Should you hire for passion or for experience?

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Some people have a ton of skills, making them great candidates for executive director jobs. But do you need to them to demonstrate that they have a strong passion for your work? It’s going to be hard to find someone who has both the skills and passion. Both can be developed, but you have to assess whether they are a good fit for your organization at the current time. Below are some considerations to help you make a decision.

Someone who demonstrates their passion for your cause could be a good hire. If this is a criteria you are going to look at, you will want to see that it is not just a newfound passion that they developed in response to a job posting. Where have they volunteered? Who have they donated to? What causes do they talk to their friends about?

Passion alone isn’t enough, especially for an established nonprofit where the leader needs to be ready to take on challenges on day one. If they don’t have all the skills your organization needs, is there a solid plan to train them? This means identifying training opportunities, and ideally an executive director coach. A less experienced executive director will need more support from the board. If the board will take a very hands off approach after hiring, then you need to find an ED who has more experience. Be realistic with assessing what the board can actually do, or what resources the organization can pay for, such as coaching and training. Can the organization survive for a year until a brand new executive director is truly ready to lead?

In addition, besides passion and experience, you need to look for a strong fit in the culture of your organization and an alignment of values. This will take an honest assessment beforehand of what the culture and values of your organization truly are, and then asking the candidate questions that demonstrate whether they fit those values as well.

This list of 12 Attributes of Nonprofit Leaders mentions skills such as persistence, conflict resolution, listening, and finances, all key for a leader to know. I would add that you need someone who is a relationship builder, who likes working with a wide variety of people and helping them meet their goals. This could be clients, donors, volunteers or major funders. The ED will be working with them all.

There’s no one right answer to who you need to hire for your next executive director. Take the time to consider each candidate carefully on a wide variety of metrics and then make your choice.

Please contact me for help with the hiring process.

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