Four Ways to Reduce Your Association’s Risk of a Bad Hire

Effective strategies that associations can implement to reduce the risk of a bad hire.

Bad hires are bad news for all organizations. Unfortunately, they can have a particularly negative impact on associations.

According to Tracy Folkes Hanson, president and CEO of CSAE, the nature of association work means the unexpected loss of an employee is often felt far beyond the staff group, “In many cases, association employees are very connected with the association’s member base. That means a greater number of people are impacted when an employee moves on unexpectedly.”

Cindy Gonsalves, director of finance and operations for the Consulting Engineers of Ontario, adds that small associations take an especially hard hit when a staff member leaves, “The majority of associations don’t have many employees. If you lose one person from a staff of five — that’s 20 per cent of your workforce gone. That loss of resources while you relaunch the job search process can impact the momentum of your projects.”

Fortunately, there are some effective strategies that associations can implement to reduce the risk of a bad hire.

  1. Attract and repel

A critical part of developing your job ad for the position you’re hiring for is to craft it in a way that appeals to candidates with the skillset needed to excel in the position. For associations, strong people skills are often critical.

“As associations, we are in the industry of people. Our business is all about relationship building and management. Your job ad should speak to candidates who really connect with people and will be passionate about supporting members in their respective pursuits of success,” says Tracy Folkes Hanson.

If you’re having difficulty zeroing in on the type of person you’re trying to attract, flip the question around and imagine the person who would struggle in the position. Then make sure the job ad would repel those people. According to Tracy, “Association work demands the ability to be resourceful and a willingness to listen to member needs and continuously evolve to cater to those needs and provide member value. Someone who doesn’t have natural strengths in those areas is likely going to find association work unrewarding, and may not last.”

  1. Dig deeper in your search efforts

Increasing the size and diversity of the pool of candidates that apply for your position raises the chance of finding a person who is a perfect fit for the role. Posting your ad on a wide variety of job sites will help ensure your ad gets in front of candidates from a more diverse range of sectors, including other associations, business, not-for-profit and government.

Brian O’Riordan, registrar for the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario, warns taking a multi-channel approach to job posting can be easier said than done. “When hiring isn’t something you do regularly, doing the research to try and determine which job boards are the right fit for your job ad and how broadly you should advertise can be incredibly time consuming. Without experience, you also risk posting it in a space that just doesn’t make sense for your organization,” he says.

  1. Assess to spot the best

Having candidates complete a simple screening assessment during the application process is one of the best ways to shine the spotlight on strong candidates and filter out those that might struggle in the position.

“Popular job sites have made it easier than ever for people to apply for jobs, which is great. But that also means that there’s a higher proportion of candidates who may apply for a job that’s not right for them. The Fitzii Assessment really helps with this, because it does that initial sifting and sorting for you, so you’re not having to invest the time in reviewing resumes from candidates that just aren’t a good fit,” says Cindy Gonsalves, director of finance and operations for the Consulting Engineers of Ontario.

  1. Test the waters

Once you’ve shortlisted your candidates, selection assessments help in gathering real-world proof that the candidate has the core competencies and critical skills required to be successful in the position.

At the College of Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists of Ontario, selection assessments have become common practice. “We often ask for work samples, particularly in cases where the position requires a fair amount of written communication with members. The cover letter and resume only give you a limited sense of those skills. If you really want to see the person’s true writing ability, asking them to provide an article they’ve written in the past, or giving them a potential scenario they might face in the job and asking them to write a brief write-up on how they would deal with it is much more telling. Fitzii was able to provide us with great recommendations on the type of work sample we should request based on the position,” says Brian O’Riordan.

While writing a more strategic job ad, posting to a more diverse range of job boards, and implementing applicant screening and candidate selection assessments may add extra steps to your hiring process, they take far less time than having to re-execute your job search due to a bad hire.

Since implementing the above strategies, O’Riordan says, “We haven’t had to deal with a bad hire situation. These strategies are generating a pool of candidates for us that is top-notch. We know that we are dealing with the cream of the crop, and that gives us a lot of confidence. A personal interview is still extremely important in terms of assessing the person for fit within your team — but knowing you are dealing with applicants that are first-rate to begin with goes a long way in preventing those bad hire situations.”

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