Internal and external recruitment methods

Internal recruitment

Internal recruitment allows existing employees and volunteers to apply for job openings and is linked to succession planning and career development. It can include promotions to a higher-level position and lateral moves to the same level position, perhaps in a different department. It's imperative to be fair and consistent in how you recruit internally to keep the process positive.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Management already has a good idea of the employee’s capabilities.
  • Rewards the employee/volunteer for past performance.
  • Gives the employee/volunteer an opportunity for career development.
  • Retains the organization’s investment in the employee/volunteer.
  • Reduces the amount of time necessary to onboard the person to the new position.
  • Reduces the time and costs of recruitment.
  • Supports positive morale and retention by signalling the possibility of internal progression.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • If used in isolation, it provides a limited number of people to select from.
  • Reduces the opportunity for increasing diversity within your organization.
  • Employees that apply for the position and are not selected may be discouraged or disengaged.

External recruitment

There are many options that you can choose from when recruiting externally each with benefits and drawbacks that you should consider.

Employee referrals

Recruitment through referrals encourages employees to recommend potential candidates from their network. These programs typically offer an incentive or bonus to staff that have referred a newly hired employee. To ensure employees are willing to recommend their contacts for positions at your organization, it is essential to treat all referrals with respect and follow-up in a timely manner.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • The quality of employee referrals is usually high because employees usually only refer people that they are confident would be a good match for the position and organization.
  • The position is more likely to reach qualified candidates that aren’t actively looking.
  • People recruited by employees usually have some understanding of the mission, values, and work of the organization.
  • Recruitment time and cost are reduced.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • There can be a tendency to feel that you must hire someone who is referred by an employee even if you assess that the person is not the best match.
  • People tend to recommend others with similar backgrounds — relying solely on employee referrals may not provide a wide enough scope of prospective candidates, and you may end up hiring more of the same type of employees with similar backgrounds and experiences rather than diversifying your workforce.

Online job boards

Posting on online job boards is one of the most common methods that organizations use in their recruitment efforts. Job search websites, professional association websites, and sector specific online boards are all options that your nonprofit can use.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Reach a large job-seeking audience
  • Easy process to post jobs
  • Can be cost effective, if you post on free sites

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • Depending on the website, can be costly
  • May receive a lot of unqualified applicants

Social media platforms

Posting open positions on your organization’s social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, can be an easy way to spread the word about your posting. LinkedIn also has paid job ads, which can have a wide reach to professional audiences, both actively seeking employment or passively.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Encourages candidates already interested in your organization to apply for open positions
  • You can make posts creative, such as in a video format
  • LinkedIn is the world’s largest online professional network and allows you to target specific candidates with your posting

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • Posting on Linkedin can be costly
  • Your organization will need to be active on social media to post roles

Internships, field placements, and co-op placements

You may connect with a university or college’s career centre to post positions and receive resumes from students and new graduates looking for work.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Cost-effective solution for short-term hiring needs.
  • Provides an opportunity for students or new graduates to gain work experience and experience what it is like to work for your organization.
  • Students bring a fresh perspective and new ideas.
  • Opportunity to evaluate a future employee.
  • University and college career centres help to make the recruitment process efficient and less time consuming.
  • Opportunity for your nonprofit to develop a positive reputation among students if the co-op views their experience as positive.
  • Reduced onboard and training times if the student is hired as an employee after graduation.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • The time it takes to train a student or intern in a new job may outweigh the benefits of a short-term placement.
  • Lack of continuity and potential loss of historical information as co-ops typically move on after four months.
  • Interns and placement students will require greater supervision as they are new to the workforce with limited exposure to professional working environments.

Recruitment agencies and/or executive search firms

These private companies will find and screen potential candidates for a fee, typically a percentage of the selected candidate’s annual salary. When using these services, take the time to define the position and your expectations of the services.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Reduce time as the firm will do most of the preparation for the posting and the preliminary screening.
  • Can reach a broad range of candidates, including full-time and temporary job seekers.
  • Enables you to tap into the knowledge, experience and contacts of an expert.
  • Helpful if you must keep your recruitment process confidential.
  • May be an appropriate recruitment method for the most senior-level positions within your organization, including the Executive Director.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • This is a costly method of recruitment.
  • A professional recruiter will not have a full understanding of your organization.
  • The recruiter may be more interested in placing a candidate than finding you the right person for the job.
  • You will still need to invest time in defining the position and making the final selection of candidates.

Career fairs

Career fairs provide an opportunity for you to connect informally with interested candidates, often in a particular industry. You could join an externally organized career fair, perhaps at a local college or university, or you could coordinate your own career fair if you are recruiting for multiple positions.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • May be a source of readily available, skilled and motivated candidates.
  • Can increase the diversity of your organization.
  • Can help you connect with a much broader audience than your existing network.
  • Can help to increase brand awareness and the visibility of your organization as a potential employer.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • If focused too heavily on one group or source, you may decrease diversity.
  • There is typically a fee for organizations to attend an externally organized career fair, however there might be a discount for nonprofits.
  • If you decide to hold your own career fair, planning and advertising will be time consuming.

Networking

Networking can involve reaching out to your existing network for recommendations or reaching out to other nonprofits. This could also involve efforts to build or increase your current networks in the hopes of connecting with new potential employees.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Those candidates reached through an existing network may have some prior knowledge of the organization or the sector.
  • May be possible to work with another nonprofit to create a cost-effective secondment or shared resource.
  • Efforts to increase your network can have many organizational benefits beyond your current recruitment needs, such as volunteer recruitment, increased awareness, and visibility in the community.

Potential drawbacks of this approach

Relying solely on this method might decrease the diversity of your organization.

Your organization’s website

Remember to post your job on your organization’s website. Applicants invested in your posting will review your website to learn about your organization’s values and mission and having your role posted there will confirm that your posting is legitimate.

Potential benefits of this approach

  • Cost effective
  • Will encourage candidates interested in your organization to apply
  • Provides legitimacy to your online posting

Potential drawbacks of this approach

  • If this is the only recruitment method you choose, you may receive very few resumes
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