How a Proactive Search Can Lead to a Diverse Hiring Pool

Sep. 11, 2015

David Edell, Carmel Napolitano

diversity newsletter

If you want to create a candidate pool of high-performing professionals with diverse backgrounds, experiences and skills for an executive role in your nonprofit, it will take more than one or two advertisements on job boards to attract a range of talented candidates.

From race and gender to leadership styles and career paths, diversity encompasses an array of things that can bring new outlooks and ideas to your organization. When you don’t look outside of your immediate contacts, alma mater or standard job boards, you may end up with a homogeneous hiring pool.

The key to building a strong hiring pool is variety and a proactive recruitment approach that doesn’t source all candidates from the same place. Sometimes internal recruiters don’t have the resources, time or expertise that are necessary to find diverse applicants. With help from an executive search firm, your organization’s hiring managers can develop a personalized talent pool of active and passive candidates who might have a positive impact on the work you do.

Here are some ways that an executive search firm casts a wide net.

Pick up the phone. No matter how enticing your job description is or how wonderful the role is, the candidate who may be the best person for the job may not come across the job opening. In fact, they might not even be looking for a job. So how will you reach them? While the Internet and technology has made it easier for recruiters to broadcast job openings, tactically reaching out to promising passive and active candidates via phone is still an effective recruitment methodology because it is personal and direct. It also allows consultants to build rapport with prospective candidates and referral sources.

Explore database and referral program. In comparison to employee referrals from members of your own organization, a national search firm’s referrals are expansive. In addition to their impressive databases of nonprofit executives from all around the country, consultants have relationships with high performers, associations, board members and industry leaders who can recommend executives that might meet the qualifications defined in the job description or are helpful in referring other colleagues who may be interested in the position.

Go beyond qualifications. Having a top-notch resume isn’t the only thing that makes a candidate stand out to recruiters. With the use of various interviewing techniques, and personality and cognitive assessments, recruiters can gain a better understanding of a candidate’s leadership style and character. During the scouting of candidates, consultants learn about a candidate’s professional experiences or life story and consider how it may be beneficial in the role. They can also help identify different models of skill and experience that might match the leadership requirements of the position.

Stay abreast of diversity concerns. Organizations tend to be reactive to leadership transitions, but a consultant experienced in executive search plans for the future and is actively building connections with experienced candidates everyday who are a part of associations, clubs and other professional groups. A seasoned consultant will help the organization identify a diverse pool of professionals who are appropriately skilled and talented for the role. Since consultants act as advisors, they can counsel organizations to consider a broad range of leadership models and whether their expectations are realistic and practical.

Conduct searches outside of the organization’s sector or field. If your organization works in the field of social work or the arts, it doesn’t mean that all of the candidates in your hiring pool need to have a traditional career path in social work or the arts. Consultants can spot qualified candidates with multidisciplinary skills or experiences in other areas of the for-profit and nonprofit world that are transferable in the role they are being considered for.

If you want to build a diverse hiring pool, the position that you hope to fill should be applicable and appealing to different types of qualified people. Make sure that your organization fosters a collaborative and open environment that will allow a variety of candidates to thrive and feel comfortable in their roles.