I thought, you know, maybe this person really wants a change or maybe this person can gain these core personality traits that are going to be necessary for them to be successful. And you know what? Every single time I thought that I made a bad hire because let me say out one more time. You can’t fix fit.
Mindshift number 3: An empty seat is better than a bad hire.
Now the third mind shift is that an empty seat is better than a bad hire. Now let’s take a step back and think about that for just a second. You know you post a position, let’s say you post a case manager position and you probably, if you’re in a larger city, you’ll probably get about 100 to 150 resumes. And of those, if you’re lucky, eight to 10% are probably qualified. So let’s say you have 12 qualified candidates, you reach out to all 12 for no longer interested or they don’t want to leave their current job or they found another job. And so now you’ve got eight possible candidates and you know
you just remembered, you can’t fix fit and you’re going through and none of these eight seemed like a really good fit for you or organization or for you as a hiring manager.
Well, that’s where this very true maximum comes in, that an empty seat is better than a bad hire. It is far better that you have to say to your board. Or if you’re just a hiring manager, not the executive director, you have to say to your executive director and your funders and your community and everyone who works with this position, Hey, I’m really sorry that we can’t achieve our goals right now, but we just have not found the right candidate. That sounds a whole lot better than having to tell your board, your executive director, your funders, other people that work with this person. Hey, you know, we’re really sorry we have a lot of turnover in this position. Or we’re really sorry we have someone who’s not doing the job well. We just keep making bad hires. So it’s always better to have to tell folks, Hey, we’ve not found the right person.
And that’s why we’re not making progress. So always remember an empty seat is far better than a bad hire.
Mindshift number 4: Encourage candidates to vet you.
Now the fourth mind shift that we presented is somewhat controversial and that is to encourage candidates to vet you. So what that specifically means is any question that you might be wanting to ask a candidate, a candidate should be frankly encouraged to turn that question back around to you. And so it is not at all uncommon in an interview to ask someone. So what are your greatest challenges in your prior positions? And so you should not be at all upset or concerned if a candidate were to turn that around and ask you as the hiring manager. So what have been your greatest challenges as a manager and you know, what have you done to pivot or to, to overcome those challenges? Another way that I think you can always encourage candidates to vet you is to encourage that they go and they talk to other people within the organization.
So you know, they should be asking people who report to that hiring manager, Hey, what is Dolph really like to work for? And I gotta be Frank, I’m, I am a little bit of a quirky boss and I’m probably a little bit of a tough boss. So I would always rather someone ask folks who currently were for me, Hey, what does it like to work with Dolph? Then for someone to come in and frankly be a little shocked or taken aback by my management style, which is, you know, frankly a pretty direct, um, straight forward kind of a style. But regardless of how you think about it, anything that you’re asking your candidates to go through, you as a hiring manager and you as an organization should be willing to share the exact same type of information with that candidate. And of course, what that also means in this kind of relates back to not lying to your candidates being really open and upfront about the skeletons in your closet.
Now it’s typically at this point in the presentation that someone will say to me: Dolph, those first four mind shifts sound incredible. But if we are completely honest with our candidates and if we’re unwilling to hire someone who is a bad fit and if we believe that it’s better to just leave a chair empty than it is to fill it, we’re gonna, we probably aren’t going to find anyone to fill our positions and then we’re just going to have no buddy. We’re gonna have no staff members to do our work. So tough. Those just aren’t practical for us. We can’t do that. And typically when people say this to me, and of course I’ve got a slide on this in the presentation I describe two very different jobs and how they’re marketed to people. So let me tell you six important things about this first job that I described.
And by the way it is on the organization’s website, they are completely and totally upfront about it. So the first thing is that there is a three-month pre-employment training program and there is no guarantee that you will be hired if you do not complete that program. The second thing is as part of that program, you are required to learn another language. And once again, if you don’t become fluent, you’re going to get fired. So imagine this for a minute. You quit your job. You may even move cities in the hope that you’re going to get through a three-month training program that also requires that you become conversationally fluent. And if you don’t, well you just quit your job. Maybe moved to another city for no good reason because now you don’t have a job. The third thing that they say is that you are responsible for your personal and professional conduct.
