Recruiting for NGOs — The Five Commandments

ATMA Consulting   |   23 March 2018



Recruiting quality talent is a challenge, more so in the social sector which is defined by high turnover low tenure. Location, expertise and experience play an important role in determining a good person-organisation fit. According to Intellecap’s 2012 report, ‘Understanding Human Resource Challenges in the Indian Social Sector Enterprise Sector’, founders from most organisations mentioned that they do not treat recruitment as an ongoing process and instead “tend to hire to meet immediate needs, and the candidates thus selected may not be able to contribute once the organisation moves to the next level.” This also throws light on recruitment’s evil twin-retention. Intellecap’s survey suggests that most organisations consider recruitment to be a higher order issue as compared to retention, however equal importance should be placed on both as the two are part of the same vicious cycle.

With recruitment season fast approaching, we got into conversation with Krutika Shah, Atma’s Talent Executive, on the ‘Five Commandments’ a recruiter from any development sector organisation should keep in mind while finding and recruiting talent:

Recruit in the right places- It only makes sense to post vacancies and openings on job boards and portals that target a specific audience (here, those interested in the development sector). This acts as a funnel and helps you target and attract applicants with sector-specific experience. Additionally, reaching out to intermediaries that run fellowships within the development sector, that are known to have a huge alumni base is a sure shot way of attracting the right talent. Headhunting on LinkedIn should be resorted to, to give you an idea of what kind of talent is out there, aiding you to create a pipeline for any future vacancy that may arise. It also helps you build a rapport with people within the sector who could promote your organisation’s vacancies within their networks.

The geographic challenges faced by recruiters are significant. India’s education system is expanding to serve rural areas and smaller towns. Yet the lure of working in big cities remains, and finding talent willing to work in non-metro markets is becoming increasingly difficult. A clear gap that emerges in Intellecap’s report is the need for creating talent pools ready to work in remote areas. One possible way would be to delineate the skill gaps in local talent, and fix those with targeted educational courses or workshops.

  1. Incorporate models/ systems of operation from established recruiting agencies- It always pays to get in touch with recruitment agencies to understand the way they filter applications (for example, do they have a questionnaire at the start of the application process) and then to try to make their methods and processes your own in order to save time.
  2. Assess patterns in behaviour- In order to know whether the applicant is a culture fit or whether their core values align with those of the organisation’s, questions targeted to understand their general response pattern are useful. For example, some employees might find it difficult to deal with continued chaos around reporting and delegation, and often leave to join organisations with clearer systems and processes. Asking questions to probe whether they are open to feedback, whether they can work collaboratively, whether they can work under stress and probably doing a round of role play are ways to get to know the applicant better.
  3. Review work through assignments- In addition to interviews, assignments are a way of getting to know the level of proficiency and skill a candidate can exercise when it comes down to getting the job done. It provides a clear picture of the amount of support that would be required in training the applicant, and also tells us how much thought and effort has been put in by the applicant. It’s useful to also monitor how diligent they have been in submitting the assignment, their perspective towards task completion and presentation, and also how their task performance aligned with their interview responses.
  4. Act quickly- The best applicants have probably applied to more than one organisation and there is a good chance that they have received a basket of offers. It is wise send an offer out at the earliest to close the opening and save time in case the applicant does/does not accept the offer.

To read Intellecap’s complete report, click here.

If you would like to get in touch with Krutika, you can email her at krutika@atma.org.in.



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