One of the most wonderful (and terrible) things about recruiting for the nonprofit sector is that EVERYONE wants to work in it. Maybe it’s the adorable puppies, the mediocre pay, or the dazzling job descriptions, but for whatever reason in a time of record employment, nonprofit jobs still enjoy a competitive (if not smaller) talent pool. But beware, even in the shallowest talent pool, there are a dangerous cast of characters lurking. And aren’t you lucky? You’re going to interview them all if you don’t follow these tips from us.

So you have a job listing you’re about ready to unleash on the public and find that perfect candidate? Get ready, dear reader, because we’re about to play nonprofit candidate bingo.

FREE SQUARE: The One Clicker

Isn’t technology wonderful? Thanks to ZipRecruiter and similar paid services, now you can broadcast your job far and wide to every job board on the planet. It’s also, it turns out, a boon for candidates as well, since job aggregators like Indeed and Glassdoor will let people apply with “just the click of a button,” which, while convenient for the applicant, can be somewhat frustrating for the hiring team. While we are sure that someone with 20 years IT experience or 5 years waitressing experience might be a good Program Director, maybe not for YOUR program.  The Fix: Pay an upgraded fee for an applicant tracking system that requires application questions that will make one-clickers decide you aren’t worth the effort.

  1. The Job Surfer

To say they have experience is an understatement, since they seem to jump jobs every few months in different locations, with lots of missions. While even the most talented staff can and do sometimes experience a few hiccups in their employment history due to organizations closing, funding shifting or (gasp) the wrong fit, a persistent change in jobs is something that should raise some red flags. These normally charming applicants will WOW their way through an interview, only for the shine to wear off, somewhat predictably, at the one year mark. The Fix: Ask for SPECIFIC references in later interview stages, don’t allow these candidates to direct their own references.

  1. The Consultant

So you’re perusing resumes when you see an applicant with an impressive 10 year tenure at S.S. Smith Enterprises. You go to google, before you realize that the name on top of the resume is Sam Sarah Smith – and a lightbulb goes off, they are a consultant. Fear not, candidates like this are not that unusual since the nonprofit industry is chock full of consultants (ahem), but how do you tell if this person is a real consultant with paying clients, or simply someone trying to cover an employment gap? The Fix: Ask for a list of current clients, completed projects, and take a second to google their consulting company

  1. The “Do Gooder”

This is usually one of the most impressive resumes in the pile. With more than 15 years experience at a big name firm at an unrelated industry, you can’t believe this executive wants to work for your organization. You read the effusive cover letter about their passion for your mission, and overlook their somewhat tangential experiences, thinking you can easily teach them more formal strategies. They want to “give back,” they say, join an industry that has done so much good in the world. The only catch? All that altruism comes with a hefty price tag. Scroll down to salary expectations and you’ll see a price tag that might tempt you to laugh, or cry. But definitely not hire. The Fix: Email this applicant up-front and confirm the actual range before moving forward with an interview. Avoid being dazzled by big numbers and use increased scrutiny to determine if the skills being transferred are the right ones.

  1. The Offer Jockey

This one is hard to spot. They have the right experience, long tenures, and would seemingly be interested in a lateral or even marginally higher position. What luck! They are just tired of their current organization, feel like they’ve “accomplished all they can” and are just looking for “the next challenge.” In reality, all they are seeking is an offer letter to pit against their current job in the hopes they can use it for a slightly better title or a big pay boost.  The Fix: We admit to being tricked a few times by this candidate, but project-based interview processes are usually successful at weeding out those only looking for a quick offer to boost their earning power.

  1. God’s Gift

Wow were you lucky to get this resume, at least that’s what the cover letter says. Not only that, but the cover letter did you the favor of letting you know everything they think you did wrong on your website, the job description, and, of course, the organization: with the assurances this is ONLY a sneak preview. They can come in and fix it for you, of course, but your salary expectations are low, so they’d be willing to do it part time for you at the full salary. Aren’t you lucky?  The Fix: We don’t have one. Get ready for a fun interview and try not to roll your eyes too hard.

  1. The Fast Learning Hard Worker

This is the applicant with the solid resume and respectable cover letter that seems too good to be true: until you meet them. Then you realize that the projects they worked on weren’t nearly as impressive as they seemed on paper, and that their highly touted management experience is limited to interns they oversaw during their college job. But they don’t seem to see that as a drawback. “I’m a fast learner,” they tell you confidently when you ask about their lack of experience, “and I work really hard.”  Wow, we never hear that one. The Fix: Ask SPECIFIC application questions about the role that was played in certain accomplishments and press for measurable metrics.

  1. The Perpetual Learner

Education, especially higher education, is a great way to help differentiate already qualified candidates, but this candidate takes the differentiation to a new level. With 3 masters and at least ten different certifications, this person is always learning more, but never, it seems, has had the chance to practically apply that knowledge. But now they’d like to, at your firm. The Fix: While we are big proponents of substituting experience for education, it doesn’t work the other way. Don’t get swept up by fancy degrees unless they match the exact experience you are looking for.

  1. The Man Who Knew Too Little

You may have screened this guy out on every other job listing you’ve had, but you have to admire his tenacity, because he Just. Keeps. Applying. On one hand, you feel like he at least deserves an interview after the carefully crafted cover letters and customized resumes, but DON’T DO IT. One phone screen will remind you why it is he can’t seem to find a permanent home. The Fix: Cross reference your candidate lists to spot the duplicate.


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