Breaking News… advertising jobs doesn’t work anymore.

The perception, cost and principles of search in the Not for Profit sector.

If you are recruiting for an NFP organisation, you are probably relying on advertising campaigns to find and attract candidates.

Have you found that the success of your recruitment campaigns is mixed at best? Have you had to wearily return to the market, sometimes more than once?

This phenomenon is not just the lot of small NFP’s with less compelling profiles in the competitive talent marketplace. It also applies to organisations with great brands and high-profile ambassadors; iconic international providers of community aid; and relatively well-paid and resourced sectors such as Education and Health.

Why do advertising campaigns fail? Certainly many NFP’s simply don’t possess specialist recruitment expertise.  And it’s likely those tasked with recruiting are either a time-poor senior executive or a thinly-resourced human resource “department” (ie a single hr generalist).  Focused on their demanding “day jobs”, neither has the time nor capacity to thoroughly research nor reach out to top talent via Search.

In this context, it’s hard for them to identify stand out candidates, let alone engage and retain candidates’ interest throughout a process which may have been prolonged due to sparse internal resources.

However, I believe the overriding reason why advertising doesn’t work anymore is this. The very best talent must be sought out in the market. To rely solely on advertising is a hit and miss approach in this media and digital saturated era.

I’ve picked up many assignments on what I call the “rebound” cycle. These have often been at CEO or upper management level; unique or highly specialised roles; and Fund Raising positions. After their own advertising has failed and valuable time has been lost, clients have decided to retain an external recruiter. At this stage, Search has proven successful where Advertising has failed.

We all know that the nature of advertising itself has changed. Print lost its battle with online long ago. At the same time, Search has been changing too, in three key ways:

  1. Let’s drop the “Executive” from Search. It’s no longer a process used exclusively for very senior positions. The remuneration and seniority levels are no longer relevant to the decision to use a Search methodology.
  2. Search was traditionally regarded as a high cost recruitment option. Today, it is price-competitive with the fee-for-placement option. Importantly, for Search you pay in stages for effort and results.
  3. Success of Search no longer relies on “who you know” and a “network” of contacts. This is an anachronistic approach that can sometimes result in a “revolving door” of recycled candidates.


Search is the art of identifying the very best candidates based on merit and capability. Success begins with deep datamining using specialist technological applications.  Of course the technology is only as good as the search consultant’s ability to take and apply an accurate brief and identify potential candidates and referrers; and finally, to engage candidates and steward them through the recruitment process to a successful outcome.