Employers: 7 traits to consider when recruiting for a not for profit

Posted by | September 11, 2018 | Employers

7 traits to consider when recruiting for a not for profit.

We all know it’s important to choose the right staff. Increase your chance of getting it right first time with these seven traits to consider when recruiting for a not for profit (NFP). 

You want the best possible staff for your not for profit (NFP). Hiring the wrong people can cost you money and impact the effectiveness and culture of your workplace. You know the skills and experience you’re looking for, but what about personality traits? 

At NFPs, we have different work culture, values and processes than the corporate world, so it makes sense that we’re looking for something a little different.

We’ve written up our seven favourite traits to recruit for, along with tips on how to interview for them.

Person holding a lightbulb. #1. Genuine passion 

Genuine passion for the cause shows your candidate’s investment in the role. Their genuine passion also means they likely have the extra knowledge and industry contacts. Jackpot!

To differentiate genuine from manufactured passion, listen for stories and experiences that match your NFP’s values. Anyone can give you a generalised spiel about the values on your organisation’s website.

In the interview, ask: 

  • “What first drew you to the role?”
  • “What’s your dream job?”

2 men sitting talking. #2. Communication skills

Whatever the role, NFP staff will need strong verbal and written communication skills for connecting with clients, funders, community, board members and colleagues.

In the interview, observe how your candidate interacts with you. Are they listening closely? Do they create rapport easily? Do they stand straight, make eye contact and have a firm handshake?

In the interview, ask:  “Describe a time you experienced conflict at work – what did you do?”

Woman wearing a hat. #3. Wearing lots of hats

Most not for profits are short on resources, so there’s a good chance that your candidate will need to pick up various duties on top of their stated role.

In the interview, ask: 

  • e.g ‘This role may occasionally include helping plan events and in rare occasions greeting clients – would you be comfortable doing that?’
  • “Tell us about a time you dealt with conflicting deadlines – what did you do?”

Man walking on a road wearing a red jacket. #4. Taking Initiative 

In a NFP environment, staff will often have more autonomy over their work than in a corporate workplace. Once a new recruit is brought up to speed, your staff will need to be proactive and have the confidence to make their own daily decisions.

In the interview, ask: “If you are successful and are appointed to the role, what would you do if we lost 50% of the project funding / our major sponsor pulled out / our campaign got slammed in the media?”

Slinky.#5. Resilience 

Small failures are inevitable. Make sure that your candidate has the resiliency to stand back up. While it’s important that a candidate is hardworking and committed, you also want to know they won’t burnout.

In the interview, ask:

  • “Tell us about a time you’ve hit a stumbling block in a project – what you did you do to deal with it”
  • “If you’re feeling stressed at work, what do you do to calm down or decompress/”

View from driver's window.

#6 Commitment

Losing staff is costly. Ideally, your candidate should want to stick around for an appropriate period of time.

In the interview, ask:

  • “If you got this job, how long are you planning to stay with us?”
  • “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Woman smiling and pointing. #7. Positivity

We all have moments when a target isn’t met, a campaign falls short or funding is cut. A staff member who stays positive during these times? Priceless for team morale.

In the interview, ask:

  • “Could you tell me about a time you got difficult feedback from your manager?”
  • “Who inspires you and why?”


Those are just seven of the traits we think help a NFP recruit shine. What characteristics do you look for in a candidate? Let us know in a comment below.  


Header photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash

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