Most of the advice you’ll find about attracting candidates to social impact jobs centers around two things: writing an accurate and comprehensive job posting, and filtering out all the unqualified people who might apply. But the truth is that this really isn’t the best way to think about hiring.
Values are king at social impact jobs
In my decades as a business consultant, I’ve learned that many of the technical skills — most of the stuff in the job description — are trainable. What really makes someone suitable for a job at your mission-driven enterprise is how well they align with your mission and values.
Look around at your top people. When you originally brought them on board, did they have all the skills they needed to do the job they’re doing today? Especially in a dynamic company, the answer is that everyone is learning and adapting all the time. What remains constant is their enduring loyalty to the organization’s mission and values. Most of the general technical skills can be learned on the job.
Social-impact-focused conscious companies have an especially strong alignment around mission and values. You’re probably not going to be satisfied with an employee who’s just there for the paycheck. To be honest, they’re not going to be very motivated either, because you’re asking them to be engaged at a deeper level.
So how do you attract people who share your values?
It’s really quite similar to how you’re trying to attract customers and partners. Here are the key principles:
1. Be straightforward and vocal about your mission.
Don’t use the mushy management language that everyone else uses, because we know most employees really skip over all that stuff anyway. Everybody can say they’re “dynamic,” “values-driven,” and “results-oriented.” Instead, be courageous and tell people about your values and mission. Show them what kind of “results” you’re so motivated by.
2. Answer the compelling questions
What gets us super excited to do the hard work? Why are we different from every other company on the planet? What is it really like to work here? How does our grand vision impact what we do on a daily basis?
3. Stick to only the technical skills which are actually required.
All that filler stuff about knowing MS Office and “excellent communication skills”? That may just be obscuring your message. Highlight the few things which really are critical.
4. Use different channels.
If you’re just posting on the standard, mainstream job boards, you’ll look the same as thousands of other companies. Tell your story through social media and groups that align with your mission. Develop and leverage personal relationships. Sponsor events where you can tell your story.
5. Open the lines of communication.
It’s really tough to screen applicants for passion, energy, and values. You might ask them to write an essay about why they’re so interested in your company, but that tests communication skills more than alignment. You’re going to need to have a deeper discussion and more honest interaction with the best people. When you see the fire in someone’s eyes, you’ll know that they’ll bring their best and do what it takes to make you successful.
Trust that it’s worth the effort
Yes, this is work. You’ll feel like you’re out on a limb sometimes. But isn’t that what mission-driven, social impact companies do? We’re out there exploring, innovating, pushing the boundaries, and creating deeper, values-aligned relationships in everything we do.
Want more? Check out Carl’s blog for a couple specific examples of creative job postings.