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Non Profit Leadership: Want to Know the Best Hiring Question ?


womNo matter what level person you are interviewing… Non Profit Executive Director, or Volunteer staff person you need to know what they have accomplished, not just what skills they have.

I was CEO of an Executive Search firm for years. We received large fees for finding top talent for fortune 500 companies. One thing I learned well was that people are managed on performance not on their resume skills. Many people who have great skill sets on paper –   never perform in the real world.

So what is the best question to ask a potential team member?…  ask them the SMARTE question. Ask them a question using this acronym to describe their most significant business accomplishments in detail.

While it’s only one question, it’s repeated multiple times for each category of responsibility, to make sure you’re covering all aspects of expected performance. You need to evaluate new team members not on resume skills, but on successful actions at their last position.  Most jobs are really a series of performance tasks like “redesign the accounting  system to track donations better” rather than a list of skills, such as 5 years accounting management.

Here is the SMARTE question to ask all potential team members.

  • Specific task:  please describe the specific task, challenge, project, or problem you solved in your last position?
  • Measurable: What actually changed, How did you or your manager measure your performance?
  • Action: What actions did you actually accomplish and what was your specific role in their success?
  • Result: What were a few actual results you achieved the past year in your role.?
  • Timeframe: When did this accomplishment take place and how long did it take from start to end?
  • Environment: What was the environment you had to accomplish this under, such as crisis mode, personnel issues,  level of sophistication, the people involved.?

Ask the SMARTE question and forget the resume skills and you will really get to know what someone accomplished not what they have unused skills in.


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Georgia Institute for Non Profit Leadership Atlanta, Georgia Stephen C Monahan, President
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