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How to recruit when job candidates have the upper hand

The Great Resignation hasn’t been so great for not-for-profit organizations. As many for-profit businesses have raised pay and hiring incentives, nonprofits have lost staffers, particularly in traditionally low-wage industries. According to a New York Times analysis of Current Population Survey data, nonprofit employment in November 2021 was 4.8% below its pre-pandemic level, compared to 1.5% lower in the for-profit sector.

To replace lost employees or add people to staff growing operations, you’ll need to up your recruiting game.

Sell your organization

Employers have traditionally looked to job applicants to sell themselves, but the roles have flipped. These days, applicants may have multiple offers to choose from. So nonprofits must learn to market their organizations to potential hires.

It’s up to you to make candidates understand just how exceptional your team’s work, the specific position, and your workplace’s culture are. Fill them in on the first projects they’ll encounter and your organization’s goals so they can envision themselves on the job.

You may need to expand your usual search channels. It’s not enough to post on industry job boards—leverage social media and employee referrals. Consider veterans, individuals with disabilities, and formerly incarcerated people trying to rebuild their lives. (Some of these may earn you tax credits.) And look internally for employees ready for promotion or with high potential.

Find quality candidates

When screening and interviewing, look for evidence of passion, such as previous volunteer work in your organization’s area. Ask where else candidates are interviewing or the types of organizations they’re approaching. Candidates attracted by your mission and programs may be willing to accept lower pay for a job they’ll love.

To determine how serious applicants are about a position, monitor their level of engagement. How quickly do they respond to your emails, calls, or messages? Have they done their homework on your organization’s successes and challenges? Do they have questions for you? You’re generally better off finding a committed cultural match and cultivating the necessary skills than vice versa.

Keep current staffers on board.

Of course, hiring is only part of the battle — you’ll also want to keep great staff on board. It’s generally less expensive to retain employees than to find new ones. Be sure to offer ways for staffers to enhance their personal and professional development. And if you can’t raise wages, try to offer perks, such as flexible schedules or work-from-home options.