Thursday, August 13, 2015

6 Tips for a Winning Nonprofit Executive Job Description

When there is an executive position open in a small or mid size nonprofit, it usually falls to a Search Committee to identify the top candidates that will be considered by the board to be the next Executive Director.  One of the first steps is writing the job description that will be used to advertise the position.  This description has the same responsibilities but is different than the one in the ED's desk drawer.

Building the job description requires understanding the job content, and the skills, credentials and experiences that will be needed to do the job well.  You really need to think thoughtfully about what you are looking for in an Executive Director.  If you want to get outstanding candidates and candidates that are the right fit to apply, a good job description is the key.   This description also is a sales pitch.  Here are some important ingredients to a good job description.

The Sales Pitch -  The description should include a profile of the organization including its mission, services and key accomplishments.  If you have a culture you are proud of make sure it is mentioned in your profile. Examples are that you have an inclusive profile, or  teamwork and collaboration are integral to your success.

Specifics are important – A good executive job description provides an accurate scope of the job.  It should include the annual budget, number of employees and direct reports, number of locations, overview of your major programs and any other details which will give candidates an accurate picture of the scope of the position.
Straightforward Honesty Rules – Potential candidates appreciate job descriptions that aren’t just buzzword packed and seem like you are looking for someone who walks on water.  I recommend that the job description list major responsibilities that the Executive Director will be expected to be personally involved in and which responsibilities will be delegated.  For example, the ED will have responsibility for program and budget development but program delivery and budget administration will be delegated.  If there are any unusual requirements you should make sure you list them.  Does this job have 40% travel?  Are you required to work on Thanksgiving?  These kind of things should be noted.
Salary Range Is Important – I always recommend that a salary range such as Mid 70s be included in the job description.  This will help attract appropriate candidates for your position.  Yes, you will still get people who have a couple of years at an entry level position and at least one person who made twice that in their last position, but by and large, you will attract appropriate candidates.  There are resources such as the Guidestar Nonprofit Compensation Report which can help you set the right salary range for your opening.
Benefits Can Be the Make or Break Item – Listing insurance, vacation, number of paid holidays, flexible hours, retirement plan and other benefits will attract applicants.  It is a big mistake not to list your benefits.  People make decisions about even applying for a position if the benefits are important to them.
Realistically What Is Required and What Is Desirable  - Break down the skills, experience and credentials into required and desirable.  And stay out of the “walk on water weeds.”  Do you really have to have 10 years experience or is five years plenty?  Is a Master’s Degree required or desirable?  Are there critical skills and experience (fundraising, financial management?) and are some desirable (Experience with an artistic community?).
Developing the job description is the first and most important task that the Search Committee needs to do.  It is important to take the time to do it right.


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