How to Spot Potential in Career Shifters

It’s still very much a candidate-driven jobs market, with charities having to compete harder for the top talent. So there’s definitely merit in reviewing the way you market yourself as an employer, and trying new strategies to make yourself stand out from the competition. But it’s also worth casting the net a little wider. The pandemic has made many candidates reconsider their careers and look for more meaningful work. And many of these career shifters may be just the people your charity needs to succeed—it’s just a case of knowing how to spot their potential.

Understand the skills and experience your charity lacks

There’s never been a better time to conduct a skills gap analysis for your charity. It will help you figure out the skills you need to achieve your goals for the coming year, and whether there’s currently any untapped talent within your organisation. All of this is useful in determining exactly who you need to hire.

A key element of this analysis is understanding which skills are nice-to-have and which are essential. Are you looking for someone who has already performed a specific role within the charity sector? Or would you consider a candidate who has the core skills you need but comes from a different sector?

In certain roles, such as marketing or web development, having corporate sector experience might even be seen as a benefit. Corporate companies are often ahead of the charity sector when it comes to digital marketing and tech, which means that such candidates are likely to bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. At the interview stage, ask as many questions as possible about how success was measured in their past roles and about the results that they achieved. Ask them what impact they think they could have at your charity. Look for answers that are as specific as possible.

Recognise transferable skills

There are some roles, such as those in finance, HR and software development, that don’t differ much between sectors. Here, past charity experience is likely to be seen as a bonus, rather than a necessity. You might consider actively pursuing candidates from other sectors for these roles, by clearly outlining at the top of the job description that a charity background is not a prerequisite.

Other roles are much more charity-sector specific, particularly fundraising. But even in this case, if you receive applications from passionate candidates who are looking to make the move into the charity sector, it’s worth giving them a chance. Broken down into its core components, a junior fundraiser’s job description is all about building relationships, driving engagement and generating revenue. These are all skills that some top corporate candidates who have worked in sales and business development are likely to have in abundance.

Woman sitting on sofa with laptop

Look for passion and willingness to learn

Passion for the cause is vitally important in a charity, and it’s what drives many career shifters to consider a move into the sector. If you receive an application where a candidate’s passion really shines through, it’s worth offering them an interview, even if they don’t have the exact experience that you’re looking for.

Be sure to question them specifically on why they chose your charity and ask them what steps they might take to upskill themselves in a given field. Encourage them to talk about any relevant volunteering work that they’ve done and how this has shaped their understanding of the charity sector. Try to see how a given candidate is likely to develop and flourish. Do they show determination? Are they naturally proactive? Have they displayed ownership of their own professional development? All of these are key indicators of whether or not they have the potential to contribute to your mission.

Hone your recruitment process

It’s important to adapt your recruitment process in response to current market trends. If you’re considering taking on career shifters, or actively broadening your pool of candidates, you should test their skills effectively. This might mean adding a step to your hiring journey— maybe a task or a second interview with an additional member of the management team, so that you can compare notes. Here, the goal is not to catch anybody out, but rather to test their fit and to determine the level of potential training that might be required. A note of caution though—don’t take too long between interview stages. The market is moving fast and you don’t want to risk losing talented candidates.

Plan in-house training

Speaking of training, an investment in personal development is one of the key reasons that employees stay in jobs for longer. According to a recent LinkedIn Global Trends Report it’s also one of the top five areas of employee experience that employers believe they need to improve. So it’s worth taking a fresh look at both your in-house and external training. As part of this, you should separately consider training for those new hires who have never worked in the charity sector before.

Give them a great start in their new role by offering a top level overview of not just your charity’s mission and vision, but also the state of the sector as a whole. Are there any nuances that they need to be aware of in their work? This is the time to make sure that they’re up-to-speed with the relevant policies and legislation, and feel like they can ask open-ended questions.

Spot the potential in career shifters and reap the rewards

In an era in which equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) should be a staple element of every recruitment process, it’s worth being open-minded when it comes to career shifters. They are likely to have a lot to offer your charity, and with the right training can be a real asset in the long term.

Tags: attracting the right candidates, charity recruitment, charity sector recruitment, diversity in recruitment

Read more posts like this

About the author

Ewa Jozefkowicz

CharityJob’s former Content Manager Ewa Jozefkowicz has a passion for all things digital, particularly when it comes to UX and writing engaging copy. In her spare time she likes to travel and devour huge quantities of books.