The Right Fit for Socially Responsible Businesses

William Colgrove’s most important role at Threespot is to find and recruit talent. As the COO of this small creative agency in DC specializing in nonprofit and public sector projects, he spends a lot of time “walking the earth” (as he calls it) to find people who are the right fit. “Many say ‘always be closing.’” William told me, “Well I believe, ‘always be interviewing.’”

The right fit matters a lot for Threespot. They are a lean team of multidimensional professionals working for the tight budgets of nonprofit clients. That makes each new hire a big opportunity for the entire organization as well as a big responsibility.  

So what exactly does the right fit look like for the Threespot team? William explained to me his three strongest indicators of success.

Naturally Curious

William is looking for people who got a “B” on a college design assignment and then reworked it because they wanted to see if they could make it better. This “going above and beyond” mentality isn’t about needing to be perfect. It’s about having a genuine curiosity in the work and a borderline obsession with pursuing that curiosity.

William is looking for people who are eager to learn and grow. This means putting in the work and actively engaging with the rest of the team. William also looks for people with interests outside of their core functional area. Obviously the majority of work will be where a new hire excels, but William wants people eager for stretch assignments that will build their multidimensional skillset.  

Motivated by the Work

As I alluded to before, Threespot is a socially responsible business that works primarily on projects for nonprofits. These projects are tackled by flat teams (Threespot has very few managers) who leverage flexible work schedules. This approach certainly appeals to me, but it’s not for everyone.

William is looking for people who will show up every day psyched about ThreeSpot. The productive and creative energy of a motivated team leads to great work. Plus, life is just more fun when you’re surrounded by enthusiasm and excitement. Both of these are important to William and Threespot.

Strong Skills

While Threespot is committed to growth and development, William will also admit that the right fit for Threespot is a person who is just plain great at what they do. On a small team where everyone matters, William is looking for people who can do their work quite well in a short amount of time, take feedback, and then make it great.

Generally this means Threespot is not looking for entry level talent. 2-3 years of professional experience is the minimum requirement I’ve seen on Threespot’s website. But as I mentioned before, William is always interviewing and believes in the idea of building relationships with good people who are building their skills.

While William is certainly focused on finding a very specific professional for the Threespot team, our conversation brings up a couple of important points that I’ve noticed across the socially responsible business landscape, especially at the more junior level:

  • Skills are the bottom-line for hiring decisions. Much to the chagrin of entry-level professionals, small businesses (which make up the vast majority of socially responsible businesses) need professionals who can deliver immediate, tangible results in order to stay in business. Young professional stand out when they have built skills during college or the first couple years of their career that are relevant to these socially responsible businesses.
  • Culture and purpose fit are key factors in hiring decisions. If you have the skills, hiring managers will then look for whether your values and motivations align with the organization. Expressing this alignment effectively means taking the time to learn about the culture and purpose of an organization. Blogs, social media, and informational interviews are great ways to uncover this information.
  • Relationships, not resumes, lead to job offers. What I find most interesting about William’s hiring style is that it’s so relationship focused. All of the intangible factors like curiosity and motivations emerge in the conversations he’s perpetually having with potential hires. This is important for entry-level professionals to remember, especially if they don’t have the skills yet. Building relationships with small businesses you want to work for in the future (while building the skills you need) will put you first in line when opportunities emerge.

Even if you’re not ready for your next career move, I hope you consider how what you’re doing now is positioning you for that eventual transition. What skills are you building? What relationships are you cultivating? And how are both of these moving you toward where you want to go?

If you are looking for a new role and are interested in using your design and communications skills on exciting projects with nonprofits, check out Threespots current Jr. User Experience Lead opening. Hopefully, you’re ready to show William and the rest of the Threespot team why you’re the right fit.