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Nonprofit Hiring During the Coronavirus Pandemic: Your FAQs Answered


During this unprecedented time, it’s never been more important to have strong leaders at the helm of nonprofits across the country. The COVID-19 outbreak has created many questions for both organizations and nonprofit job seekers navigating the hiring process.

Over the past days and weeks, our Executive Search team has fielded many questions about recruitment in this time of social distancing. To help the nonprofit sector with hiring and job seeking during the coronavirus pandemic, we answered your frequently asked questions and shared them below.


Should my organization move forward with hiring during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Each organization has a unique situation based on its location, its mission, and a host of other factors. If you must make tough decisions, clarify the difference between essential and non-essential hires, and remember that searching for an executive leader is typically a 16- to 18-week process. (Essential hires are those that will adversely impact the organization if delayed.)

Since this work is future-focused, ask yourself: Where does our organization need to be in four, six, twelve months? When the dust settles, people will still be looking for great jobs, and organizations will need excellent leadership more than ever.

As you’re assessing the immediate impact of COVID-19 on your organization, also give thought to the longer-term ramifications and how they might affect hiring. Will there be increased demand for certain programs after social distancing guidelines are lifted? Will funding need to increase to address these demands? If so, will certain skillsets be more of a priority than anticipated before the pandemic?

There is only so much we can predict, given the rapidly-changing circumstances, but the more you’re able to consider the long term, the more successful you’ll be in hiring the leader you need to bring your organization out of this crisis.

As for the nuts and bolts of hiring, our team knows from experience that virtual recruitment can be extremely successful. Videoconferencing platforms have made remote interviews more seamless than ever. Read our video interviewing tips for more guidance on that front.

How can we ensure an equitable recruitment process in this unprecedented situation?

An equitable recruitment process means that each candidate goes through the same interview stages, often progressing from phone screens to face-to-face meetings.

During the coronavirus pandemic, organizations need to ensure the wellbeing of their job candidates. Many candidates may not feel comfortable coming to your office for an interview. Holding some interviews in person while conducting the rest virtually puts your remote candidates at a disadvantage.

To keep candidates safe and focus on equity, we strongly recommend you hold all interviews remotely during this outbreak. Also, be careful to avoid asking potentially illegal questions about the health and wellbeing of an applicant.

Everyone at our organization is temporarily working from home. How should we handle onboarding a new leader?

There’s no doubt that onboarding under these circumstances will be challenging, but it’s possible to have a strong, productive start with the right approach and preparation.

If you have clear documentation that lays out your onboarding process, lean on it during this time to ensure a smooth transition. And if you don’t, start pulling it together now. Be sure to ask the new leader if there are additional resources not included in the documentation that would help them start work effectively.

New leaders need to build trust immediately, so constant communication with staff and the board will also be imperative. We recommend holding all the normal onboarding conversations via videoconference. Consistent dialogue will go a long way towards calming anxieties until you can meet face to face.

What else should we be thinking about in terms of hiring and talent management?

If you’re running a national search, recognize that job seekers may not be comfortable relocating during a time of such uncertainty. Take this into account as you source candidates and build your timeline. If possible, try to maximize your search locally to ensure you reach out to all the best available talent. Sourcing local talent avoids relocation issues and any risky air travel.

When it comes to your existing staff, be prepared to fill critical roles if a team member needs to be quarantined. If you have emergency succession plans for these roles, review them with your leadership team and board and update them as necessary. If you don’t have plans prepared, develop them now. Get started on your own emergency succession plan using this template from CompassPoint.

For more on this topic, read our succession planning blog series.


I’m not comfortable doing in-person interviews during this time. How should I respond if an organization invites me to its office?

We recommend requesting a video interview in lieu of an in-person meeting. Stress that you look forward to having the opportunity to meet face to face in the future, but that you’d feel more comfortable using videoconferencing at this time.

I don’t have a lot of experience with video interviews. How can I prepare for a virtual hiring process?

There’s a learning curve to video interviewing, so practice as much as you can. If possible, simulate various scenarios with friends or family: one-on-one video interview, videoconference with a panel, etc. The more comfortable you are with the format, the better you’ll perform.

We share more advice in these video interviewing tips, including guidance on dress, interview location, equipment testing, and note taking.  And remember: the camera is your audience. Keep your focus on your webcam (not your monitor) to achieve virtual eye contact.

In this time of uncertainty, what additional questions should I ask during the interview process?

As always, we recommend thoroughly researching the organization before an interview: review its website, search for recent news articles, and follow it on social media. This should give you a general feel for how it’s handling the COVID-19 pandemic and how the outbreak is impacting its operations.

 During the interview, you may want to go deeper into these topics, asking questions such as:

  • How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your revenue and programs?
  • What changes has the organization made to adapt to the situation?
  • Do you anticipate any shifts in the hiring timeline for this position?

Questions like these will help you vet the organization, assess its stability, and gauge whether it will move forward with hiring.

We know this is a uniquely challenging time, but we are here to help you get through it. If you have questions specific to your situation, reach out at any time. Our team is offering 30-minute consultations at no charge.

Please contact us at to set up a conversation and visit our COVID-19 nonprofit resource page for more guidance.

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Kris Landin McFeely
For more than 22 years, Kris McFeely has worked with Campbell & Company’s Executive Search team to find talented individuals that can make an impact on an organization’s mission for...
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