[How We Hire] Smarts and passion for the environment planetwide

Published on: May 10, 2018


Since 1961, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been working to conserve, and reduce threats to, the diversity of life on Earth. Over her 10 years at WWF, VP of Human Resources Valerie Blain-Smith has served to recruit, hire, and manage those who defend the world’s natural treasures; in her current role, Blain-Smith oversees the human resources function for more than 520 US employees and 500 more in the field. She spoke to us from WWF’s US headquarters in Washington, DC.

Something I love about working here: It’s a treat to be surrounded by people who are smart and passionate about conservation.

My pitch for potential hires: One aspect I play up are our tremendous benefits, which help staff balance work and life. We have a compressed work schedule calling for 70 hours in 9 days’ time, which gives employees every other Friday off – what we call Panda Fridays. We also allow people to telework up to 40 percent of their schedule, and give people the flexibility to start and end their day up to two hours early. That helps a lot of the parents who work for us take care of pick-ups and drop-offs.

What I look for in a resume or cover letter: Anything specifically related to the work we’ve advertised is going to draw my attention. Keywords that easily identify skills are important. It’s very helpful when candidates block those off in a separate section, which lets me quickly reference their viability.

Something I listen for in the interview: Demonstrated experience in achieving results. Past performance predicts future behavior, so I ask candidates to tell me the specific ways they achieved goals in past roles.

One way jobseekers impress me: When someone has taken the time to research our organization, and comes in with a clear understanding of the work we do. By taking that extra step, it shows they have a vested interest in the role they’re seeking.

One trait essential to employee success at WWF: One of the most basic elements from our competency model is the ability to build effective working relationships, both internally and externally, with colleagues and partners. Everyone here, in every position, needs that skill.

My favorite interview question: How does this position fit in with your broader career objectives? We want to make sure we’re not offering a position to someone who’s looking for a short-term opportunity, and isn’t invested in being here with us.

One way we help new hires succeed: We have a buddy program that pairs new hires with someone who has been with us for a while. That buddy is a peer from the new employee’s department or program, and the goal is to get the hire acclimated in the first 90 days. The great part is that you can go to your buddy with any questions.

Something cool we do to support staff: The WWF is committed to providing professional development for our employees. We offer each department a development budget that supports staff in pursuing opportunities like workshops, seminars, conferences, and exam prep courses. That’s in addition to the in-house training we offer: We bring in a number of courses, like public speaking, that we find are important to our people.

Why our office is great: You can see our values in the physical space: We’re fortunate to work in a LEED-certified building with collaboration spaces and lots of natural light throughout. We also provide a free on-site gym, and fancy coffee machines that make espresso drinks, saving people a trip to the coffee shop.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) works in 100 countries to conserve nature and reduce threats to the diversity of life. WWF combines a global reach with a foundation in science, action at every level, and innovative solutions to meet the needs of both people and nature. Find out more on their website, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.