How We Hired in 2018

montage hwh 2018

In just over a year, Work for Good has talked to a half-dozen HR pros at some of the nation’s top nonprofits for our How We Hire series, discovering how they identify and onboard new hires, and what their organizations do to keep purpose-driven employees engaged, advancing, and ready for the challenges of today and tomorrow. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve rounded up some of their key insights.

Weighing in are:


My pitch for potential hires

Melissa Wiley, CARE USA: I always start by letting people know that CARE has an ambitious, transformational agenda, and we need great talent to support it. Sometimes I put numbers to that agenda, which tends to resonate with people interested in what we do.

Tiffany Lawrence, NeighborWorks America: Working at NeighborWorks, you can feel the impact of your efforts helping affiliates create “places of opportunity” for their clients; in 2017, our network assisted over 22,000… with clear and far-reaching effects.

Matt Hayes, Feeding America: 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.

Valerie Blain-Smith, World Wildlife Fund: One aspect I play up are our tremendous benefits, which help staff balance work and life… [including] 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 days up to two hours early.

Melissa Hurst, American Red Cross: We offer a variety of career opportunities across our lines of service… and robust career development programs, like an internal career center for exploring new opportunities within the organization. We are also a leader in virtual working arrangements, with a significant portion of our staff teleworking either part- or full-time.


What impresses me in a jobseeker

Jason Walker, Habitat for Humanity: 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.

Lawrence: Candidates who ask thoughtful, substantive questions about our culture and the nuances of the position demonstrate a real interest in us, not just a job.

Blain-Smith: When someone has taken the time to research our organization, and comes in with a clear understanding of the work we do.

Hayes: 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

Wiley: Someone who thinks they know it all. We want people who are confident in the expertise they can bring to CARE, but this is a learning environment… so it can be very difficult for someone who doesn’t think they have anything to learn.

Walker: When a candidate is late to an interview, but doesn’t let anyone know. We all understand that life happens… take the time to give us a quick call or email as a professional courtesy.

Hayes: 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.


One trait essential to employee success

Hurst: Being ready, whenever needed, in an ambiguous and ever-changing environment. We often say, “Sleeves Up, Hearts Open, All In,” reflecting the commitment and passion we look for in employees.

Blain-Smith: The ability to build effective working relationships, both internally and externally, with colleagues and partners. Everyone here, in every position, needs that skill.

Walker: Resourcefulness. 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 are well-positioned to succeed.

Lawrence: Natural problem solvers.


Something cool we do to support staff

Wiley: We offer many learning opportunities. One of those is our cross-training program: If there’s a department looking for temporary help, staffers can apply… It’s a great way for staff to expand their skills and learn more about the scope of CARE’s work.

Hurst: A structured, two-year Leadership Education and Development Program (LEAD) designed to prepare employees for senior leadership opportunities by developing skills such as critical and strategic thinking and leadership capabilities. All of our executives are highlgy engaged in LEAD, serving as sponsors for each employee.

Blain-Smith: We offer each department a developmental budget that supports staff in pursuing opportunities like workshops seminars, conferences, and exam prep courses… in addition to the in-house training we offer.

Lawrence: We offer 40 hours of paid volunteer leave to each employee, every year, to be used for philanthropic or community-based volunteer opportunities.

Hayes: 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.

Walker: Short-term Mission Leave is a unique benefit… 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.


How we help new hires succeed

Hurst: In addition to virtual and on-the-job training, our structured orientation and training plans include regular check-ins with leadership, timelines for receiving responsibilities, and the opportunity to take on a mentor within their new department.

Blain-Smith: 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.

Wiley: Apart from standard on-boarding, we also have CARE Academy, which includes elective modules in everything from soft skills to leadership development. We also have what we call the Catalyst Program, which identifies people who are leaders in their own right, and grooms them for top roles.


Why our office is great

Hurst: In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson laid the cornerstone for the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1965, the site was designated a National Historic Landmark. In our second century of service… we have created a modern campus while maintaining the integrity of our historic buildings, [including] a new Collaboration Cafe, a dedicated social workspace for staff and volunteer to gather, share ideas, and work together.

Blain-Smith: You can see our values in the physical space: We’re fortunate enough to work in a LEED-certified building with collaboration spaces and lots of natural light throughout… and fancy coffee machines that make espresso drinks, saving people a trip to the coffee shop.

Lawrence: Our offices are open concept... designed to be invigorating and comfortable – including “thinking” spaces, meeting spaces, collaboration spaces, and social spaces.

Wiley: We have some of the most amazing photos I have ever seen hanging in our lobby… proof of the amazing work we’re doing, captured in the beautiful faces of the people we serve.

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