[How We Hire] The exceptional talent and challenging minds that are Feeding America

Published on: Jul 25, 2018

Feeding America

Serving a network of 200 food banks across the country, Feeding America’s 250 employees work from offices in Chicago, Washington D.C., and elsewhere to keep partnerships among retailers, growers, and nonprofits thriving, while helping individual food banks build capacity and maintain compliance. Chief Human Resources Officer Matt Hayes came to Feeding America from the for-profit world, bringing almost 30 years of HR experience with him. “I’d always wanted the chance to contribute to a mission-based organization, and this was the perfect chance to do that – as well as some really interesting HR work,” he told us, speaking from the Chicago office.

My pitch for potential hires: If you want to come do really meaningful work, in a place where you can work with fantastic people, in a committed, passionate environment, Feeding America is the place for you.

What people love about working here: The number one thing people love about working here is the mission. Passion connects us. The dedication and energy is contagious.

What I love about working here: I was drawn by the mission but what I enjoy most is the caliber of talent, which is exceptional, across every discipline. Feeding America is full of smart people who, at every level, are comfortable challenging others in terms of approach. I’ve worked in HR a long time, but I’ve never gotten more questions, or been engaged in more discussions, about HR than I have here – from how we develop leaders, to diversity and inclusion, to what we should be doing differently. It’s refreshing and energizing.

What I look for in a resume: It must be clear and easy-to-follow. Hiring managers have limited time, so if it’s hard to read, they will give up on it. One winning formula: Document your duties at a high level, then back them up with a few specific accomplishments. If I can get through it quickly and understand what you’ve done, with a few achievements that jump out at me, you’ll likely get to the next step.

What I listen for in an interview: Can you connect what you’ve accomplished to the larger goals of the organization? Do you understand how your experience can be of use to the organization? Can you effectively develop and maintain relationships?

How someone new to the organization impresses me: The ability to listen, the curiosity to learn, and the determination to connect with the role and add value to the organization. Whenever I see someone take the time to make the connections, from the start, between what we’re trying to do and how they can help with it.

My interview pet peeve: Not doing the homework. I’m consistently surprised at how many people come in without thoughtful questions about the work or the organization. It’s not hard to come in prepared: All it takes is a little internet research.

How we capitalize on staff diversity: We feel diversity is important to our mission in terms of making sure we are continually deepening our understanding of the challenges faced by the people we serve. Attracting and retaining diverse talent, with unique viewpoints and experiences, is a way to make sure we have the empathy, creativity, and perspective to do our work the way it needs to be done, putting the person facing hunger at the center of our efforts.

Something cool we do to support staff: We provide everyone with paid time every month to go volunteer at any poverty-relief organization they choose, which gives employees like me, who don’t get as much day-to-day exposure to the on-the-ground work, a great way to connect personally with the mission. We also sponsor week-long food bank “internships” for about 20 national organization employees per year, where we try to pair skill sets with the needs of a particular food bank. For example, if a food bank is working through warehouse operation issues, someone with supply chain expertise might go work there.

Feeding America has been fighting to end hunger in America since 1979. Through their network – which includes 200 nonprofit food banks, dozens of for-profit food and funding partners, and more – they feed more than 46 million Americans each year. Find out more on their website, or by following them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.