24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s right. They pretty much say you might not be on the clock, but we still hold you accountable for what you do. You are always representing our organization. And guess what? If you do something that we think is wrong, you’re going to be disciplined and you might even be terminated. Now, this same organization will warn you that you’re probably gonna leave home and you’re probably not going to return for about 27 months. And what’s more, when you are living there overseas for the next 27 months, you will likely live without running water. And this is by the way, is the part that I love. You may not have reliable electricity. Oh, and by the way, the website also warned you that you’re going to be paid less than the minimum wage in the United States. So you don’t have job security.
You’re definitely underpaid. You’re living in frankly, conditions that we would think of as inhabitable and substandard, and you’re not going to get to see your family, your friends, and you’re pretty much always at work because you’re responsible for what you do 24 hours a day. Now, if you’ve not already figured it out, that is how the Peace Corps markets itself to prospective candidates. I have presented this twice and in both of those rooms, I’ve had someone who’s raised their hand and goes, Oh my gosh, yes, I applied for the Peace Corps and I did not get in. And here’s why. The Peace Corps is completely and totally upfront about what they need in their candidates and they have more candidates, frankly then they have slots for. And that allows them to be very, very selective. So you don’t need 150 great candidates for one slot.
You need two or three really great candidates for that one slot. Now let me share with you job number two because you might say, okay doll, really smart, really funny. You pulled out one the Peace Corps, but there’s no other job that is that upfront about how hard and difficult the job is going to be that anybody really wants. So this second job, it requires also about three months of training, sometimes four. It requires a thorough background check. And when I say thorough, they do a criminal history check, they do a credit check and they also do a psychological test. Now, I would never ever suggest that you engage in psychological testing of your candidates, but this organization does. Now what’s more, when they, when they talk about working conditions on their website, they’re very clear that you, if hired, we’ll work 24-hour shifts, you will work more than 50 hours a week and you should expect to work holidays and weekends, especially in your first 10 years of employment.
Yeah, that’s right. For your first 10 years of employment, you should plan on being away from your family on holidays and weekends. Now I also pulled some stats on this. So this was not on their website, but in 2017 18% of the people that did this job were injured on the job and 14% of the people who did this job, who were exposed to hazardous materials like radioactive waste, that kind of thing. And by the way, 2% we’re exposed to infectious diseases. Now a couple more things that are on the website. It is a physically grueling job, you to be willing to carry 65 to 80 pounds for hours at a time while you’re on duty. And by the way, the starting pay probably about $31,000 so let’s recap. Job number two. They require training. They require a thorough background check. You’re going to work here.
Took us off, right? 24-hour shifts, working holidays, working weekends, working more than 50 hours a week. There’s a high likelihood you’re going to get injured or exposed to something that’s hazardous. You are going to be exhausted and physically destroy your body carrying 65 or 80 pounds almost every single day you go to work, and by the way, you’re only going to be getting $31,000 a year. Now that, my dear listeners, is the firefighter’s life. Now, one of the reasons I love describing this is because there are three types of people when you, when, when a fire breaks out, so the first type of people run away from the fire. Not saying that’s wrong at all. If you know that you do not have whatever it takes to help in that situation, you need to look after your own safety. You know that you need to run away.
The second type of people will get kind of on the perimeter of the fire, pull out their phones and take a video of it. Hoping that they can sell it or get some likes on Facebook, which is, you know, kind of like selling it in an intangible way. But you know, essentially you have voyeurs and then that limits the percentage of the people that are like, Oh my gosh, there’s a building on fire. I have to run to that building right now and I have to see how I can be of help. Can I save people? Can I help put the fire out? And if what you’re hiring for is your local fire department, that is the slim sliver of the population that you want. And so I use these two examples so that you can fully and clearly understand that you can be very specific about what it is you need.
