How do NGO's hire the right employees?

July 14, 2020
However, from a Human Resource perspective there is no difference in employment law and only some difference in candidates’ expectations.  Some of the most common struggles faced by the third sector when it comes to hiring new employees are:

Compensation: by their nature, NGO’s are often not-for-profit and so offer less when it comes to compensation than the private or public sector in many countries. This may be a deterrent for some employees joining the sector, particularly those with specialised skills required by NGOs for back office roles.

Specialist roles: it can become tricky when specialist training is required for a role. For example, a medical NGO may require qualified doctors and nurses or other medical professionals who may receive more compensation in the public or private sector. 

Long hours: it is unusual for NGO employees to work standard office hours. There is often some level of out of hours commitment required to help the organisation reach its goals. 

Working overseas: in many non-governmental agencies, like global or medical aid, roles may involve working overseas with vulnerable people, sometimes for long periods. This requires a high level of commitment from potential employees. 

Difficult organisational goals: NGO’s by their nature are attempting to tackle significant societal problems. While some potential employees relish the challenge this offers initially, in time slow progress can be frustrating and demotivating. 

It is crucial your recruitment process takes all of this into account so you hire the right candidate for your role.

Life experience matters

Life experience that indicates a propensity for working within an NGO may carry more weight than it would in the for-profit sector. Depending on the role, watch out for experience like:

  • living overseas
  • volunteering

In applicant CVs or cover letters. 

Passion and knowledge may trump skill

In some instances, a candidate's passion and knowledge for a role or your organisation may outweigh their skills or experience. This does depend on the role you are hiring for. Professional qualification may be a prerequisite but is it possible for your company to be flexible on years of experience if a candidate has demonstrated a passion for the work you do? The answer will not always be yes, but it is worth considering.

Transitioning professionals

It is not uncommon for applicants to NGO roles to have a background in the for-profit sector. Although this can provide your organisation with a more diverse workforce from those who have spent their entire career in the third sector, candidates should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the sacrifices they may have to make to align with your cause. 

Ensure your job is advertised in the right places

There is a clear difference between the sort of candidate a for-profit business and an NGO. Ensure you attract the right candidates by advertising roles on websites specifically for the third sector. 

If your NGO sends employees overseas on assignment, protect their health and wellbeing with international health insurance specifically for Non-Governmental Organisations.