Straight from the pros: How to attract and engage talent

Published on: Jan 20, 2017

With this summer’s launch of Work for Good, we’ve introduced a completely new approach to gain hiring and career insight. Our monthly How We Hire interview series features nonprofit HR leaders from around the country sharing their secrets for evaluating candidates, building a positive culture, and supporting talent development, while highlighting what makes their organizations a great place to work. We’re also tapping national experts to bring their expert perspectives on building an employer brand, managing a diverse workforce, connecting with mentors, and much more. Here, we present the latest How We Hire interview, along with other highlights from our Hiring Insights newsletters.


As Senior Talent Acquisition Strategist for Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Tawanna Myers seeks people who bring diversity in thought and experience to the organization, an interest in true development, and the ability to adapt quickly to change. She spoke with us about what she expects from talent, and what they gain in return from working at the national nonprofit.

My elevator pitch for potential hires: It varies depending on the position, but for the most part: Why not be part of an organization making such a tremendous impact on a national level? Working at an organization like Boys & Girls Clubs of America is an opportunity not just to use your skill set to make a difference for youth nationwide, but develop your skills to make a difference in your career.

My go-to interview question: What is the most useful criticism you’ve ever received, and how did you use that feedback? That question allows you to see not only how they think in terms of developing themselves professionally, but also motivational and cultural fit. We’re a fluid organization: Things move quickly, and what worked yesterday might not work tomorrow. We need people who can use constructive advice to make a greater impact. If someone tells me they’ve never been advised of or self-identified a development area, it makes me question their openness to constructive feedback and full development.

What we look for beyond skills: We look for flexibility in thought as well as in action and response. We look for an aptitude for innovation, but also for patience – someone able to take the time to understand the “whys” before seeking to make change. Someone who can manage the fast pace, and embrace a culture of caring about one another. We also refer to our organizational values, abbreviated I CARE: Integrity, Collaboration, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence.

How we structure the interview process: After a position’s been posted, and we’ve received online applications — we may also have recruiters do some passive sourcing – we screen candidates by phone to discuss compensation and background, and a couple questions that tell the hiring manager whether to take the next step. If approved, we advance to a one-on-one informational meeting with the hiring manager, a chance to speak directly and discuss position-specific questions. After that, we determine who should come in for a formal panel interview, where we ask behavioral questions – “tell us about a time when” – and make sure candidates get to see the work environment. Depending on the position, there may be a couple followup interviews with a senior leader. When the decision has been made, we contact the top candidate or two and begin background checks. After that, we extend an offer.

How we onboard new hires: Organizationwide, there’s a two-day orientation for new employees, where they hear from each department and get a full understanding of their roles, attend a casual reception with senior leadership, and make a Club visit to see how we make an impact in the lives of youth. On an individual level, each hiring manager develops a specific onboarding plan at the time of the job posting, including who they should meet with one-on-one and any resources they’ll need to be successful at the outset.

What people love about working here: The mission drives everything we do: ensuring youth have the opportunities to become successful, productive citizens. But what we also love is the familial atmosphere. You can’t walk down the hall without someone smiling at you and asking how you’re doing; when there’s a tragedy in someone’s family, bereavement notices are sent out, and support comes in from across the organization.

We’re also focused on internal advancement, so people also love knowing that there’s opportunity to grow – from working in crossfunctional teams, to getting deeper into your own role, to moving into another area of the work. I also love the energy, which is fastpaced and invigorating.

What new employees notice first about our office: Probably the colors – it’s a very bright office, which we carry over from our Clubs. The alumni display also makes an impression – the range of celebrities and public officials pictured in our “Hall of Fame” is often surprising to people. Newcomers notice our receptionist too: She’s a skilled conversationalist, and is great at putting people at ease before the first interview.

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Maddie Grant and Jamie Notter, partners at WorkXO, on


In our book, When Millennials Take Over, we identify four cultural capacities common to organizations that are aligned with Millennial values and successful, forward-thinking organizations. Digital cultures develop an intense focus on users, including customers and employees; provide customized experiences for those users; and work for constant improvement  and innovation. Clear cultures honor the connection between transparency and effective decision-making, ensuring the right people have the right information at the right time. Fluid cultures create rules within the hierarchy that permit enough flexibility for greatest effectiveness. Fast cultures build a specific kind of trust internally, releasing traditional controls and unlocking amazing speed.

Sarah Conner, VP of Programs and HR, H.I.S. BridgeBuilders, on


If an interviewee’s demeanor changes based on who they’re talking to – if they act differently with the CEO than they do with a facility manager or a client – that’s a red flag for me. In our organization, you have to be able to engage honestly with people from all kinds of different cultures.

Vince Marigna, Chief People Officer, KIPP New Jersey, on


We’re a learning organization, so we believe the lever for success is being sure we can learn from our successes as well as our failures. We survey staff regularly, and partner with an outside assessment group to get a pulse on how we’re doing, including in the back office. Managers and directors come together once a month for professional development, and we have a day-long, all-staff professional development opportunity once per quarter.

Michael Cummings, Consultant, on


Some effective ways to determine, manage, and utilize an effective employer brand: Ask your people what’s working and what isn’t; create an employee value proposition, including key messages that explain why candidates should aspire to work for your organization; reconsider the way you manage candidate relationships, focusing on their experience during the interview process; train human resources staff in positive messaging; and be a part of the online conversation about your organization. If you’re not managing the perception of your employer brand, a handful of former employees will likely be doing it for you.

Unemployment Services Trust, workforce solutions providers, on


Culture, mission, and purpose are key drivers of nonprofit staffer satisfaction; prioritize purpose in employee communications, and set goals that relate directly to the mission. Focus on improving the things you can – they can have a ripple effect on the things you can’t. Want to decrease turnover? Manage employee stress by lightening workloads or providing better tools for delivering feedback. When hiring, focus on “fit”– the better employees get along, the more satisfied they are.

Michael Watson, VP of Talent and Culture, National 4-H Council, on


People driven by causes have a lot of choices regarding employment, especially here in the D.C. area. We have to stand out – and we have to keep working on it. We also plan many initiatives to make sure we help our people develop, and that even those who end up somewhere else can look back at 4-H and say we made a positive difference in their career.


On, we are bringing together the purpose-driven community – supporting 30,000 employers and engaging 400,000 professionals – here in Georgia and nationwide. Here’s how:

We support your hiring process with a suite of job-posting tools to help you target, track, and communicate with candidates, and an all-in-one “premium posting” option designed to supercharge your search for talent.