And if you put it out there, how hard the job is, the drawbacks of the job as well. Frankly, as the benefits, you know, Peace Corps says it is the toughest job you’ll ever love, then you are much more likely to get the candidate that you want.
Mindshift number 5: In your hiring process, you must be committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Now, the final piece that you absolutely the final mind shift I should say that you absolutely need to be thinking about is that throughout this hiring process you must be committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. And from my perspective, I think that means a number of things and I’m just going to throw a few examples out there. The very first example is I would strongly encourage you in your job descriptions to have minimum requirements and then separately in a separate section, list out your preferred requirements. And here is why those of us who have walked around all or of our lives with a lot of privilege are people who quite frankly, we’ll look at a list of requirements and even those things that they do not actually meet.
Say, for example, our acquires five years and they only have three. You know, people who’ve had a lot of privilege in their life, we’ll think we have only had three, but gee, I seem to get a lot of lucky breaks, so I should just go ahead and you know, throw my hat in the ring. Right? But what we also know is that people who have walked around with less privilege in their life are more likely to look at just one single list of requirements and not see the word preferred in front of it or preferred and parentheses after it. And so for example if it says, five years of experience, preferred three years minimum, someone who’s walked around with less privilege may think to themselves, Hey, you know what, they really want five years and not three years, so I’m not going to apply.
They really want someone with five years. And so the first thing you can do is separate out very clearly what is the minimum requirement and what is the preferred requirement. And then hold true to the minimum requirement. If your minimum requirement is only three years, or if your minimum requirement is only a bachelor’s degree, then you need to consider everyone who meets those minimum requirements. And that’s the other part of the key to not say, well you know, we have 15 candidates, eight of them meet all the requirements including the preferred requirements and seven of them only meet the minimum. You know, if you’ve said that’s the minimum to do the job, you should probably have a conversation with those seven that just meet the minimum as well. So that’s one example of how you really need to be thinking about diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the process.
Another example, frankly, is how you treat internal versus external hires. And so, you know, do you, do you ever as an organization just promote people from within without making them go through the full hiring process? Now that, of course, would mean that you’d have to post the position externally posted internally and once again consider all qualified candidates. Now, this also assumes that as an organization you are posting your positions very broadly, that you are making sure that you are including your position postings in media that reach communities of color. Folks who are trans and gender non-binary folks who remember the LGBTQ community, women communities, etcetera. So you know, if you are not really trying to post broadly, if you’re not reaching out to some of the key stakeholders and diverse and inclusive communities and asking them to make sure that they help you broadcast your postings, requiring external postings may not be as valuable for your DEI efforts.
And finally in those postings and throughout the way in which your organization positions itself in the community, are you always being clear that the organization strongly encourages applicants and participation from people among diverse communities and inclusive communities? So those are the five mind shifts that I strongly encourage you to think about so that you can be even more effective at hiring. Now, this is about the halfway point of the presentation and typically the podcast is about 25 or 30 minutes. So this is the perfect point for us to stop. And in the next podcast episode, we’re going to do the second half of the presentation. We will, we’re going to cover your entire recruitment process. And so you know that means obviously specifically your job description, your posting, and then your how you screen your resumes, how you interview candidates, how you test candidates skills to make sure that they’re actually able to do the job and then of course how you vet and research those candidates and make an offer.
So gosh, I hope you tune in to the next episode and I think there’s going to be a few more mind shifts that we’re going to throw at you to really help you have an even more effective hiring process. Now, before we close out the episode, let me just say a few words. First of all, please, please go online rate review and subscribe to the podcast. If you’ve not already connected with me on LinkedIn or on Facebook, then go ahead and do that as well. But that, dear listeners, is our show for this week. I hope you have gained some insight to help your nonprofit thrive in a competitive environment.
I am not an accountant or attorney and either iron or the Goldenburg Group provide tax, legal, or accounting advice. This material has been provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to provide and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or accounting advice. Always consult a qualified licensed professional about such matters.