Recruiting The Best Takes Effort

We are increasingly being asked for help to identify, vet, and select prospective employees, vendors and higher-level volunteers (like nominees for a Board of Directors) through a request-for-proposal (“RFP”) process and/or by other recruitment efforts. This blog is about sharing some of our practices so that sport leaders can benefit from our experience.

We were recently asked to support a client with terminating their relationship with a volunteer who had been providing an important service to the organization and its members. Together, we developed a more sophisticated process that we believe will be helpful to all sport leaders looking to recruit highly effective and competent people who share their values. In our opinion, the most important consideration is “fit”. No matter how much experience a candidate or vendor brings to the table, if they don’t believe in your mission or don’t have the required emotional intelligence to connect with others who share your organization’s values, you will find yourself wishing you hadn’t offered them the position or granted them the contract. The following process will support your efforts to recruit top shelf talent and discern which vendor best aligns with your needs and values.

Step 1: Write a compelling RFP/Position Description – This is often a 1-3 page document that specifies what you are asking for (the offering/position), relevant background (why this position matters), deliverables (expectations), reporting structure, position requirements, timelines, budget, etc. It also includes more information about the organization’s culture and values. You need to be specific here about what you want so you don’t get overwhelmed by applications or proposals that are not relevant.

Step 2: Create a ranking system – To facilitate a really good review of the proposals or applications, we have developed a ranking/weighting matrix. This really helps you and your review committee discern how you will compare candidates/vendors. Everyone is equal … until they’re not. I can’t say enough about how this step is useful on so many levels. While sport leaders have developed sophisticated matrices to evaluate coaches, athletes and officials, they have often missed the mark when it comes to evaluating contractors, vendors, employees and volunteers when looking to recruit or hire them. This step forces you to name what is important and what is not.

Step 3: Develop a process to review the candidates: We have created holistic processes that ensure your hiring/recruiting committee understands the process, the timelines, and the commitment level required to minimize the risk of not securing the right person. Mapping this out for your selection committee is a respectful way to ensure that they understand the time commitment involved in choosing the right candidate for the task at hand.

Step 4: Ensure due diligence:

This is an essential part of every selection process – for a vendor or an individual – and some of our clients struggle with this Step. We recommend a thorough and complete understanding of the company or individual before you make them an offer or accept their proposal. Ask for resumes, testimonials, character references, and criminal record/vulnerable sector checks (especially if a volunteer or employee will be around young people!). We also recommend interviews, meet and greets, and taking steps to confirm the credentials of the applicant. You may find that this step is ‘slowing down’ your process – but we feel that the risk of making a costly mistake here justifies the time you spend doing your due diligence.

Step 5: Interview the candidates: In our experience, this Step is also a time-consuming part of the process but also very necessary. Coordinating everyone’s schedules to connect with your preferred vendors and candidates can take time. Using online meeting management polls can be one way to facilitate this process. Increasingly we are being asked to sit in on interviews as a third party. It can be helpful to have a neutral person provide feedback to enhance decision-making. Your interview committee will have determined the kinds of questions you want to ask, who will ask the questions, and the format (presentation, open-ended questions, scenarios, etc.). We recommend asking ‘fit’ questions like the following:

  • Share with us a value that matters to you and how you see it aligning with our organization?
  • What is it about our organization that appeals to you?
  • In what ways do you feel that this organization will provide you with a positive environment to learn and contribute?
  • How does this organization align with your big dreams?

The point is to ask powerful questions that will give you a sense of who this person/company is and how they can contribute to your mission/project. In-person conversations are just one way for you to determine if there is a ‘fit’. We have people at the SLSG who are certified in a number of psychometric tools that can help you better understand a person. One innovative way for you to discern which candidate might be the right fit is to invest in having them complete a NOVA Profile. Inexpensive, accessible, and useful, the tool provides a “fit” indicator that can help the interview team ask further questions and can be a great way to distinguish between two candidates.

Step 6: Select your preferred candidate/vendor: While this might appear to be self-evident, it helps if you have a process in place to guide how you will make a decision. If you’ve done a good job with Step 2, and made good notes with Step 5, this part becomes easier. In the end, some clients need subsequent interviews and additional processes before deciding between vendors and candidates. Don’t rush it! We have too many stories to suggest otherwise.

Step 7: Make the offer: This is the fun part. You get to tell your preferred candidate that they are the one you have selected. You also need to let the others know that they were not selected for this project or position. We do suggest investing in this Step as you never know if your second or third choice might become your first one shortly or years later. There are a number of important requirements to facilitate a smooth transition including negotiating timelines, salaries/contracts, logistics, start date, etc. Having a solid onboarding process for your preferred candidate will make this step much easier.

As part of your offer, you will want to execute a formal Agreement with the candidate or company. (Yes, even volunteers and members of the Board of Directors should sign an Agreement!). The Agreement would include legal language describing the relationship, consideration exchanged, the length of the term, how the Agreement can be terminated, and the roles the parties will have during the relationship – including the role of your organization. The Agreement formalizes your relationship. Also, since this Agreement is the formal declaration of your relationship, the candidate or company may want to change some of the terms before signing. This is okay – but we strongly recommend involving a lawyer in the process.

Step 8: Communicate with stakeholders: Most people want to share that they’ve been hired or retained by a company. Before you communicate your new relationship with stakeholders, ensure you have communicated your plans with your vendors or individuals in advance and be sure to check out our recommendations on how to ensure a positive relationship with vendors. You will typically need a short biography of your company and the new vendor/individual, a quote, and agreement on how to coordinate announcement posts on social media.

Step 9: Review and monitor progress: How did you know you hired/retained the right person? Ensure you have a process in place to review your internal hiring processes and make modifications as required. This is important for volunteers, contractors, vendors and staff. While you likely have performance management plans in place for your organization’s staff and employees, we recommend doing the same for key volunteers and vendors. It helps to keep everyone honest.

As always, we love to hear from you. Drop us a line at DBL@sportlaw.ca, KRL@sportlaw.ca, or JER@sportlaw.ca to learn more. We’re here to help!

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