Despite writing a clear job description with required qualification requirements when looking to fill a job opening, you usually get hundreds of resumes. Most hiring managers are able to quickly reduce the pile of resumes by around 75%. These are applicants who clearly do not have the experience or skills needed to do the job. A more careful reading of the resumes can often trim it down so a short stack of 5-10% that seem worthy of an interview.
Screening for a pro bono volunteer
That is when you are looking to hire someone full-time. What if you were hiring a consultant or consulting firm? If you put out a request for proposals (RFP) would you get a dozen responses? Of those, would you speak to more than three to choose the right partner?
In looking for the right person for a pro bono consulting project, how many people would you need to interview to find the right fit? How many applications would you need to see to have enough people to interview?
For many nonprofit organizations the answer is one. Someone comes in and says they want to help with a marketing plan, and they are off to the races. We also know that most pro bono work fails to be completed or meet the expectations of the nonprofit client. Failing to apply what we know about hiring to selection of pro bono consultants is likely a major cause of this outcome.
I don’t have an answer to this question, but I can provide some data from our experience managing pro bono consultants on over 1,000 projects that might help you think about the right ratios.
To put this data in perspective, you need to know that we have clear job descriptions that we post online to look for pro bono consultants. These describe the role and qualifications necessary (something many organizations don’t proactively do when seeking pro bono talent). Business professionals then apply for one of these specific roles by providing their resumes and completing an online skills matrix.
Of the professionals who apply, 58% are declined in our first pass based on fundamental gaps in their skills relative to the job description. They apply saying they can do the job based on a job description and yet more than half don’t have the right experience.
Of the remaining 42% that are qualified, roughly a third of the applicants don’t apply for the best role to match their skill set. Despite the fact that they fit squarely in one of the roles we need, they either apply for something more junior or senior or for a job that is outside of their functional area.
This data tells us that even with clear proactive job descriptions, only about 25% of applicants have the right skills and can identify the appropriate role.
That would suggest that if you have a clear job description you will need around four applicants to get one that would make sense to interview for culture fit (which is still a much better ratio than the scenario describing the search for a full-time employee). You would also need to screen for time availability and commitment during the interview. My guess is that you would want four people to interview to make a good decision. That means getting 16 resumes from interested professionals.
It also means investing a couple of days to make the hire (write job description, do outreach, screen resumes, do interviews, select finalist and negotiate project terms). For a typical senior nonprofit manager with a fully loaded salary of $100k per year, that would mean an investment of around $1,000 in time.