[How We Hire] Staffing a mission that helps staff the world

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There’s a lot going on at Goodwill Industries International, which serves as an all-purpose resource for the 162 autonomous Goodwill organizations working in communities across North America and partner organizations in 13 other countries worldwide. With 10 years under her belt at the Rockville, MD-based nonprofit, Senior Director of Public Relations and Spokesperson Lauren Lawson-Zilai has been involved in a wide range of projects, including developing and executing the external communications strategy, recruiting celebrity spokespeople and influencers, overseeing executive social media, video production, and hiring.

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My pitch for potential hires: Some companies try to sell hires on workplace perks, but we talk about Goodwill’s mission of helping people find jobs, and we take the time to listen to potential employees’ goals and decide whether they fit. We also welcome employees from all backgrounds—not just those with nonprofit experience.

My favorite interview questions: I want to know, Why Goodwill? Their reason has to cover more than the job itself: the mission has to resonate with them. All of us at Goodwill, no matter our professional backgrounds, share a passion for Goodwill’s mission of helping people find jobs, build their skills and care for their families.

I also like to ask, What’s one thing that’s surprised you about Goodwill? Many potential hires know about the stores, but it’s interesting to find out how much they don’t know about the breadth of our work and the services we offer such as Excel Centers, adult charter high schools run by several Goodwill organizations, each offering free child care for adult learners.

My interview pet peeves: It bothers me when people do not dress for the job that they want and do not present themselves properly. Lasting impressions are important.

It’s also important to have prepared questions so that the interview is a two-way conversation. If you don’t, it leaves the interviewer wondering what you’re going to contribute in the workplace.

How an interviewee knocked my socks off: One candidate came in for a marketing and brand development manager position, and presented a complete pitch, including a deck, with ways we could improve our marketing. She acted as if she were a consultant for Goodwill—which we hadn’t asked for—and it made a very good impression.

Something people love about working here: They love our culture of collaboration and professional growth. We’re very team focused, so you’re not just functioning within your area of expertise. For example, we have initiatives in the areas of global development, mission impact and building a compelling culture that allow team members to work beyond the scope of their current positions and enhance their learning.

We’re very generous with training and development opportunities, including workshops, webinars, memberships in professional associations and management programs for those who want to move up the career ladder.  We recently conducted an internal audit to find out where people may need additional training or development. As a result, we will be launching a variety of online, classroom and blending learning opportunities for free to employees this fall.

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Something I love about working here: Every day is different: I could be working on issues pertaining to veterans and military families, our electronics recycling program, our youth mentoring program, Goodwill GoodGuides, or any number of other important programs.

One way we help new hires succeed: All hires get an ambassador who reaches out before their start date, then shows them around the office and introduces them to the team on their first day. We also have a formal mentoring program, which gives interested staff members the opportunity to talk with someone in-house about professional development and career explorations in a trusted environment. In addition, we are thorough with our new-hire trainings, which include orientations in all aspects of the organization from accounting to mission to external communications.

Some cool things we do to support staff: We always consider employee needs, whether that is more ergonomic work stations or financial planning assistance. Our monthly all-staff meeting of more than 120 employees is an opportunity to discuss submissions from the company “suggestion” box, give a “thumbs-up” recognition to team members who have done something outstanding beyond their job function, and share milestones from our personal lives, such as marriages and children’s graduations. This type of group sharing builds strong bonds among team members.  

Finally, we offer lots of opportunities to work with other nonprofits and government agencies that contribute to Goodwill and our priorities. For instance, I am on the Advisory Council of Washington Women in Public Relations (WWPR) and vice president for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA-NCC). I have a colleague who serves on the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Veterans’ Employment, Training and Employer Outreach (ACVETEO), which is responsible for assessing the employment and training needs of veterans and their integration into the workforce.​​

Goodwill Industries International works in collaboration with local, autonomous Goodwill organizations across the network to support their efforts in providing job placement and training, growing Goodwill’s mission, strengthening the business and advancing the brand, offering resources, tools and consultations in the areas of donated goods retail operations, strategic planning and accreditation. Last year, Goodwills in the United States and Canada provided in person job placement, job training and support services to more than 2 million people. Find out more on their website, or by following them on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, or YouTube.

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