Monthly Archives: January 2012

The art of the job description

Ever seen those job descriptions with 200 job duties and 300 qualifications and nothing about the people or the purpose? Gee, you probably said, sounds fun. I’d love to work there.

You don’t want the perfect jobseeker to pass your job posting by. And you don’t want robo-resumes from underqualified job candidates. How can you craft a job description that helps, not hinders, the hiring process?

Writing a job description is marketing. It’s  selling your organization–mission, culture, and brand—to the candidate you want.

Last week we talked about where to post your opening. Today, some dos and don’ts of the standout job description.

1. Headline the mission of your organization. Jobseekers should understand your purpose and values right away.

2. Briefly explain your structure and operating model. Include budget, staff size, where your money comes from and your key programs.

3. Describe the vibe. Give jobseekers a sense of your organizational culture. Everyone wants a job that’s fun and interesting. (But don’t lie. You might need to actually make the job fun and interesting first. And don’t use the word “dynamic.”) Market what matters, like “we brainstorm over Thursday night tacos and Friday is Bring your Dog to Work Day.”

4. Who is your ideal candidate? Craft one good sentence about the skills, personality, and background you’re hoping to find.

5. Thoughtfully frame the job. State the key responsibilities, framing them as opportunities rather than drudgery.

6. It’s a description of the job, not the person leaving it. A new hire is an opportunity to thoroughly analyze and articulate what your organization needs. Your mental starting point shouldn’t be “everything the last guy did.”

7. Don’t be vague. “Support the program directors in accomplishing their goals”? Waste of space.

8. You’re not a sweatshop. Don’t list three pages of responsibilities and qualifications. Superwoman doesn’t need a job, so be realistic. (While we’re at it, you’re also not a circus, so let’s not mention juggling, m’kay?)

9. Explain the relationships. Describe how the position works with others, not just through reporting or supervising, but also through collaboration and coordination.

10. A degree is just a degree. Consider honestly whether you need someone with a certain degree. Liberal arts education has a long history of training people to think and write well. Does it really matter whether the candidate got her master’s in Cuban poetry? Probably not, but it does matter that she can analyze questions, articulate ideas, understand people, and solve problems.

11. Technology is transferable. Don’t include a long list of  software applicants must know. If you chose your technology well, it can be taught. If you choose your candidate well, she can be taught.

12. List a salary range. Most useless expression in a job description? “Salary commensurate with experience.” Why waste a candidate’s time, or your own?

13. Brag on your benefits. List the key employee benefits your organization offers, like health insurance, retirement, and professional development.

14. Who you gonna call? Out of respect for candidates and their former employers, don’t ask for references with the resume. Jobseekers shouldn’t have to ask for references for every job they apply to, only those for which they’re being considered. But prepare them: “References will be required from candidates selected for interviews.”

15. Shakespeare would write an awkward cover letter.  If you don’t want to readI believe my skills will be an asset to your blah, blah…,” then say what do you want to read. The cover letter should be a writing sample and an introduction to the candidate as a person. Ensure you don’t get formulaic cover letters by giving guidelines. Organizer: “Describe your vision for racial justice.” Artistic director: “What is your favorite opera and why?” Health counselor: “In your experience, what are the best pathways to promote smoking cessation and dietary change?”

Agree? Disagree? Got any tips to share for nonprofit job descriptions?

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Where to post (and find) nonprofit jobs

Last spring Blue Avocado published a detailed report on nonprofit job sites—services that provide online job postings in the nonprofit sector. The reviewer, Tom Battin, studied, reviewed, and rated national and regional sites that exclusively provide nonprofit job listings and those that include a substantial number of nonprofit jobs.

Battin rated 31 sites from both the employer’s and the jobseeker’s perspective, naming Idealist the best all-around site, OpportunityKnocks the best nonprofit site, and Simply Hired the best commercial site.

If you’re searching for a nonprofit job, about to start recruiting, or haven’t found the candidates you want, Blue Avocado’s list is a good place to start. Each site is described in terms of ease of navigation, free vs. paid services, numbers of job listings, and whether it posts jobs directly from employers or aggregates jobs posted elsewhere. The list also cites additional jobseeker tools to create cover letters, set up alerts for new listings, and track applications. Some sites allow employers to search resumes and purchase recruitment services as well.

Should you even post your job opening on a national site? Some nonprofit leaders hesitate to post jobs on  Idealist and OpportunityKnocks because they don’t think the job is “big enough” to attract candidates to move from another location. But keep in mind that jobseekers move for all kinds of reasons besides a paycheck—for a spouse’s job, to be near aging parents or new grandkids, or for the love of barbecue. Also, local talent may be looking for the right opportunity in a wider market because they haven’t found it in yours…yet.

In addition to dedicated job websites, you’ll want to increase effective exposure by publicizing your job opening through more targeted channels. We recommend:

1. Nonprofit associations, like ours. Alliance members get free job listings on our site, and non-members pay $65. Our website gets thousands of hits each month by visitors from all over the Mid-South.

