Nonprofits are increasingly relying on IT to help manage and run their organizations. Consequently, the boards of nonprofits are hiring IT executives from the for-profit world who have years of experience implementing and managing complex information systems. These IT leaders also bring to the table a wide range of experience hiring IT staff at all levels and across different industries.
Frank Hoose is one such nonprofit IT leader. Hoose joined the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in 2000 from American Trucking Associations and, previously, from the retail industry. As the ADA's senior vice president of information technology, he oversees technology strategy, investment operations and support for the nation's leading nonprofit provider of diabetes research, information and advocacy. He also plays a large role in staffing the ADA's 42-person IT department. In this Q&A, he succinctly explains how behavioural interviewing techniques help him select the right candidate for a position, why it's important to listen to staff's reservations about potential hires and how he knows when a hire is a success.
Jane Howze: What IT challenges are you facing, and how does hiring figure into them?
Frank Hoose: Every year, the ADA adds new systems to support new initiatives. Over the last six years, we have added Oracle financials, Team Approach for fundraising and customer relationship management, BEA Aqualogic for our intranet, GEAC for budgeting and Ceridian's HRIS, which is outsourced. Because we have accumulated a large amount of equipment, our technical staff is challenged with keeping abreast of the latest technologies to effectively support it. It is imperative that our hires have great skills, possess a desire for continuous learning and maintain a level of flexibility that allows them to change roles to suit our changing business needs.
We've been very fortunate to have low turnover in our IT division. I think this speaks to the quality of our work environment. However, when we do have openings, we always look for opportunities to promote internal staff. When we look externally, we often look for very specific skill sets, such as experience with fund-raising applications.
You have been a hiring manager in several different industries, including nonprofit, trade associations and retail. Do you hire differently for different industries?
The hiring itself is the same. Most of the time, I am hiring for the position, not the industry. If a specific skill is needed, I am going to concentrate on finding someone with that skill. Having previous industry experience is always a plus, but if I can hire someone who is results-oriented, has a good work ethic, has the skills needed to do the job, who communicates well and can build and sustain positive relationships with others, I'll hire them, period.
Having said that, sometimes the nonprofit sector cannot compete on salary with other industries. Although ADA professionals work long hours, many times we attract people because it is not generally an 80-hour week and because of the ADA's collegial environment and mission-based focus. I don't know if other nonprofits share this trait, but many of our IT professionals have been with the ADA for a long time, and some who have left have returned after a short period of time.
Are most of the people you hire from other nonprofits, or have they worked in other industries?
In the technology division, our hires have a mix of backgrounds. In a few cases, such as our field systems area, we may look specifically for staff who have technical expertise in a nonprofit setting.
Do you ever interview candidates for executive-level positions in other functions?
The ADA sometimes uses a team-interviewing approach when hiring for senior-level positions. For example, when we hired a new CFO a few years back, I participated in an interview panel. Our panels typically consist of individuals who will be major customers or stakeholders in the position's success. A diverse group of interviewers ensures that we address different perspectives during the interview and that the final candidate is a good fit for the position as well as for the ADA's culture.
Do you include ADA employees from other functions in your hiring process?
When hiring IT staff members who interact regularly with or support other divisions, we may invite staff from those divisions to participate in the interview and decision-making process. For example, our director of field systems is responsible for supporting the technology needs of our field offices, so when we hired for that position, we invited several field vice presidents to participate in the interview process. They each interviewed the candidates, and their recommendations were included in the final decision.
Next: Hoose's behavioural interviewing techniques, the three interview questions Hoose always asks, and more.
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