Seeking a new employee

I sit on the board of a local nonprofit that is currently in the process of searching for a new office administrator. Through a combination of social media, web-based job sites and the South Dakota Job Service, we have received a pile of resumes that were sorted and a small number were chosen for interview. We conducted some of the interviews yesterday and have more tomorrow. Hopefully we will be able to narrow the field and make a choice. Perhaps we’ll need a couple of second interviews, but a decision will be made soon and we’ll be in the process of training and learning to work with a new employee. We are a small nonprofit, so we don’t have the highest salary or the best benefits to offer, but we have worked to provide fair compensation to our employees.

I’ve been through the process before, both within the church and as a member of a board of a community service agency. There are a lot of good people searching for different jobs and usually there is a wide range of possibilities about which direction the agency will take. Personalities matter and in a small institution every new person brings change.

I’m struck at how much the process of searching and obtaining employees has changed over the years. There was a time, not too long ago, when personal recommendations and references were critical in matching people to jobs. We’ve obtained quite a few really good employees for our church because they were known by someone who knew someone who we knew. And I’ve always felt that calling references was an important part of screening candidates for jobs. A person is three-dimensional and a workplace is filled with stressors that don’t appear on paper. A paper resume tells only part of the story.

More than once an interview has revealed things that don’t show up in the paper resume. And more than once I have gotten information from references that has been very helpful in making a decision.

My favorite question when calling references is: “If you were interviewing this candidate for a job, what question would you ask?”

Many of the applications I screened for this particular job didn’t have references - merely a statement that said, “references available upon request.” I know that the role of references is decreasing because I am often asked by church members to serve as a reference in their job search, but rarely called to actually provide a reference. I don’t know if employers are being less cautious in the job service process or if people are being so shy about what information they give in our litigious society that references are becoming less prominent in the job search process.

One of the candidates we interviewed did herself no favors by failing to adequately prepare for the interview. I started the interviews by giving a little background about the history and work of the organization. This information is readily available on the organization’s web site and I can tell by the reactions of the candidate how much they know. On candidate didn’t seem to know what the organization did or what the job really entailed. Of course the job description and a great deal of information about the organization, its mission, and even the personnel who are currently involved is readily available.

I think that what is happening is that computers and automation make it possible for candidates to cast a wide net when searching for a job. They can automate much of the application process and by using job sites can get their resumes into a lot of different potential employers. Still, by the time they have made it to the interview stage, they must be aware that how they present themselves is critical to obtaining the job.

Yesterday, as we conducted the interviews, however, I couldn’t help but wonder if there are some candidates that we are missing. We sort paper resumes very quickly. And the actual job doesn’t really involve preparing a one page summary. The ability to create an attractive resume really isn’t very closely connected to the skills and abilities we are seeking. The same is true of the actual interview. In fact, I think that if we were to have to repeat the search for a new employee, I might intentionally insert a phone interview ahead of the face-to-face interviews. It would allow us to have direct contact with more candidates and the office administrator in the organization will deal with far more people over the telephone than face-to-face in this particular job.

I get some of my best ideas when it is too late to put them into action.

The process of searching for the right person for a job is an important responsibility. The health of an organization rests on the employees it hires. More importantly, a job is a big part of a person’s life. Finding the right match between candidate and job can make a huge difference int he quality of life/ The kine of nonprofit with which I am associated are organizations that are engaged in deeply meaningful work serving the community. Work with purpose is a very valuable gift that we have to offer to our employees. When they believe in the cause served by the organization as much as we who serve the organization as volunteers do, it can be a powerful experience. Choosing the right person does make a difference.

In this particular case we are using a three-person interview committee. We’ve worked together on other projects before and I’m sure we’ll come to a reasonable choice without conflict. Our opinions and reactions are already pretty similar when we discuss the process.

And this is only a small part of what needs to be done this week. Next week is Holy Week. I’ve got a lot of worship notes to prepare and services to refine. I have calls to make and people to serve. The search for a new employee is just a small part of a much bigger process.

Still, I pray we can make a good choice. The prayer might be the most important part of the process.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!