Charities 'too demanding' on skills when recruiting, says Charities HR Network chair

Speaking at a Fundraising Week panel session, Peter Reeve says the sector needs to adapt its recruitment practices

Peter Reeve (right)
Peter Reeve (right)

This story has been amended. Please see final paragraph for details.

Charities are being too demanding about the skill levels they look for in job applicants, particularly at a time when it is becoming more difficult to recruit, according to Peter Reeve, chair of the Charities HR Network.

Speaking yesterday at the Third Sector Fundraising Week panel session The Millennial Challenge, which explored recruitment, Reeve said the charity sector’s recruitment practices needed to be updated.

Reeve, who is also the head of HR at the Motor Neurone Disease Association, said attracting a candidate who was excited by the cause was more important than attracting one who already had every skill needed for the job.

He admitted that he himself had not initially wanted to come into the sector when he joined the MND Association in 2012, because he believed the sector was "the place where careers go to die". Reeve said charities needed to consider why job hunters should choose them.

"In particular, we have to look at the rather dodgy employment environment we’re in at the moment," he said.

"The third sector has always had a reputation for being old-fashioned and we’re also getting a bit of a kicking from the press, so drawing people into the sector is even more difficult than it was a couple of years ago."

Reeve added that the long lists of essential criteria charities draw up as part of job adverts were often unnecessary.

"We generally find for essential criteria that the key questions are these," he said. "Are they interested in and excited by the organisation? Do they want to come here? Have they got some relevant skills? Have they got a pulse?

"If they’ve got those, we can work with the rest."

Armen Lloyd, owner of the recruitment agency Drum Resourcing, said the charity sector was among the most popular choice of employer for graduates, but few were actually applying for or getting the jobs.

"I often think it’s our fault because I look at job ads every day and they’re very specific about the experience required," he said.

Lloyd added that he often asked clients who placed adverts if they would be willing to compromise on the skills required in order to find a person who might be right for the job but did not have the experience.

"I don’t think as a sector we’re very good at capturing the goodwill that’s out there," he said. "The research is saying that these people want to work in the sector, but they don’t see themselves as being able to."

Paul Nott, a consultant with NFP Resourcing, agreed. He said the problem was particularly bad with fundraising roles, and concern about what Brexit might mean for funding was exacerbating the problem of attracting people from other sectors.

"People are still paying at salaries below what's needed for the skills they want, and they’re not willing to compromise on skills," he said.

"I don’t think they necessarily need to pay more, but they need to accept the skills that are relative to what they are paying."

Reeve said charities should be less apologetic to the public about spending on staff and should even consider a bonus scheme to help retain staff and reduce the costs associated with a high turnover.

This story originally said Peter Reeve joined the charitable sector in 2002, not 2012.

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