Recruiting for Ultimate Success

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The aim of this blog post is not to offer an exhaustive list of all that goes into recruiting and the nuances involved there within. Yet most hiring managers I’ve worked with don’t know much about these best practices, which is my primary focus in this hand-dandy go-to guide. And while it’s centered around an audience of small to medium social enterprises and nonprofits, much of this is applicable to any org size, industry or role.

All research and advice included here are either from my seasoned experience, the linked source or from Laszlo Brock’s book Work Rules! -- which I highly recommend reading.

And if you’d like assistance with your recruiting efforts and/or lack recruiting bandwidth -- you know who to call!

I appreciate the time you are taking to read this robust yet somewhat lengthy guide called:

The Science of Recruiting


  • Clearly define your timeline and track your progress, pivoting along the way whenever necessary. And utilize an applicant tracking system, even if it’s as simple as a spreadsheet. Project Management software will also suffice.

  • There should be at least three assessors and the hiring decision shouldn’t be made solely by the individual overseeing the position. In fact, this individual should only be included during the final round of interviews and/or making the final call from the final candidates. So no screening of resumes or initial interviews.

  • Also include an assessment by a more neutral third party such as a team member that doesn’t overlap with the position, HR manager or recruiter.  

  • First and foremost, wait and then wait some more until you have found the right candidate. Instead of rushing the process, go full-throttle on your outreach efforts.

  • Don’t be afraid to go after ‘crazy’ ideas to seal the deal with your ideal candidate. When in doubt, run your idea by a recruiter to better gauge the professionalism and/or appropriateness.

  • Find a substantive way to communicate to potential candidates what it’s like to work at your organization (e.g. web page).

  • Don’t notify candidates that you’re passing on their application until after you’ve completed in person interviews. If the application timeline is lengthy, simply keep them updated as to when you’ll get back to them with a status.

  • Interviewee experience matters so much! For example, the candidates you reject could be your amongst your top referrers one day.

    • All candidate correspondence should communicate mutual enthusiasm and detailed information around meeting logistics (including interviewer profiles).

    • Let candidates (who have interviewed) know if their status has changed within 3 days of said change.

    • Give pass candidates an opportunity to ask questions and, if relevant, offer ways to stay engaged with your organization.


  • The strongest single indicator of performance on the job is a work sample test (29%) but the best combination of indicators are actually cognitive ability (26%) and conscientiousness aka integrity (10%) for a total of 36%. That's as good as it gets.

  • Re: integrity -- keep notice and possibly include an opportunity to assess the candidate's ability to work to completion (aka doesn't stop a priority cause the clock strikes five or let projects lag and lag or doesn't promptly follow up or .... ).

    • Here are some example questions but you can also ask a question such as: ‘What’s an obstacle you’ve overcome and how did you do it?’

    • More and more, organizations are filtering for candidates that are able to overcome adversity, whether personal or professional. Makes a ton of sense.

  • And while we’re at it, years of experience only explains 3% of work performance.

  • And structured interviews are tied with cognitive ability -- 26% -- and are perceived by all participants as the most fair.


  • Job postings = the ability for awesome potential candidates to self-select. Be succinct yet include everything. Become excruciatingly specific.

    • Every detail matters, so ask each and every stake holder for input.

    • Since clarity matters, ask an outside editor, such as a recruiter.

  • Since roughly 10% (depending on whom you ask) of jobseekers land a job by applying for a job with an org of which they have had no previous affiliation, it stands to reason that the same % accounts for jobs filled with a talent search strategy focused on numerous job postings and online marketing. Instead:

    • Identify your Outreach Committee and have a designated organizer to ensure each member does their self-selected outreach. Unless there's someone to manage the this committee, it tends to fall flat.

    • Offer both an Employee and Network Bonus of $xxxx to anyone who refers a candidate that you hire.

    • Expertly manage those referrals, including offering ‘white glove status’ to those candidates and keeping your referrer ‘in the loop’ as to the candidate’s status.

  • In addition (and even more so) utilize different online groups, listservs, and social media to do the outreach that job boards rarely do.

  • Coordinate with other similar orgs to generate some press.

  • Last but not least, push back on job boards that generate few or no viable candidates. Many of their algorithms are not geared towards your success. Ask for refunds or credits for future use and they will readily give them.


  • Relationship recruiting involves continual communication and relationship building with your ideal passive candidates, in the hopes that one day the stars will align with an ideal opportunity-candidate fit!

  • LinkedIn Recruiter now offers an option for a monthly option ($120) with a fairly robust search engine that allows one to quickly pair down a list of ~300 potential candidates. If there’s an individual with a particularly relevant background, you also have the option to view similar profiles.

