Monday, May 25, 2009

When Hiring Advancement Staff (Part III)

In my last two posts, I stressed the paramount importance of looking for evidence of character and curiosity when hiring advancement staff and suggested how we might search out those traits in job candidates. If candidates meet that threshold test, I would also ask myself:

When meeting a prospect for the first time, what would this candidate say about the institution in their manner and conduct? Would their level of professionalism be perceived as commensurate with the quality and standards of the institution?

Can this candidate easily express the vision, values and higher purposes of this institution? Are those values and purposes a natural extension of his or her personality? Would they find it easy to "walk the talk"?

If, in my mind's eye, I put this candidate in front of one of our best but most demanding donors, how does she or he hold up? Does she wilt or find a way to cleverly persist in making the case? Would this candidate take the tough donor's challenges or criticism personally?

Can this candidate hold his or her own in a range of conversations with a wide variety of people? Can he do that as an equal or does he tend to fawn over or humor others?

Does this candidate know how to differentiate a weak case from a strong one? If handed a weak case for support, would he or she know how to make it better?

Is this candidate an orchestrator of activity, one who know how to use the tools of the office and the talents within the organization to make the strongest possible impact on a prospective donor or do they have a tendency to act like a lone wolf ("I can do this by myself." "I just need everyone to get out of my way." "These are my prospects and everyone needs to keep their hands off them." "I'm the only one who can get to this person.") Will they integrate prospects into the live of our community or isolate them from it?

Does this candidate know how to do advancement work within the organization as well as without? Can they develop relationships within? Establish communications with key co-workers? Cultivate the support of others in our organization? Ask for others' help and support without worrying if it makes them appear less-than-competent?

Many of us in advancement are fond of describing it as a relationship-building endeavor. If so, it is wise to look for professionals who know that the best of relationships are built from mutual interest, personal parity and complementary skills. The most accomplished of practitioners will naturally seek out others, within and without, to create more competent and caring communities of common cause. They will draw lessons from their most successful personal relationships -- and those may take all variety of forms -- and apply them to their professional associations.

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