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How Organizations Think

How development professionals hire

Funding cycles occur throughout the year, and depending on the organization, hiring is tied to resource availability. Hiring may surge at specific times because of new funding or the need to spend existing moneys, or otherwise be scant as resources are committed.  What stays the same is hiring managers are often overworked, too busy or juggling too many priorities to make time for hiring.  So what happens then?

Let’s dig in.  

  • Short-termism or long-termism?

Hiring managers are frequently hostage to project terms. These include meeting burn rate targets (need to spend $x by y date, because of donor requirements), strategic priorities, and a cycle of annual workplans.

While we’d all like to plan with the future needs of the organization and the people it serves in mind, the funding cycle often leads to short-term thinking to fill immediate staffing gaps.

On the other hand, of course, it can be the organization is awash in a particular funding source. This allows them to hire out years into the future, and they can take their time to select the best person. Whatever the case, be aware of whether the job you’re interested in is part of filling a short-term or long-term need. 

  • Get it done takes over.

Let’s get real for a moment. When a hiring situation comes up in a team, there is always an element of ‘get it done.’ Somebody must write the ToR, talk to HR or procurement to follow procedure, and get it posted on the website where you find it. I guarantee nobody went into international development to pursue their passion for human rights or passed on an otherwise lucrative investment banking path to do these things. This is when omg get it done takes over. Emotions like panic, frustration and alarm have been known to be felt. And this mindset can infuse the hiring process.

  • Priorities shift.

It’s not unheard of for humanitarian or development sector organizations to change course. These often have to do with events taking place, from a new disaster or political crisis, or changing donor priorities. This means job descriptions may have been outdated as soon as the ink dried. Yet to start the process all over again will be a headache. These jobs will require a more than average dose of dexterity for you to get into.

What does this mean for your application?

There are a few take-aways. First and foremost: research and understand the organization you’re looking to get into. You may want a job, with graduation in sight, or you’re ready to get to the next level. You may even need the job. Your boss’ micromanagement finally overreached at the team meeting this week, and you’re on the verge of quitting. In today’s world information abounds. Use it.

  • LinkedIn. A quick search will surface people in your network’s network that have worked in the organization. Or the profile of a senior manager. What do they say about their work: what words do they use to describe their responsibilities or results achieved, how often do they have other people from their same organization in their network, do they re-post stories from their organization? Interpret the signs.
  • Glassdoor. Then there are the people directly telling you what the organization is looking for. Most major development organizations have at least a handful of reviews on Glassdoor, including pay scales, how tough the job interview was and – critically – how the employee feels about them. Are they disgruntled with the latest strategic vision shift under new management? Did they feel their skills went underused? This is rich stuff ready to inform your understanding of what the organization wants in-between the lines of the ToR.
  • Organization websites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages. Finally, there’s the organization telling you what they want. What does their work on WASH tell you about where the funding is going in the organization? What do their press releases focus on? And what do strategic plan documents tell you about emerging priorities?

Use this information to get underneath the terms of reference or job description, to understand what the real need is, and tailor your application to meet those needs. Have you used any of these tips before? Have they helped? What other sites or source of information about an organization do you use? Let us know!

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