Staff Post: Ashley Hare - Liberatory Hiring Practices

October 19, 2022

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Hi Guild Fam! I hope this update finds you hydrated, rested, and full of joy. Since our previous touch base last year, many things have been moving and shaking at the Guild. What an exciting time! Over the past year, I have learned so much about what it means to be an “Equity Officer”, a position many nonprofits are making on their journey to be anti-racist. This blog post will be accompanied with a virtual Portal Cafe where we can harvest stories together. Right now, I want to discuss new hiring practices we’ve been creating. There is sooooo much deep, intentional, human-centered work to be done when starting the process of bringing someone new into your organization. Starting a hiring process requires full focus and dedication. Here are a few of the new practices I have really fallen in love with…

Share the job description with staff first

Every staff member has needs and desires when adding a +1 to the team. All staff, yes even the operations person who may only work with the open position 3 to 4 times a year, need to see and give thought to the job description before posting. The Guild staff have contributed amazing thoughts during our past two hires. They are part of my community of practice, and provide multiple lenses in crafting policy and practice. Sharing with full transparency also allows conversations to arise that may have been causing tension, such as compensation inequities causing resentment, or overlapping role responsibilities causing confusion. If your current policy is to only include the Executive Director and Direct Supervisor, ask yourself why? More can be gained from creating collective excitement around a shared open position, than moving from fear of conflict. 

Make a timeline

One of the things we received positive feedback from applicants about during our most recent hiring process was including a detailed timeline and sticking to it. If we desire to move at the speed of relationship building, and not paternalism and urgency, then a timeline is a “must” tool for accountability. Having a timeline allowed me to see where we, at first, left no time to rest and breathe. We were able to rework until we felt air throughout the timeline process. Sharing the timeline as part of the job posting allowed applicants to feel their time was being valued, and gave them space to plan accordingly and also show up rested. Oh, and if your timeline is wildy long, you need to pay people for their time. That topic is its own blog post…

Include an all staff interview

This part is so vital. As an applicant, it always confused me why the final interview would be with just the Executive Director or the direct supervisor, but not the whole team. When a friend invites me to a cookout, I always ask “Who’s all gonna be there?” If we believe interviewing is a two-way street, then of course an applicant should see who’s all at the table. Having an interview where everyone is in the room is such a delightful experience, you really get to see and feel the group dynamic. I also recommend a debrief space with staff. Again, it’s helpful to have multiple lenses to catch things I might not have.

Reciprocate Energy

Ah, so vital again! In our last application for an open position, we asked for one question to be answered. No cover letter or letters of recommendation. Just a resume and answer to one question. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Reflecting and writing (or video/audio submissions) takes so much time! Because of this, I have to spend the same amount of time responding to each and every applicant. After each round, I went back to the original email and responded. I did not ghost anyone. I did not write one mass “No, thanks” email bcc’ing everyone. In my individual response emails, I did copy/paste some general sentences from a template, but I dedicated myself to including at least one sentence which shared some of the reasoning for our decision. I even used an emoji! Set a boundary with your colleagues to give yourself time on your calendar to be human and respond accordingly. We have all created breath and space when applying to a 70-page NEA grant. Do the same for people. 


Here are some of many responses to our new human-centered hiring practices: 

“Hi Ashley! Thanks for your note. I just wanted to let you know that this is the BEST ‘rejection letter’ I have ever received. Bravo. Between the thoughtfulness of this correspondence, to what I am guessing is all 140 applicants in addition to how awesome the organization sounds to work for based on the job description, I think your final candidate is one lucky person. I mean, I am sending you a thank you note for not giving me a job, lol. I just like to call out kindness and good work when I see it. Thanks again!”

“Thank You Ashley! Your response and feedback is much appreciated. It certainly provides helpful context of which I wish more organizations would model after during the hiring process. Best Wishes!”

“I greatly appreciate you letting me know! While I am saddened that I was not able to move forward with this, I was moved by your organization's commitment to transformation with the intention of being in true alignment with the values and mission y'all adhere to and I would love to keep in touch somehow. I genuinely wish that there were more organizations that would be willing to do the same, as I have seen organizations value themselves over the work to the point that they will sacrifice everything (from staff to community members) to not seriously change the organization to address desperately necessary internal work.”

These highlights in our new process are just the beginning. I am curious if any of you have thoughts on these, or other practices not mentioned? Some lingering questions are: How much and when do we compensate interviewees? When do we involve board members? Do we maintain relationships with final candidates? Where are we posting the job to ensure a diverse pool of candidates? 

I hope you join me at the upcoming Portal Cafe so we can continue this discussion!


Update: We had a wonderful Portal Cafe discussion based on this blog post on November 30, 2022! You can read some key points and tips shared by the collective about liberatory hiring practices in this recap.

Published: October 19, 2022