[How We Hire] Candor, grace, initiative: What keeps Habitat building

Published: Dec 14, 2017

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Through their hands-on, street-level work building homes, Habitat for Humanity has become beloved throughout the world. From their headquarters office in Atlanta, Director of Talent Acquisition Jason Walker heads the team that finds people for every function and location – from a Director of Fundraising in Slovakia, to housing policy advocates in Washington, D.C., to building site coordinators worldwide. Having worked for Habitat since 2007, Walker says he’s still excited to introduce top talent to the mission, and to connect individuals with their career goals.

What I look for in a resume or cover letter: How a candidate’s ideas and hard work facilitated some kind of progress for their company or team. Many jobs involve ongoing maintenance of a process or system, but hiring managers are most excited to see how a candidate improved them – particularly because they know such results require individual initiative.

Something I listen for in interviews: One of our values is graceful candor – being honest about the work at hand in a way that demonstrates kindness and respect – so I try to get a sense of a candidate’s ability to communicate authentically. With a people-focused mission, it’s important to create strong working relationships with many different people, from the families we serve to potential partners to colleagues around the world. That’s easiest when you have a baseline of authenticity and respect for others.

My interview pet peeve: It makes a terrible impression when a candidate is late to an interview, but doesn’t let anyone know. We all understand that life happens: there’s a traffic jam, you got lost. However, take the time to give us a quick call or email as a professional courtesy.

A simple way to impress me: It always stands out when a candidate sends thank-you messages to the interview team. Hiring managers want to know you are excited, especially once you’ve met with them and others. A short follow-up message makes it clear that you want the job.

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One trait essential to employee success at Habitat: Resourcefulness. Nonprofits have always accomplished big things on small budgets, so we need people who can think critically about how we allocate our time and finances. By asking questions – Can we create efficiencies here? Can we streamline this process? – and seeking solutions proactively, staff and their teams are well-positioned to succeed.

One thing people love about working at Habitat for Humanity: Beyond our incredible mission, I would say the international scope. Operating in more than 70 countries, there are frequent opportunities to engage and learn from colleagues around the globe. In addition, Habitat is leading some really innovative approaches, such as taking a deeper look at the housing value chain in different countries – the type of work that attracts cutting-edge thought leaders.

One thing I love about working at Habitat: Hands-down, it’s the people. We’re fortunate to support such a compelling mission, which has attracted some truly exceptional people – not only in terms of their skills, but their commitment and dedication.

One cool way we support staff: Short-term Mission Leave is a unique benefit we offer staff at Habitat for Humanity International headquarters, enabling them to attend Habitat builds during normal work hours while still receiving their regular pay – up to five days in year one, and 10 days per year after that. It’s quite popular, providing staff the opportunity to connect with the mission personally and experience first-hand the impact their jobs are helping bring about.

Habitat for Humanity International is driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live; since it began in 1976 as a grassroots effort in southern Georgia, it has helped more than 13.2 million people obtain a safer place to sleep at night, along with the strength, stability, and independence to build better lives. Habitat’s global mission is made possible by many generous donors and more than 2.1 million volunteers. Visit their website to learn more, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram.

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