At the beginning of the new year many of us are planning new programs, receiving funding to roll out new services, and generally kick-starting our program cycle. Some of us may have been looking to hire new staff a month or two ago, but were waiting until the holidays passed. As a result, January is a busy time of year for job searching and hiring. Hiring seems fairly simple; write up the job description and then throw it at a bunch of job boards, right? Not quite. There are a number of steps we can take that can actually help us find great candidates, and even identify some new opportunities for our organizations.

Below are seven steps to get our candidate search started.



Take a good look at the role. If it’s a new position in our organization we can review the roles and responsibilities to make sure we haven’t overlooked a skill or other requirement. Also, take a look down the road as the program or service grows; what other skills or talents may this candidate need? In a position that has recently been vacated conduct a review also. But this time, let’s check to see if the role has changed. Have the needs of the organization changed? Are there ways of covering other duties or streamlining some process by remolding this role? Does this vacancy open any opportunities within our organization? Use this moment of change as a potential moment for growth and innovation.



How will the candidate in this role fit into the overall structure of the organization? Determine what the reporting relationships will look like. Also, there may be an opportunity to foster emerging leaders here. Could we bring someone in who could grow into the role? Or are there high-level skills and experiences that the candidate must possess at the outset? And let’s not overlook soft skills. These skills are difficult to teach and are very important in our sector.



Let’s take a look at the role from a bird’s eye-view. What will the person in the role be seeking to accomplish? What are their areas of responsibility? How does their role function within the greater system of our organization? We can describe what it would look like when that role is functioning successfully.



Once we have developed the job description, we move on to crafting the ideal candidate profile. What key characteristics or traits would the successful candidate have? What are the most important skills they must possess in order to carry out this role? Think about the kinds of experiences that would truly benefit the role and its responsibilities and include those as well. We can also separate the level of education required for the role from the level of education we think the person should possess. We haven’t all been afforded the same opportunities in life, and sometimes skills (hard and soft) and experience outperform formal education.

We can also use this opportunity to fill skills gaps in our current staff team. Is there a skillset that would complement the current skills found within the team? Don’t be afraid to dream big – people can be amazing and surprising in the variety of skills and experiences they possess.

Being crystal clear about the ideal candidate can force us to have greater discipline when reading through resumes and applications. When we know what we’re looking for it’s easier to spot a candidate who may have a great resume but whose skills and experience are not ideal for the job itself.



It’s important that we create the salary range based on the current market value for this position. This, however, can be extremely tricky in the nonprofit sector. Our salary ranges for the same role can vary greatly from organization to organization, so it can be difficult to get a true understanding of salary ranges. Charity Village publishes regular reports on the salary and benefits received by nonprofit workers in Canada. You can purchase a copy HERE. But we can also consider the size of our organization, our annual budget and other factors when considering the salary range for the role.



There are three sections to a job positing: a) Information about the organization, b) Information about the role, and c) Information about the application process.

Information about the organization can include a description of our organization, why our organization is a great place to work (we can talk to our current staff teams to find out why they enjoy working at our organization! Sometimes they mention factors we may not have considered or thought of), what working at our organization is actually like (flexible hours, the team environment, casual work space, etc.), and the opportunities for learning, coaching, training and other career development options available to staff.

There are key information points we can include in the role information:

  • Job title
  • Purpose of the position
  • High level overview of responsibility
  • Identify whether they will be part of a team, leading a team, working independently, etc.
  • Work location and required travel
  • Reporting structure
  • Experience, qualifications, skills and personal attributes required for the role
  • The salary and benefits for the role (can be a range)

Advising people about the application process is important as well. We can include information like where to get more information, how they can apply, whether there are special requirements like a criminal record check, and the application deadline. In order to reduce administrative costs and times, we can also let applicants know that only those selected for an interview will be contacted.

It’s also important that we consider that most applicants will come to use via the internet from job boards and postings, social media, our website, etc. Most will read the job title first and may even decide to read further based on that title, so choose carefully. And let’s be as specific as we can. Rather than just ‘Manager’, we could consider ‘Client Relations Manager’, for example. Also, make use of tools such as bolds, fonts, highlights, etc., in order to bring attention to the most salient points of the job description.



Not only are we searching for, interviewing and selecting candidates, but candidates are considering us and our organizations, as well. Particularly in the nonprofit sector where we tend to be more “cause” driven than other sectors, candidates want to work for strong organizations that are making an impact. Are there ways we can show in the information we provide in the job description what that impact is? Can we show how we’re making a difference in our communities? Also, folks may want to know how a career path at our organization may unfold so if we can show what kinds of opportunities are available we may encourage a great candidate to apply. This is also a great opportunity to showcase what makes our organization a great place to work. Is there a fun atmosphere? Are there flexible hours? Do we have any initiatives in place that could sweeten an offer?

If we think back to our candidate profile, where might we consider looking for this candidate? Are they recent graduates? Coming from another nonprofit? Or another sector altogether? Don’t be afraid to try a variety of methods and tactics to find the right person. Also, consider the position; is it rather junior or particularly skilled? For more senior positions we’ll need to cast a wider net in order to get the best candidates.

Finally, let’s think about our recruitment methods. Today we have so many options, and many of them are free, but some folks are sure that they get better candidates from paid posts. It’s something we each have decide for our organizations.

  • Internal recruitment – maybe the ideal candidate has been with us the whole time!
  • Employee referrals – our staff teams often have networks and relationships from which they could identify strong candidates
  • Print advertising – perhaps not as important as it used to be…
  • Internet recruiting
  • Networking
  • Social media

At this point we’re ready to start receiving candidates for the role! Next week we’ll go through 8 steps that will help us to select the ideal candidate, including; resume screening, interviewing, selecting candidates, making offers and more!

If you have some candidate selection tips that you’d like to share, please comment below or email us at

Until next time,


*This week’s blog was written by Tina de los Santos but was adapted directly from a guide and white paper written by PLC’s HR Coach, Jill Martin, CHRM. If you have any HR related questions and you work at a nonprofit in Peel Region, you can reach out to Jill for free at 416.451.3708. You can also get more information about Jill and PLC’s free HR Coaching HERE.

Tina brings a diverse mix of nonprofit and business leadership to her role at PLC. Throughout her career she has been passionate about creating engaging learning experiences that support and inspire people’s professional and personal growth. Tina is our chief knowledge sharer and enjoys digitally connecting with other leaders in Peel to help them find great resources and learning tools.


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