Hiring for Experience Versus Passion

Philip Manzano • Dec 27, 2016

Some people have great skills and experience, and others have so much potential. Sometimes it’s hard to know which is the right to hire in your nonprofit.

A classic scenario in the nonprofit world. You are hiring a new project manager. You’ve narrowed it down to two candidates. Let’s call them Sally and Jeff. Sally is more than qualified, has a spectacular resume with diverse experiences in project management across different sectors and will no doubt be able to succeed in the position. Jeff is also qualified, however, his resume pales in comparison to Sally’s. But you see passion and potential in Jeff that Sally just doesn’t have. Jeff shows a love for your target community that shines through.

Who do you hire?

In an ideal world, you can find experienced, skilled people with a lot of heart. But the two don’t always go hand-in-hand.

How to Assess Passion

So often the questions within an interview focus around experience and skills . Overlooking a candidate’s passion could be the difference in finding yourself a “good” employee and a “great” one. You want to make sure the interview questions you are asking give opportunity for your candidates to really show their passion and motivation for the position. These can be questions surrounding one’s commitment or experience to the cause that you support . This allows you to assess a person based on their fit with you mission, instead of simply how enthusiastic they are.

In the article  “How to Find Employees Who Love What They Do” , Fallon provides the following advice to help you better discover your candidate’s passions:

  • Pay attention to hobbies and interests
  • Assess the ability to maintain a work-life balance
  • Evaluate professional-growth goals
  • Measure their capacity for generosity
  • Test their mettle (look for courage)
  • Guage what thrills them

The level of passion you are seeking can also be adapted to each role . For example, an external fundraiser who is constantly engaging with the community needs to have a huge heart for your cause, while an IT person may be assessed more on experience given the internal-nature of the role.

At the end of the day, you want to have happy employees who love the work they do and are motivated to come back everyday and do better. People who are passionate about what they do can often find happiness in their daily tasks, and share that happiness with their fellow employees.

The Millennial Dilemma

As millennials move into the workforce it is clear that this demographic is keen to follow their passions, creative, innovative and ready to take risks. Taking an opportunity to bring on young passionate workers can be risky, but can also come with big rewards. Once again you are faced with a dilemma – do you bring on this young, passionate worker full of potential, or maybe someone with a bit more experience?

Hiring for Passion

Bringing on someone with less experience can actually be advantageous in some roles – it allows more opportunity for innovation and less chances that they bring over bad habits learned in another role. If you decide to take your chances on the passionate souls out there, you can be ready to support their success by having great on-the-job training and professional development opportunities for your employees.

When you think about it, everyone you hire has no experience with your organization . Everyone has to learn. So, sometimes when you find those shining stars full of passion, potential and team spirit, it may be time to take your chances and bring on a champion for your cause.

When your nonprofit is hiring do you put more emphasis on passion or experience?