The Big Problems For An NGO Recruiter & How To Solve Them

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What are the biggest hiring challenges for an NGO Recruiter?

Non-Government Organisations face unique challenges when it comes to finding the right staff. Because they routinely deal with widespread issues — be it social, economical, political or environmental — NGOs require specific experience and characteristics from their employees that traditional for-profit businesses often don’t need. Moreover, budgetary constraints and limited candidate pools make it even harder to locate good talent. But fear not, whether you are an experienced HR Manager or are recruiting for the first time as a Line Manager, we’re here to help you navigate these challenges and find the perfect person for your organisation.


So what are the key areas of concern for an NGO Recruiter?


Many NGOs struggle to get the right candidates to apply for their jobs in the first place. And whilst there could be many contributing factors here (such as lower salaries, long hours & candidate shortages), it’s often down to bad advertising.

Whether you’re looking for lobbyists, HR managers or disability specialists, try to think about the advert from a candidate’s perspective rather than your own. What are the present and emerging challenges of the job and what makes it an exciting prospect for a candidate? NGO staff pride themselves on helping others and actively want to make a difference, so it’s important that your advert appeals to this desire. Don’t be afraid to highlight your core values as these are often a key deciding factor for candidates looking to work with Non-Governmental Organisations. HR managers are extremely busy and often fall into the trap of listing the requirements and copy-pasting generic information about the organisation but by taking some time to think about what the candidate will get out of this specific role, you’ll really sell the position and attract higher quality applicants.

Where you advertise is also key. Posting on the biggest job boards will certainly cast your net wide but it won’t necessarily reel in the right kind of candidates. As we’ve already mentioned, working for an NGO is different to working in for-profit organisations. The right candidates will of course have the right experience and qualifications but they also need to have the right mindset, motivation and soft skills. As an NGO recruiter, you should be targeting people specifically looking to work in the non-profit sector by posting on job boards which are tailored for NGOs and NPOs. Remember, however, that different job boards across the not for profit sector might cater to different areas. If you’re looking for a junior member for a fundraising team, you might not advertise in the same places as you would as part of an executive search for a General Manager. Tailoring the advertising strategy to suit each position is key.

You may wish to consult some NGO recruitment agencies at this early stage. A recruitment specialist will work with you to write a strong advert and then deal with the applications on your behalf. They will be up to date with the current NGO job market and will know what candidates are looking for. In short, by partnering with an agency that specialises in NGO recruitment in Australia, you can attract more high calibre candidates whilst doing less work.

Sorting through resumes

The next challenge many NGO recruiters struggle with is identifying the best candidate from a huge stack of resumes. Remember the basics here and start with a clear list of “must-haves” as well as “nice-to-haves”. This will help you to quickly eliminate any unsuitable candidates whilst also keeping an open mind about others.

Don’t get too caught up in finding the perfect candidate on paper. Whilst qualifications are important, you should also be mindful of other aspects such as soft & transferrable skills. For example, whilst you might prefer someone with experience working within Australia, you may find someone who has recently relocated from the Middle East who is actually perfect for the role. Many international certifications are transferrable and other qualities such as linguistic skills or experience working with people from various cultures could be extremely beneficial. Likewise, you might receive applications from candidates from the private sector. They may not have specific NGO experience but they could have several transferrable skills as well as the right motivation for NGO work. Thinking outside of the box could help uncover a treasure trove of talent whilst also giving you more value for money. Someone looking to transition into the NGO space may be open to a lower

salary than someone who has already worked extensively in the industry. So keep an open mind at this stage and remember that compassion, knowledge and life skills can sometimes be more beneficial than experience.

Choosing the right candidate

From fundraising directors to lawyers to social workers to disability case managers, every role has its unique requirements and every interview should be tailored as such. Take this opportunity to prepare applicants for the tougher aspects of the role. Long & unconventional hours, burnout and the emotional impact of client-facing roles can often affect NGO workers so asking candidates how they would deal with these challenging aspects will help you to assess their problem solving and stress management skills. You should of course sell the positive aspects of the role but ensuring that you also address the tougher questions will pay off in the long run.

Again, partnering with a recruitment agency will make this process smoother. Recruiters who specialise in NGOs will be able to quickly identify strong candidates. They will have a robust and purpose-built screening process which will help narrow down the options. From culling resumes and conducting interviews to qualification verification and reference checking, they do all of the hard and time consuming work so that you don’t have to. All you’ll have to do is interview the final shortlist and choose from the cream of the crop.

Keeping good staff

Burnout, red tape and budget constraints are three major issues that make it difficult for NGOs to retain staff. In order to keep good candidates on board, you need to go further than your for-profit counterparts and actively listen to staff feedback and help them to grow with your organisation. Remember that NGO workers are often motivated by the meaningful work that they do. Whilst they will undoubtedly appreciate a salary increase every now and again, it’s equally important to ensure that they feel valued within your organisation.

Keeping new and existing staff engaged will help you to achieve your goals as an organisation whilst simultaneously improving your recruitment cycle. Retaining great staff will minimise your need to recruit whilst also maximising your reputation within the market. By keeping staff in your organisation long term, you will make your organisation an extremely attractive prospect for future candidates. In short — if you look after your current staff, your future staff will come to you!

In summary…

Recruiting for NGOs can often feel like an uphill battle but with the right approach, it is possible to find fantastic staff. Writing a strong advert and posting it in the right places is key as is keeping an open mind about experience and qualifications. Finally, it’s important to ask for help when needed. Whether you’re struggling to find time to work through all of the resumes or need assistance in attracting and identifying the best talent, partnering with a specialist NGO recruitment agency saves precious time and money which can instead be spent on tackling the issues that matter.

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