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Developing a Roadmap for the Hiring Process

Navigating the hiring process can be a daunting challenge for even the most seasoned managers, but this is particularly true when hiring is not your primary responsibility. With limited time and resources, most hiring managers seek to move the process to completion as quickly as possible and to take advantage of any shortcuts available to them.

In our experience, the most effective searches, as well as those with the most efficient processes and shortest times to hire, begin with a clearly defined and well thought-out process that is set down on paper in a document that we at Commongood Careers refer to as a Search Strategy Plan.

An effective Search Strategy Plan includes several major elients that we will explore in this article: defining the position, writing an internal job description and external posting, developing a recruitment plan and setting up a screening process.

Step 1: Defining the Position

Regardless of whether you are hiring to fill a new position or to replace an outgoing employee, your first step should be to conduct a thorough organizational or departmental “needs assessment” or “gap analysis” that goes beyond the individual position and extends to its full range of influence. Collaborate with key internal stakeholders and decision-makers to compare the responsibilities and competencies of current staff against all existing and possible needs. Identify the gaps between current capacity and projected needs and leverage that insight when considering the scope of the open position. Is there any current employee whose role overlaps unnecessarily with the opening or someone who could be moved into this role in place of looking to hire? Always consider existing resources before looking for new acquisitions.

Planning along these lines is generally expected for new positions, but may be overlooked when filling existing roles. If you are hiring because of the departure of a high-performing and well-liked employee, make sure to avoid the common pitfall of trying to find a clone of that individual. More than likely, your organization has grown and changed since the exiting employee started, and as a result, his or her old job description may no longer be relevant. In addition, linear thinking will limit the opportunities available to your organization, such as considering “out of the box” candidates with different profiles who could bring new ideas and perspectives to your organization. Such thinking is equally valuable, albeit in reverse, for terminations and low-performing employees. Work through your current needs assessment from scratch, as opposed to making a knee-jerk reaction to hire someone who merely possesses what your prior employee lacked.

Once you have identified your needs, it is time to more thoroughly define the position and the profile of your ideal candidate. To ensure an equitable process, try to gather input from several staff as opposed to having the role shaped by one individual. Some questions to consider include:

• What are the key responsibilities of the role?

• What are the opportunities and challenges presented to someone filling the position?

• What core competencies, experiences or functional skills are required for success?

• What organizational values would an ideal candidate reflect? What attributes would eliminate a candidate from consideration?

• What kinds of people are generally successful in this organization and in this type of role? What kinds of people are not successful in this organization and role?

• Where does this position fit in the organizational chart in terms of direct and indirect reporting relationships?

• What is the management style of the person to whom this role will report? What is the style necessitated by this person’s co-workers and direct reports?

Step 2: Writing a Job Description and a Job Posting

We now turn to developing two different but equally important documents. The first is a Job Description, which is an internal document that lists the responsibilities as well as the qualifications of the role in precise detail. This document will be used first by hiring managers to evaluate candidates, then by the position manager to set expectations with the new hire, and finally on an ongoing basis to conduct evaluations and performance reviews.

A Job Posting, on the other hand, is an external document created to motivate the right kind of candidates to apply for the job. As such, it should be viewed largely as a marketing tool. Visiting online job boards is a great way to see a variety of different types and styles of job advertisements to inform the creation of your posting, which should include:

• A posting title, which does not need to be identical to the final and actual job title. Especially if your organization uses unique titles, try to post the position under a name that conveys the primary nature of the role to the broadest possible audience.

• A concise description of the organization’s history, mission, programs and accomplishments, as well as a description of what makes the organization an exciting place in which to work.

• An overview of the position that summarizes the importance of the role to the overall success of the organization.

• A well-constructed and organized list of key responsibilities. You do not need to include an exhaustive list, but provide some detail about what the role entails, highlighting the appealing aspects of the position such as decision-making authority, participation in strategic planning, etc.

• A list of the job’s required qualifications, trying to focus more on competencies than specific types of experience. For example, “exceptional relationship management skills and experience collaborating with high-net-worth individuals” may be better than “4-7 years work leading major donor campaigns.”

• Clear instructions on how to apply, what materials to include, and to whom to direct the application. Stay away from a “no phone calls” statement as it can seem unwelcoming or unprofessional to jobseekers. Consider closing with an equal opportunity employment statement.

