Written by: Susannah Brouwer

Hiring craze.

We’re on a hiring spree right now at CCI and as Senior Manager of Operations at CCI, I’m right smack in the middle of it all. Even for our small organization of 10 people, recruiting and hiring for four new team members has been a remarkably complicated and time intensive project that’s required active involvement from all our team members. While this is by no means a unique or new revelation—especially to the seasoned HR folks out there—it’s been a fascinating journey that’s helped me to learn some things about navigating the hiring challenges all our organizations face. Here are some of the big things I’ve been mulling over throughout this process…

First: the time and resources required. Wow. It’s truly a “all-hands-on-deck-and-hold-on-for-dear-life” situation. Everyone is involved, from our program teams to our Executive Director. We’ve spent countless hours tag-teaming the process, from writing job descriptions and posting ads, to resume screening, to multiple phone interviews, to team interviews, to references, and that doesn’t even include the 2-3 months of training and settling-in period for new hires. Everything on my day-to-day to-do list has been boiled down to only the absolute necessary tasks to stay on track. All “extra” projects have been put on hold.

Every day we hear from our health center partners about their struggle with recruitment and retention. We see its effects on even just the programs they participate in with us, not to mention the impact it has on organizational productivity and patient care. And while I’ve been able to understand this struggle on an intellectual level, there’s nothing quite like being in the middle of it to make you realize how truly disruptive and debilitating it can be to your normal workflow to have to stop to recruit, hire, and train new team members. And we’re a tiny organization just adding a handful of team members for which there’s a plethora of highly qualified candidates. This is much less complicated than the hiring process that health centers face!

Second: the complexity of hiring with the intention to diversify our team. With the majority of our team right now being comprised of white women—including myself—there’s no question about the importance of continually bringing more diversity to our team. This commitment, however, might mean that our hiring process might take longer and that we have to do some important self-reflection to make it work. With the help of a lot of great resources, we’ve started to ask ourselves some really important questions.

Does our traditional system of hiring favor those who have had the privilege of being surrounded by career counselors, mentors and others that teach us how to play the “HR game”? Are we posting our job descriptions in places that reach only certain kinds of candidates? Does setting certain experiential requirements eliminate people who might actually be great fits? Asking these questions can be daunting—and hard—especially if it means slowing down the process even more at a time when we’re anxious to bring on more helping hands. In doing so, however, we’re taking the time to create a stronger team that has a wider array of perspectives and also reflects our values.

Finally: the challenge of determining the appropriate education and job experience to match the position. This has been one of the hardest parts for me. It seems pretty straightforward when we post the job descriptions, but when the resumes come flooding in with a myriad of impressive experiences that we didn’t necessarily outline in the job description, it gets a lot harder to match the checklist with what is in front of me.

Do we set a degree requirement because we want people to have certain knowledge of XYZ, or is there something more nuanced we’re looking for that having a degree somehow serves as a proxy for? Do we really need degree requirements at all? Does having a background in a subject area mean that someone is really passionate about that work, or would we find more passion in someone that’s new to the field and is eager to learn? When we say we want someone with project management experience, do we place more value on candidates that gain that experience in an office setting or are we truly open to project management experience gained in non-traditional settings? How do you really get at someone’s ability to be detail-oriented when no one would ever admit to not being so, especially in a job interview? Do typical job search faux pas like a typo in a resume or lack of a follow-up email really reflect on a candidate’s ability to do the job?

I certainly don’t have the answers to these complex questions, but I keep asking them over and over to myself while reading each resume and talking to each candidate. I’ve found that asking the questions is a really important place to start.

This work is hard! Hats off to you, HR world. This really underlines the relevance of a lot of the discussions we had at last fall’s Safety Net Innovation Network meeting on recruitment, retention, and resilience. In the meantime, we march on through this crazy process, feeling excited about the future of our small and mighty team.