We’re chatting with hiring managers and human resources professionals from a variety of organizations to get their take on how to land a great opportunity. Read all of the advice in this series. Want to be interviewed? Join our HR Council.
I recently had the opportunity to interview HR Generalist Tashia Graham of Fenway Health, an LGBT healthcare, research, and advocacy organization headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Graham had sound advice specific for those interested in her cause area as well as general guidance for any job seeker.
How long have you been at Fenway Health and how would you describe your role?
I’ve been a working in nonprofit HR for about five years, and at Fenway for over two years. In my current role as a Human Resources generalist, I oversee the recruitment process, create requisitions, screen applicants and work with hiring managers. I also am involved in employee relations, benefits and compensation.
You’ve mentioned that it is important for a candidate to do his/her research. What are some of the best ways a job seeker can research an organization for an application (and interview)?
The company website is a good place to start, but go beyond the “About Us” page. Research the mission, the population served, and the work culture. Look at staff bios and be thorough with looking at the organization’s services and social media pages. Also be sure to check LinkedIn for an inside connection and to see who works at the organization.
How do you recruit direct care employees? What's your hiring process like overall?
We use Idealist for behavioral health positions. For medical and nursing, we use specialty sites, schools, and professional associations. A lot of recruiting is done via employee referrals. There are typically about 15-20 positions open at any given time.
A lot of the hiring is done in June, July, and August. In 2013, 40% of our hires came from staff referrals. We also get a lot of hires that are already familiar with Fenway because they are patients here. The rest come from our own website or online job boards.
Please share a story of a time a candidate stood out to you. What did they do to set themselves apart?
At a job fair at a public health school, a candidate had already looked at our website before he came to the event. He had identified the positions he was interested in and spoke about the reasons that he was a good fit. The candidate came prepared with a cover letter and examples that showed he had learned about Fenway. He even mentioned one of our research studies that he learned about in class.
Do you research candidates on social media?
Occasionally, if I recognize a name or place where they worked, or if I want to find out more about an organization where they worked, then I’ll look into it. I mainly use LinkedIn, not other social media channels. Hiring managers might look elsewhere.
What do you wish interviewees asked you?
Ask what your interviewer likes about the organization. Ask about a challenge the department is facing.
What are some common mistakes you see among job seekers?
Not following instructions. 90% of our positions require a cover letter, yet applicants frequently don’t submit them. Those that do may not be targeted to our organization or don’t specifically mention the job they are applying for. For instance, a cover letter for a research nurse position should be different than one for a clinical nurse.
What aspects of the job search do candidates focus on that aren’t really that important to you?
With few exceptions, I don’t need to know what courses they took. Written reference letters are also not necessary. It’s just extra paper. These are not strikes against the candidate, just not necessary. Also, simple is better, especially when it comes to fonts.
What do you expect to see from a new hire 30 days after employment? 3 months? 1 year?
There is a provisional period for the first 90 days. In the first 30 days, there is basic training. Hiring managers select the training goals and evaluate the candidate. They are encouraged to evaluate after 60 days and a 90-day evaluation is required. The evaluation includes job skills, competency with the patients they serve and fit within the position and department. The new hire evaluates the organization as well.
At your organization, what is more important for a candidate to have, passion or skill?
It depends on the position. There is a dichotomy of research/administrative positions and clinical positions. For research and admin positions, passion is more important. For the clinical positions, skill is more important.
What misconceptions do people have about your cause area?
We are a community health center. I think a lot of people think that we only do LGBT health. About 50% of our patients doe identify as LGBT and we specialize in serving that community but we do serve the whole community.
What’s one trait that all candidates need if they want to work in this cause area (LGBT health, community health, HIV/AIDS) regardless of role?
Passion for serving underserved communities and sensitivity with serving LGBT populations.
What roles are the hardest to fill in your org? Why? And cause area?
Licensed clinical social workers and bilingual social workers. The population of clinical workers in New England is not very diverse, which makes it difficult. For entry-level positions, be sure to get your resume in as soon as possible. We get flooded with applicants for these jobs. Apply sooner rather than later. It is better to get your documents in even if your cover letter isn’t perfect. If you wait two weeks to apply you may not be considered.
By Victoria Crispo