Is the charity sector scaring off good candidates?

6 July 2017 | By Cause4 staff

This article is authored by Jean Merrylees, a freelance content writer and editor.

The solution to a good job advert lies in keeping things simple. It needs to be easy for those talented, motivated people to apply without redirection and without asking them to reproduce information already available in their CV or their LinkedIn profile. So here’s some advice on what you can do to make sure you’re holding onto the good ones from the very beginning...

CV/cover letter, form or on-line application?

A recent article in HR News revealed that 60-75% of job seekers (across all sectors) quit in the middle of filling out on-line applications because of their length or complexity.

From our own candidates, we have floods of comments around form filling and the endless duplication of information that’s already available to recruiters on their CV. Frequent gripes include:

“... tedious filling of boxes with standard information – no scope for creative, interesting applications.”

“... I usually give up when a website starts to redirect me to other sites and wants heaps of info that is already on my CV, drives me nuts.”

“I’m from the Netherlands. My masters degree is difficult to translate.”

That means losing good people from the get-go and not having the option to truly pick one of the best candidates

If you don’t want people to quit, then you should try:

  • Asking candidates to apply with a CV plus a cover letter (rather than application form or redirection)


  • Ask candidates to apply through the recruitment site (without redirection)
  • If neither of those options are possible within your organisation, then we recommend you:
  • Limit the number of screens to navigate
  • Reduce the time it takes to complete the application
  • Don’t ask applicants to re-enter work histories into fields in an applicant tracking system
  • Don’t make candidates lie or guess by having inappropriate Required Fields (i.e. requiring an exact month or even day date for the start of a job that may have been several years ago)
  • Make sure applications are mobile-friendly
  • Ditch nice-to-have questions not needed at this first stage

Our team here have found that organisations that let candidates apply direct through CharityJob receive on average eight more applications than with any other method.

Let them shine

It’s a frequent complaint from our candidates that an application process doesn’t allow them to stand out from the crowd; they can’t show what it is that makes them special. They complain of:

“... mechanistic filling of boxes with standard information – leaving no scope for creative, interesting applications”

So, while your selection process clearly needs to eliminate people without the right skills or experience, equally it needs to have sufficient flex in to allow for an interesting application that lets the good ones shine.

Spell it out – The Job Ad and the Job Description

Is it immediately obvious what you’re after and is it a recognisable role?

The job title needs to be mainstream to ensure you’re attracting the most talented people from all sectors. If you make it too charity-specific you are putting off a lot of people with transferable skills.

“... the job description is too specific allowing no opportunity for an outside person.”

“... the job description has too much specific, organisation jargon.”

“I am transferring from the private sector and many jobs in which I can make a real contribution require non-profit specific experience.”

Introduce Yourself

Make it easy for candidates to know who you are and what you do.

Providing a positive impression of the charity, its ethos and its culture can make a massive difference when it comes to getting the attention of the people you’d want to work for you.

Consider including a mission statement or a short description of the aims of your charity.

As well as providing information about your organisation, our candidate feedback stresses the importance of the recruiter being responsive to any enquiries the candidate may have about either the job or the organisation.

“... telephone number for a contact person to ask for clarifications or just for a quick chat.”

“... responsiveness of the organisation to enquiries regarding the position, interviews, feedback.”

Talk money

When we asked our candidates, salary came second (after a “clear job description”) as a prompt to complete an application.

No indication of salary or just putting “competitive” is seen negatively by candidates – as is asking a candidate for their previous or current salary. These days that is a complete no-no.

Both of these things create a bad impression in terms of intent, professionalism and the seriousness with which you’re taking the role and employees.

Remember, it’s about encouraging the skilled, motivated candidates who have sought out your organisation and your job opening, to complete the application.


This article was originally featured on the CharityJob blog

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