Who is your competition for that association or nonprofit Director of Human Resources job in the Washington DC job market?
When you see a job advertisement, some aspects of the job are obvious. You can envision the kind of work you would be doing, and recognize the new skills you can learn. Maybe you can even take a peek at the 990 tax filing to see the salary of the last person in that job.
But you almost never see your competition for the job, or know what truly drives the hiring decision.
That’s why we’re bringing a little transparency to the hiring process, by pulling back the curtain on the data we’ve collected from our executive searches for Human Resources professionals in the association and nonprofit sectors.
What do you need to know about association and nonprofit Director of Human Resources jobs?
An association or nonprofit Director of HR is a hands-on business strategist, making recommendations and leading initiatives that drive business impacts, while managing the day-to-day HR fundamentals.
Each organization has unique HR requirements and differing focus areas. If you have a specialty area that you’re really good at, that may give you an edge if that’s what the hiring organization is looking for. Otherwise, decision points at this level are often made around your scope of experience with compensation or performance planning, workforce development, and HRIS.
So how will your resume stack up against your serious competitors?
Hiring requirements vary widely and are unique to each employer’s situation. But HR jobs are variations on a theme, and there are a few things that employers usually tell us they want to see:
- Do you proactively provide advice and counsel to your organization’s leadership team? Do you recommend personnel policies and procedures to establish a healthy, functioning employee base?
- Have you participated in the strategic planning process, developing and implementing HR strategies and solutions that support short- and long-term business objectives?
- Do you present assessments and data to decision-makers on the impact of HR policies and procedures on organizational performance -- staffing, benefits, training programs, professional development?
- Do you support department managers with coaching and guidance? Do you partner with managers to implement workforce planning strategies? To develop performance objectives? To navigate disciplinary processes?
- Have you created strategies around a wide range of HR functions: workforce planning, performance management, employee development, retention, staff training, teambuilding, compensation and benefits?
- Have you designed and conducted training to promote professional growth of staff?
- Do you provide counsel and guidance on employee relations? Have you provided coaching for conflict resolution processes? Do you have experience using ADR?
- Have you built, established, or fixed an HR function? Do you have experience managing organizational change, ambiguity, or adversity -- setting up a department, dealing with challenging management issues, restructuring dysfunctional HR processes?
- Have you developed key performance metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of your HR programs? Do you track and analyze trends?
- Are you responsible for managing a budget? Do you conduct cost analysis? Ensure budget allocations are aligned with internal mandates and priorities?
- Do you have experience managing an HR team? Overseeing vendors or consultants?
- Do you proactively advise the executive team of anything that puts the organization at risk legally? Are you responsible for ensuring compliance?
And what might prevent you from getting the job?
The most common reason candidates do not move forward in this kind of role is because they are perceived as being too focused on compliance or reporting.
Hiring managers are interested in candidates who are oriented toward the organization and its employees, creating a solid HR foundation which is the lifeblood of the organization from the staff perspective. A strong candidate will have extensive experience partnering with leadership at a strategic level and serving as a trusted resource for managers.
If you aspire to be an association or nonprofit Director of Human Resources, how can you set yourself apart?
We recommend that you:
- Obtain your credentials as an SPHR, if you haven’t already. Undergo additional training or take classes for certified programs through accredited colleges.
- Develop your skills and experience to be a strong, proficient generalist across all aspects of HR fundamentals. Go beyond specialist areas and acquire experience executing the full range of HR tasks.
- Partner with managers, directors, and executives on special projects, initiatives and business objectives.
- Establish timelines and protocols to ensure HR activities are accomplished in a timely manner. Communicate requirements and deadlines across the organization. Hold information sessions to educate staff on requirements and procedures.
- Work with managers and senior leadership on coaching. Proactively identify ways to support managers.
- Mentor and guide direct reports, to include determining work assignments, priorities, performance expectations, and standards of accountability.
- Seek out a mentor, from either within your organization or a local SHRM or ASAE professional. Proactively manage up to the executive team for mentoring and exposure to senior leadership.
- Stay current with HR laws and practices by undergoing additional training outside your organization. Attend conferences and workshops to learn new ideas and trends.
How do you get yourself noticed by employers?
Just doing the work and developing the right skills is not enough. If you want more career opportunities to come your way, you need to make yourself visible. Highlight aspects of your background that employers will seek out most often. Frame your experience using the same language that employers and recruiters use for the job description.
At a minimum, your resume, website bio, and LinkedIn profile should reflect key concepts that help you stand out from your competition. One of the best places to find the right language is in the job advertisements that you find attractive. But to get you started, here is a short list of key phrases used in some of our recent searches:
Strategy: drive HR initiatives, strategic oversight, continuously refine HR program, advisory skills, align with business objectives, HR business solutions, process development, developed SOPs, strategic planning experience
Leadership: collaborated with leadership, partner with managers, management advice, business leadership, client relationships, hands-on practitioner, managed staff, restructured team, vendor relationships, served on executive committee, provided counsel
Organizational development: developed metrics, ensure compliance, leadership development, executive coaching, employee engagement, organizational planning, organizational structure, change management, contained costs, managed risk
Workforce planning: talent identification, talent acquisition, succession planning, redefined recruitment function, employee retention, strategic staffing, hire negotiations
Performance management: develop performance management program, coaching skills, performance goals, competency development, teambuilding, improved employee performance
Employee development: professional growth, designed training, staff training, mentoring, team development, 360 degree feedback, career management
Employee relations: conflict resolution, ADR, facilitator, conducted investigations
Compensation and benefits planning: designed benefits program, cost effectiveness review, compensation practices, benchmarked benefits, implemented pay structure, payroll system conversion
Technology: implement HRIS, integrated HRIS, survey tools
We hope you found this overview helpful.
All of our open searches can be found here. If none of our current searches are a match for you, you are welcome to send us a copy of your resume so we can keep you in mind for future openings. Please email your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: "Keep me in mind."
As a candidate, what can you do to make hiring more personal?
What exactly improves your odds of creating a strong connection with another human being? How can you get the attention of the hiring manager and make your case? How can you get your point across even when the hiring process is trapped in the land before time? Your ability to tell the right stories about your experience is every bit as important as your experience itself.
The Staffing Advisors team has successfully completed hundreds of executive searches. We know from experience that the job search process is stressful for even the most accomplished executives. But it doesn't have to be. It’s what our Job Search Guide is for.
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