In recent months, we’ve seen a lot of hiring activity in associations and nonprofits—specifically, an uptick in newly created positions. Defining a new job can be a daunting task but it is well worth the time and effort. Designed with the right approach, every new position has the potential to build your team’s capacity to better serve your community and fulfill your mission. Here’s how we help clients define a new role when there’s work to be done and no clear precedent to follow.

Step 1: Determine the Impact

Before you dig into job responsibilities, orient the position within your organization and define the impact you want your new hire to make.

  • What larger business problem do you hope this new hire will solve? Have there been changes in the external landscape or within your organization that are driving this decision?
  • How do you see this role fitting within your overall vision and strategy?
  • What results do you expect your new hire to achieve in the first year or two? What metrics will you use to evaluate their performance?

Step 2: Define Job Responsibilities

What work will land on this person’s desk? Think about the decisions this person will have to make, the type and amount of work they will need to do, and who they will need to work with to succeed.

  • What certain types of problems or issues will this person regularly address?
  • What tasks, projects, or initiatives will they lead or work on right away? What will they lead or work on after some time in the role?
  • Approximately how much time will they spend on each aspect of the job? What are their priorities?
  • What resources and tools will they manage or have at their disposal?
  • Who will they work with, report to, and/or supervise within your organization? What are your collaboration and communication expectations?
  • Who will they work with outside your organization? On which projects, tasks, or initiatives, and in what capacity?
  • What might be challenging about this work? What are potential roadblocks?

Step 3: Identify Job Competencies

Now it’s time to think about job competencies: the knowledge, skills, and abilities this person needs to fulfill their responsibilities and achieve your goals for the position.

Competencies tend to be objective and measurable. For example, “good communication skills” isn’t an effective framing for job competency—it’s too vague and open for interpretation. But being skilled at presenting to and persuading high-level executives is a specific, measurable job competency under the bigger umbrella of communication skills.

Identify 3-5 relevant job competencies and use those to shape how you organize the job responsibilities and write your position overview.

Step 4: Look at How Other Organizations Structure the Work

While some similarities may exist, most associations and nonprofits assign and organize job responsibilities differently. Make sure you organize the work in a way that is attractive to candidates and makes sense in the market. Here’s how:

  • Look at job postings from a variety of organizations to see if they are looking for the same blend of skills that you are looking for. Have you organized the work differently than the rest of the job market? Or does your job look like work being done elsewhere?
  • Read LinkedIn profiles of professionals doing similar work. Are there people in the market with the combination of skills you require? In other words, can what you are looking for be “found in nature?” If not, what can you prioritize differently?

Step 5: Choose the Right Title for the Market

Candidates click on a job posting because of its potential appeal; the title is a big part of that. Choose a title that reflects other jobs in the market that require similar skills, at a similar seniority level, and with a similar amount of complexity.

Many organizations have internal titles that differ from the market. Smaller organizations tend to use higher titles, while larger organizations tend to use smaller titles. For example, a director role at a larger organization may require the same job competencies and experience as a vice president at a smaller organization. You may want to use a different title for your job advertising to attract the right experience level. Just be sure to disclose the internal title in your job advertising.

Step 6: Estimate Fair Market Salary…and Verify

Given the amount of work your new hire will have to do, the competencies needed to succeed in the role, and the complexity of the position, what salary range will attract top performers? Regardless of your budget and internal pay bands, you must offer fair market value compensation to attract a diverse group of highly qualified candidates. Here’s how to figure that out:

  • Look at multiple compensation surveys to get an idea of market value. They often provide drastically different benchmarks, so it is important to look at more than one. You can do this on your own, but because the data is typically 1-2 years old (and varies so widely), we suggest working with a compensation consultant to make the best estimate for the current market. For nonprofits in the Washington, DC area, SmithPilot and Quatt Associates are trusted advisors our team and clients have worked with for years. They draw from various surveys, including PRM, NCA, ASAE, and ERI.
  • Once you’ve estimated the salary, posted it publicly in your job advertising, and begun talking with promising candidates, you might need to tweak that number. Choose the midpoint of their salary requirements as a reference.
  • There is no substitute for interviewing people. Gathering salary expectations from candidates who can do the work, in your location, in your issue area/industry, at the scale of the work, size of your team, and with the level of resources you can offer is far more valuable than any survey. After interviewing six qualified people, you can trust that the ones in the middle of the pay range will represent fair market pay for the role.

Step 6: Write a Position Overview That Attracts Top Performers

All top performers are driven by achievement and the need to do important work. And everyone wants to hire them. But the definition of top performer changes in different contexts. Success is highly dependent on work environment and top skills for a role five years ago may be irrelevant today. Take the time to define what top performer means for your job in this market. Here’s some guidance to help.

Before assembling these pieces into a position overview, put yourself in a top performer’s shoes. What factors are most appealing about this role with your organization right now? Is it the opportunity to build a new division from the ground up? Or regularly connect with industry leaders to shape policy? This is your pitch, your story. Weave it into your position overview so top performers can see if it is a story they’d like to be a part of.

If you are honest about challenges, clear about expectations, and tell a compelling story, you will draw the right candidates in.

More Resources

For a step-by-step guide to help you write a position overview that directly appeals to every candidate’s desire to make an impact and find meaningful work, read Staffing Advisors’ Guide to Effective Advertising.