Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nonprofit Hiring Tips: Employee Screening

Here's another hiring tip I wrote for The Nonprofit Jobseeker:

We have written extensively in the past about hiring tips for employers at nonprofits, and hopefully those have been helpful. There are some more tips, however, that we did not touch on that are important for employers to know. Specifically, we want to talk about employee screening. Whenever you receive a resume from a potential employee, they will often provide references in addition. These are often job references; contact information from people he/she worked with at their previous jobs. Even if everything on the resume and cover letter you get seems legit, it is always a good idea to double check with previous employers (with whatever information you can get, more on that in a bit). There are also specific cases that crop up during the selection process that call for immediate screening. Let's go over some of those:
  • When going over an employee resume, pay close attention to the amount of time he/she spent at their previous jobs. In this tough economic climate, it is common for companies to lay off employees, but if you see a pattern of the employee not staying at their jobs long, you should try and do some background checking to find out why. Unfortunately, previous employers are not obligated to give you certain information; as a matter of fact, there are laws against it. In this case, you need to really pay attention to details. You may be able to ask about the individual's work habits at the company, for example. Or you can call the candidate in for an interview, and see what kind of impression you get from him/her.
  • By the way, you should definitely make sure to request references in your job description. This will help to weed out applicants who may be "dead weight," because they will not want to give job references if they have a spotty employment record.
  • Use employee screening services to check the background of the prospective employee. Long gaps in employment can be a potential red flag, though this can often be explained by the individual updating their education or a result of the recent recession. But once again, it is better to be safe than sorry.
  • Be on the look out for overlaps in the employee's job history. While this could be the result of a simple typing error, it could also mean the candidate is not being honest about his/her history. Again, this is a good opportunity to contact the employers the candidate claimed to work at and confirm their employment history.
  • Employee screening doesn't always involve contacting references and doing background checks. You can also screen your candidates by comparing their resume to the job description you posted; do their skills match with what was asked for? If you get to the point where you interview a candidate, pay close attention to their personality. They may have all the right skills for the job, but will they mesh with the other employees? Group cohesion is part of what makes a nonprofit function at the highest level.
If you take this simple steps to screen your job candidates, you will find that your organization will have a better pool of individuals to choose from. And when the time comes to hire one of them, you will be as sure as you can that that you are hiring an employee that will add a lot to your not for profit.


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