2. Field-specific listservs and newsletters. If your organization is part of a national coalition, membership association, or trade organization, send your posting to its listserv or member newsletter. If job candidates are likely to belong to a professional society (like the Association of Fundraising Professionals or the American Dietetic Association,) look for their job listing services as well. Don’t forget issue-area listservs and Facebook groups through which you’d find candidates who are passionate about your cause.

3. Consultants and consulting networks. Just because someone is working as a consultant doesn’t mean they’re not open to the right staff opportunity. If you’ve worked with a really good grant writer or HR consultant, or hear of someone who has, let them know you’re looking. Circulate the job posting to consulting firms as well (but be clear in the description you are hiring for a staff member, not a contractor.)

4. Academic departments at local colleges and universities. Sure, you can send your posting to Career Services. But don’t forget about faculty, staff, graduate students, research assistants, alumni, and others. Most academic departments have their own internal listservs that reach a wide group of current and former associates. Need a communications director? Let English and journalism departments know. A policy analyst? Get in touch with the political science folks. A health educator? Send the posting directly to the School of Public Health.

5. Your own website. Don’t hide job announcements deep in About > People > Opportunities. Put a button on your front page that says “We’re hiring a development director” and links to a detailed description. Also post the information on emails, blogs, your Facebook page, and Twitter.

Next week, tips for effective job descriptions and some great examples.

How’s your employees’ financial wellness?

Is financial stress a problem for your employees?

Can you do something about it?

According to a large survey by the American Psychological Association, 75 percent of Americans say that money is a great sources of personal stress. A widespread lack of financial security, say Gallup scientists, is one of the most critical factors influencing peoples’ quality of life and sense of wellbeing.

For most nonprofit leaders, the idea that financial stress is not just a personal problem but also an organizational problem—-an expensive one—might not be so obvious. But financially stressed workers are less productive on the job, and they’re on the job less.

People who have financial stress have higher levels of insomnia, ulcers, migraines, back pain, anxiety, depression, and heart attacks. Although it’s hard to monetize the links between money and stress, MetLife research estimates the incremental medical costs of a financially distressed employee at $300 a year.

According to the Gallup studies, the annual per-person cost of lost productivity is $28,800 for workers with the lowest wellbeing scores. For workers who are at the midpoint of what they call the “struggling” zone, the cost is $6,168. For employees with the highest levels of wellbeing, the cost of lost productivity is only $840 a year.

Another study, by the Personal Financial Employee Education Foundation (PFEEF), found that 30 to 80 percent of employees in financial distress spend time at work dealing with their personal financial problems, depending on the workplace. For this group, the average number of hours spent on dealing with financial problems at work is between 12 and 20 hours a month.

You might think the problem is simply pay—not enough of it. According to the research, however, wellbeing isn’t directly correlated with salaries or pay raises, but with overall financial security. Although salary is part of the equation, it’s this sense of security that is linked to fewer sick days and lower health expenses. Workers who feel secure also have less “presentee-ism,” the problem of being unwell, unfocused, and unproductive while on the job.

With mounting evidence that financial stress takes an enormous toll on workplace productivity, more employers are seeking ways to help their workers.

Employee wellness programs began as a way for employers to try and lower health care costs. Many organizations found that subsidizing gym memberships and smoking cessation programs and offering other preventive incentives improved workers’ health and decreased their medical expenses.

But as the definition of wellness expands to include financial security, wellness programs now include those that help employees budget wisely, build savings, and avoid crushing debt.

So what can employers do if financial stress is affecting employees and the bottom line?

1. Identify the problem. Survey employees about financial stress. PFEEF offers a free tool to measure financial stress.

2. Bring in information. Hold seminars to help employees learn the basics of financial literacy or learn more about specific topics such as managing debt and preparing for retirement. (Be careful whom you choose–presenters should not be from companies that want to sell you something!)

3. Introduce a financial wellness program. Once you understand how financial issues are impacting your organization, you may want to take a strategic, long-term approach to the problem. A financial wellness program provides multiple resources to help employees resolve and avoid financial stress. These programs include web-based education, live workshops, and one-on-one credit counseling and financial coaching. The following resources can help:

The National Endowment For Financial Education website features information about financial education programs and publications.

The Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation site includes extensive research articles, tools for assessing financial health, and resources for workplace financial wellness programs and services.

The National Foundation For Credit Counseling is a nonprofit providing credit management information, including a directory of nonprofit credit counseling agencies across the country.

America Saves is a national nonprofit that provides information about savings topics such as finding money to save, building wealth through homeownership, and compound interest.

The American Savings Education Council, a program of the Employee Benefit Research Institute Education and Research Fund, offers publications and interactive online tools such as a retirement savings calculation worksheet and the Retirement Personality Profiler.

 The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards provides consumer information about financial planning topics and information about how to find a certified financial planner.

 Financial Security in Later Life is a site developed by the Federal government and many universities that includes a variety of online financial education resources, with a focus on planning for retirement and long-term care.

Investing For Your Future is a detailed online home study course in basic investing developed by a consortium of ten land-grant universities.