There was a time in my life when I just loved (and I mean LOVED) a buffet. Maybe it’s the Gemini in me that loves choices and options. Maybe it’s the infinite combinations of meat, starch and overcooked veggies. Or maybe it’s the dessert table? I don’t know what it is but if there was an Old Country Buffet I was there; especially when I lived in the south.
The thing about the buffet that would always get me was the very thing I loved – the choices – was the very thing that left me full but unsatisfied. Each nibble of some new dish produced a desire to try something else new but it never really hit the spot. And when I thought I found something that did hit the spot, I rarely ate more of it. Most of the time I went back to see if I could find something else that would give me the same “umm umm good” feeling. Whew!
So Kishshana “how in the world does this translate to looking for candidates for my organization”? I am SO glad you asked.
You have a human capital need at your non-profit. You say “let’s hire someone”. You write a job description. Sometimes it looks like everything and the kitchen sink is in it. Sometimes it leaves everything to the imagination. These two types of job descriptions often come as a result of that conversation that happened at some Senior Management Team meeting (you know the one) where someone said “let’s just see what’s out there” or ‘let’s cast our net wide and see what bites”. And there you have it. You have just entered the candidate buffet line.
So what happens?
Initially, there is the rush of all types of candidates. Some interesting and you put them to the side. Others are not appealing so you skip by them. But then…there they are…the candidates that make your proverbial mouth water and you reach out. You speak to them. They sort of rock your world. But instead of pushing back from the table, satisfied that you’re done…you.go.back. WHOA! There must be more. A better fit! A fresher idea! More experience! More money raised under their belt! And the list goes on and on. You keep going back to the candidate buffet determined to capture that same feeling you just had with the previous candidate. And you may eventually find that person but you’re not ever quite satisfied. And your turnover rates support that. So what’s a great nonprofit exec (or any exec really) to do?
- Get clear on where you are as an organization. What problem is this new rockstar going to solve? If you are cruising the buffet chances are you don’t know what you want.
- Get clear on what success will look like for a new team member. If you can’t visualize this new team member as successful (and I mean standing at the top of the mountain flag planted successful) then you are not laser focused and will set them up for failure (and you don’t want that I am sure).
- Resist the case of the tooth fairy. There is no such thing and the tooth fairy is NOT out there. That’s especially true when hiring for a development professional but holds for any hire.
- Work with a firm that understands your vision and doesn’t give you lip service (read: a truth teller). I’ve worked with a LOT of search firms over the years (and some of them are absolutely amazing). One thing I learned (both as an employer and as a candidate) is if there isn’t alignment, synergy, and realistic expectations and…eh hem… the truth of what you can really recruit for and what the candidate for you really looks like.
You might find yourself at the candidate buffet. You might get full but you’ll never be satisfied.
Bottom line: Be Clear!