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Recruitment & HiringArticle

Humanize Your Hiring Process — Here’s Why and How

by Mordy Walfish

Six steps to a better hiring process.

Writing in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Leading Edge COO Mordy Walfish discusses what it means to have a truly human hiring process.

“It’s hard to admit this, but in the early days of Leading Edge (the nonprofit where I’m COO), our hiring processes were weak. We didn’t really know what we were looking for, and we didn’t have systems that helped us reach clarity. We would put vague job descriptions out into the world and ultimately not hire for the role because we never quite found someone who fit the bill. That was a failure of our systems rather than a reflection of the candidates we reviewed or the state of talent in our sector.”

Mordy explains that two years ago, with the help of Kristen Dore and the team at Voyager Consulting, we completely redesigned recruitment and hiring at Leading Edge.

“Our goals? We wanted to hire the best candidates from a diverse pool, and we wanted candidates to experience our values as they interacted with us. We envisioned a human process that treated applicants as equals, giving them the chance to evaluate a potential mutual fit between the role and themselves. Throwing one’s hat in the ring can take a lot of courage, especially when the work is so entangled with our identities and sense of purpose. For those who did not get a job with us, we hoped to leave them intrigued about working in the nonprofit world. We wanted people to feel better, not worse, about themselves after pursuing a job at Leading Edge.”

The results, Mordy explains, “have been outstanding." And it's not only we who think so; we've received positive feedback from outside leaders and organizations who have seen our job postings, as well as from people who have applied for jobs but were not hired.

Six Steps

Here, drawn from Mordy's article, are six important things we do differently now at Leading Edge:

  1. Highlight skills, not credentials. We work hard to first understand and then communicate in the job posting, what it will take to succeed in the job that is open. That means defining with crystal clarity what the person will do, who they’ll work with, and what skills and traits they’ll need. We avoid asking for credentials like specific academic degrees or years of experience, because those aren’t the things we actually need, and requiring them might lead us to overlook amazing candidates or discourage some from applying. When we know the skills and traits we need, we put them into a rubric and evaluate candidates based on that rubric—not on random feelings or reactions we may have. That keeps us away from phrases like “not a cultural fit,” or “my gut tells me…,” which are ways of staying trapped in bias and vagueness.
  2. Create job postings with all the information. Among the other basic details (full-time/part-time, location, skills, etc.), we always specify the salary range in our job postings, which goes a long way toward equity and to ensuring that no one’s time is wasted. We give people much more than the minimum information. We create an extensive FAQs document for every role, and link to it from the job posting. This keeps all applicants informed, democratizes access to information, and mitigates advantages for people who know the organization. Here’s one recent example of an FAQ. It shares information such as day-to-day role activities, what success looks like after one year, a little about the role’s supervisor, and even what might be challenging in the role…
  3. Cast a wide net. To get the most quality and diversity into consideration, we post our opportunities in many places — from LinkedIn, Idealist.org, and the major job aggregators to outlets like CareerHub and the Hire Black Initiative. For each recruitment, we mobilize all staff to spread the word to their networks. At the same time, we don’t want to create an unfair advantage for people we know. So, if someone reaches out to a staff member to chat about a role or ask us to “put in a good word,” we say no. (We do allow staff and other stakeholders to share thoughts about candidates in the final stage.) Even if a staff member knows of a great candidate at the start, we still post the job and consider that person among other candidates. This can both alleviate bias and ensure we find the genuinely best fit for the role.
  4. Bye, bye to cover letters. Many organizations require cover letters and judge applicants based on how well they write them — even if writing letters has nothing to do with the job. Instead of cover letters, we have each candidate submit a video introduction, which lets them show other forms of intelligence and personality and gives us a more multi-dimensional picture of applicants.
  5. Avoid groupthink. We create a hiring committee that represents different perspectives within the organization, in terms of organizational operations and demographics. These team members review each candidate separately — evaluating them on a rubric without knowing what other team members think. Only after each person evaluates candidates separately, do we talk about them together.
  6. Structured interviews. To minimize bias and allow for the best apples-to-apples comparisons of candidates, we keep interview questions consistent for all candidates and evaluate their answers based on our prepared rubrics. Research has shown that structured interviews with evaluation on predetermined criteria are much better predictors of future performance than improvised conversations. Keeping all interviews close together in time (within one or two days) also reduces recency bias.
  • The full article is available at The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

    Read full article

About the Author
  • Mordy Walfish is the Chief Operating Officer at Leading Edge.

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