Step 3: Developing a Recruitment Plan

Internal Distribution:

It is important to share news of an open position with your staff for two reasons. First, current employees may be interested in being considered for the role. Second, current employees are a key source of referrals for any open position. Start by sending a thoughtful email to your organization’s staff about the opening. This email should include a brief description of the role and details on the ideal candidate’s profile and qualifications. Outlining the requirements of the position will allow employees to determine whether they may or may not be a good fit for the position. While hiring from within can provide a win-win, be prepared for the possibility of difficult conversations if an employee who expresses interest is not going to be a good fit. At the very least, conversations with current employees about new opportunities will provide insight into the individual’s career aspirations. As sources of referrals, current employees play a key role, as they know your organization and what it takes to succeed there. Also, as the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together, so your high-performing employees may have friends with similar backgrounds. Consider if a referral bonus would work within your culture. It may motivate people to activate their networks and would be a small price for a great hire.

Distribution to Your Network:

Develop and maintain a list of your organization’s board members, funders, champions, community partners, peer groups, friends and associates. Keep track of who is well networked and who has referred people for other roles. Share the Job Posting, as appropriate, with as much of this network as possible. Remember that you are not trying to identify the people in your network who may be potential candidates for the role, but are rather looking to spread the word as widely as possible because you never know who might know someone who could become a candidate. Along these lines, encourage your connections to share the job with their networks as well, perhaps through Facebook, LinkedIn or Outlook address books. Post the job to your own website and include information in newsletters or external communication vehicles. If this is a new position, use it as an opportunity to highlight your organization’s growth and development.

External Posting:

Broaden your reach beyond your inner circles by advertising the position externally. For most positions in most communities, gone are the days of placing a “want ad” in the local newspaper. These days, it is usually more affordable and effective to post positions on multiple online job boards like Idealist. Even so, a thorough online posting strategy may cost at least $500-700. In order to determine how to most efficiently spend your recruiting dollars, research the relevant job boards or publications where you would find similar postings. Ask colleagues and peers with similar roles where they would look for jobs. Find out which professional associations include people in the field and see if those groups have job boards or email lists. There are also job boards focused on geographic regions, job functions and cultural or ethnic groups. When evaluating opportunities, you should consider both the volume and the quality of likely respondents to a posting. Most hiring managers would rather have a smaller pool of qualified candidates than a larger pool of unqualified candidates.

Step 4: Setting Up a Screening Process

The goal of the screening process is to assess each applicant across consistent criteria in order to make the most informed and effective hiring decision possible. Determining the screening process in advance will help to ensure internal alignment and accountability among all those involved in the hiring process. Be sure to share all relevant materials with appropriate staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page and to make any necessary adjustments before beginning the following three common stages of a screening process.

Resume Screen:

Before you review the first resume, determine what information you want to learn from the resume. Return to the job description and come up with a list of criteria you are looking for in a candidate. Now, cut this list down to include just those criteria that can be gleaned from a resume and cover letter. Use this list of criteria to create a Resume Screening Worksheet to complete for every application, noting whether or not each elient is present and to what degree. Note that you can often learn something about a candidate’s writing ability, organizational skills and attention to detail just by reviewing his or her application.

Phone Screen:

We recommend a phone screen as the next step in the process. Because it is often difficult to decide from a resume who is a strong overall candidate, the phone screen allows the hiring organization to get more information about a candidate and his or her personality and background, without taking the time to conduct a full in-person interview. Figure out what questions you are going to ask and what answers might be ideal, adequate or unacceptable. Phone screen questions typically focus on skill fit, culture fit, and logistics (e.g. When would you be available to start?).


Use the in-person interview(s) to probe for information that you did not gain at earlier stages of the process. As with the phone screen, plan your questions in advance. Create questions that allow candidates to provide evidence of the competencies and character traits that will position them for success in the role. Also remember that candidates will be assessing your professionalism and the appeal of working in your organization, so always put a good foot forward in terms of preparation and welcome. Interviews should have a two-way transmission of information, so plan to share details and collateral with candidates that will sell them on the opportunity and prepare them for the role. It is also important that you plan, in advance, how you are going to communicate with candidates at each phase of the process. Draft “regrets” templates at the start of the search and plan for prompt notification of decisions to all candidates in the search process.

Every hour spent planning before a search will yield huge dividends throughout the process and in its end result. With this article as a guide, we hope that your plans will be thorough and that your hiring will be successful!