  • Once you’ve decided which individuals to contact, compose a short, compelling message which mentions the most enticing aspects of the job.

  • For those that aren’t interested, but offer to forward the opportunity, include them in the offer for a referral bonus.

  • So of course LinkedIn isn’t the only means for sourcing or contacting candidates. Feel free to call them at work or write a personal email address.


  • Look for resumes that communicate: curiosity, cleverness and an urge to learn among the other qualifications you seek.

  • Again, keep in mind that the least influential indicator of future job performance is how many years the candidate has already been performing similar work.

  • Having multiple assessors starts here, with the team developing a prioritized rubric of desired characteristics and skills. Each candidate is rated (e.g. 1-5) and those with smaller scores of X and X are invited to an initial interview.


  • Since it’s human nature to go with first impressions, the interview is often 30-60 minutes of you trying to validate your original assessment. Instead, stay focused on what this stage actually assesses -- the quality of the responses given. Especially with a community builder/biz dev/sales role -- it's quite telling if a candidate isn't prepared and/or not 'quick on their feet' with communicating value.

  • Prepare questions ahead of time, for each interviewer, and ask the same questions to each candidate to make comparisons easier. Remember, structured interviews for the win!

  • In addition to hearing how the candidate’s past experience is relevant for the role, use this interview to assess cognitive ability.

    • Two of my fav/hopefully exciting for the interviewee cognitive ability questions: ‘Describe a time when you had to solve a problem, but didn’t have all the necessary information about it in hand. What did you do?’ and ‘How do you weigh pros and cons before making a decision?’


  • Here’s where you can really dig into behavioral questions as well as better assess cultural fit.

    • Ex behavioral questions: ‘Talk about a time when you had to adapt to big changes at work’ and ‘What have you done when colleagues have been stressed out by a project?’

    • Re: cultural fit -- after assessing org values (e.g. transparency, curiosity, uplift others) develop questions that test for compatibility.

  • Similar to the phone screen, prepare questions ahead of time

  • Do in-person interviews in tronches of 3 over 2-3 days to ensure optimal calibration

  • During the interview process, interviewers should refrain from sharing feedback with each other to avoid influencing individual ratings

  • At the end of each interview, interviewers should fill out their scoresheet right away (again these should be kept secret and only shared with the recruiter/facilitator)


  • Hiring committee members take turns discussing candidate responses and their opinions of said candidate.

  • After discussing a candidate, each writes a score (ex: 1-5) on to give to the recruiter/facilitator. Give this person time to answer digging questions.

  • Once you’ve identified your top 1-3 candidates, test them on the desired skills. This should take 1-4 hours to complete. It’s possible to compensate these candidates for their time, though most organizations don’t.

  • For organizations that serve the community, considering having a constituent interview your final candidate.


  • Since there’s a 7% correlation between references checked and future job performance, why not ‘up the chances’ of a long-time favorite (albeit unfortunately so) candidate assessor.

  • But first --->

    • California’s Ban-the-Box law prohibits inquiries about criminal history until a conditional job offer has been made and is applicable to organizations with 5+ employees.

    • Read more here.

  • Before contacting references, prepare a list of questions that relate to the desired skills and performance. Document these calls.

  • If desired, it could be useful to use a California-specific application that includes, at minimum, a basic waiver that allows the employer to check past employment, personal references and education.


  • Obviously the degree at which you interact with pass candidates will vary depending on far along they made it through the application process, network relevancy, etc. So design copy for each group therewithin.

  • When recruiting for nonprofits, I’ve routinely been asked by pass candidates for opportunities to still stay engaged through volunteer opportunities. Consider what your preferences are so you include this in your pass notification.

  • You may even be open to offering feedback to interviewing candidates. Here are some aspects to consider if you do.

  • If not opening the door for feedback inquiries, be thoughtful in your correspondence.

    • Potential copy for you: Thank you for submitting your resume to _____ and for your patience. I'm sorry, but I/we are unable to offer you a further interview for this position. We received XX applications, and are extremely grateful that so many talented people, including you, are interested in our work. These numbers also make for many very difficult decisions. Our challenge isn't one of evaluating good people, but one of selecting a single person to join our team - which means we we must turn away many impressive and qualified people. So on and so forth…


  • Give the candidate a timeframe to decide. And 24 hours is ok, but if possible give at least 48.

  • Among other negotiating techniques you already know, if unable to meet the for profit market share, consider telecommuting and profit sharing with high potential hires. You can also research and implement staff’s favorite employee programs to increase the attractiveness of a role that may pay less.

  • Briefly role play making the offer to a candidate.

Sarah Noyes