What Does COVID-19 Mean for Hiring in the Free-Market Nonprofit Sector? - America's Future

April 27, 2020

Professional Development

What Does COVID-19 Mean for Hiring in the Free-Market Nonprofit Sector?

By: Claire Kittle Dixon

As you can imagine, we have gotten a lot of questions over the last few days about how the pandemic has affected hiring in the free-market nonprofit sector.

I thought it might be helpful to share the common questions we are hearing and respond to them here. Please note that things are changing quickly, and that means what we are seeing is also changing. I will try to update you as things evolve.

1. Are organizations still hiring? Yes, absolutely.

2. How has the pandemic affected hiring? In general, it has made organizations slow down a bit because they don’t know what’s going to happen. If you think about it, just one month ago, we were all going about life as normal. Now, only 30 days later, our lives (and the economy) have been turned upside down. Organizations are right to slow down and try to understand the new normal before moving forward.

3. What types of roles have been most affected by the pandemic? Positions that are directly tied to things affected by the pandemic have been the most impacted. For instance, we have seen a pull back on events roles. This makes a great deal of sense because in-person events for the foreseeable future are either not happening or are in question.  We have also seen organizations pull back on hiring for program roles. Again, this is logical because much of the spring programming has been cancelled and the summer programming is in question. Assuming programming and events get back on track in late summer/fall, we expect to see these roles rebound.

We have also seen organizations rethinking new or non-essential positions. They still plan to hire for these roles, but they want to wait until the dust has settled.

4. What types of organizations have been most affected by the crisis? You might think it’s the smaller organizations that are most affected. But that’s not necessarily what we’re seeing. Some of the larger organizations have found themselves in situations in which they need to freeze hiring or, in some cases, lay off staff. There are many factors involved in staffing decisions and no organization, no matter how big or small, is immune to the effects of the pandemic.

5. How has the crisis affected the hiring/interview process? Needless to say, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench into the normal hiring process.  For instance:

Things are slower now. Organizations are still pivoting in multiple ways: they are adapting/updating nearly every aspect of their strategy, from programming to development to communication to policy. That means the hiring process has taken a back seat in many cases. They still want to hire, but they have to put out the fires in front of them first.

In-person interviews have become virtual interviews. In the good ol’ days (i.e. last month), organizations could invite a candidate to the office to meet with multiple staff members. Not so today. Organizations are now scheduling virtual interviews.

In-person interviews may still happen, but it depends on the organization. Some of our clients have said they won’t make a final hiring decision until they are able to meet the person face-to-face. Many organizations are still conducting preliminary interviews over the phone but want to maintain the in-person element for the final round. For these groups, making the hire will have to wait until travel restrictions are lifted and people are able to get to in-person interviews. But other clients have indicated they are willing to hire “sight unseen” and go full steam ahead with a fully virtual interviewing process. For these groups, there may not be a significant delay in hiring.

6. What should I be thinking about when considering a job offer in this climate? You want to make sure you’re taking a job with a fiscally healthy, viable organization. Now, to be clear, you should always be thinking about this, but it’s even more important under the current circumstances. If you take a position with an entity on shaky financial footing, you might find yourself out of a job more quickly than you can say “social distancing.” Ask tough questions about the financial health of the organization during the interview process. If the organization bristles, you should be concerned.

7. Can relocation be put on hold if I get hired during the pandemic? More than likely, yes. Organizations understand that the coming weeks and months may not be the best time to relocate, sell/buy a house, or have your spouse look for employment in a new city. So, most organizations will be understanding about when you actually make the physical move. They may still want you to start sooner rather than later, but working virtually will likely be an option.

8. Will COVID-19 affect organizations’ willingness to hire virtual talent? Gosh, I hope so. We’ve been harping on the benefits of virtual work for 10 years. Heaven knows we didn’t think it would take a pandemic to force the issue, but perhaps one of the silver linings here is that organizations everywhere will realize the value of virtual work.

9. Should I make a job move during this time? No time better than the present! Except for last month, which was waaaaaay better than the present. Sorry, I needed a little comic relief.

In all seriousness, you certainly can make a job move during this time. Despite the pandemic, free-market nonprofits are pushing forward because their work matters now more than ever. And they are going to need exceptional talent to help them accomplish their goals. Don’t let your dream job pass you by because the timing is less than ideal.