Standing Out: Take Ownership over the Scope of a Role

Beth Flores has been hiring a lot recently. After joining Impact Hub DC as Managing Director, she’s been laser focused on taking the entire Impact Hub experience to the next level. For Beth, that means investing in talent that will both fill existing capacity needs and seize growth opportunities.

She’s spent her first six months on the job digging into what exactly those capacity needs and growth opportunities are. Beth is no stranger to tackling complex problems, coming from a career doing just that in the federal government. But she has learned there’s a big difference between identifying a hiring opportunity and scoping an actual role.

In a small organization like the Impact Hub, every role is a unique blend of functions. Building a job descriptions that captures all of the necessary responsibilities, includes enough flexibility for growth in the role and attracts the right candidates is a tough and time consuming task. This process itself often changes the role dramatically.

As if this doesn’t make scoping the role challenging enough, Beth is also trying to decide on the right mx of functional competence, enthusiasm for the role and knowledge of the space. As a career switcher herself, Beth wants to be as open as possible to candidates with less functional and sector experience who are eager to learn, grow and take initiative. But a big investment in talent also needs to have short-term payoffs to be worth it, and Beth needs someone who can make an immediate impact as well. 

This conflict between hiring people who can learn and hiring people with the right skills is something I see hiring managers dealing with across the social sector. Unlike Beth, many hiring managers lean heavily toward hiring experienced talent that can make an impact immediately.

A challenge with this hiring approach is that experienced talent are less inclined to take a role that is initially ambiguous and will evolve over time. They want to continue to hone the skills they’ve already gained in their career, and those skills are also valued by the private sector who can offer strong incentives.

In a space where role ambiguity is more the rule than the exception, young professionals have a big opportunity to stand out to employers with their ability to deal with ambiguity and willingness to grow with a role rather than have it defined from the outset.

How do you show these things in an interview? I asked Beth what would impress her.

Above all else, she wants to see a candidate take ownership over the scope of the role in the interview process. Take time to consider what problem this position is trying to solve and brainstorm ways to solve that problem beyond what is written on the job description.   

In the interview, ask how the role aligns with the objectives of the organization. Come prepared with ways you can contribute to those objectives, regardless of role you’re applying for.

For hiring managers like Beth who are open to considering less functional fit – this is impressive.

Are you ready to take ownership over the scope of next job you apply for? It just so happens that Beth is currently hiring for a Social Innovation Programming Director to build Impact Hub programs that drive greater value to existing members and greater traffic of potential members.

This is the first post in a blog series called Standing Out which profiles social enterprise managers on what stands out to them in entry level applicants. Get all of the insights from the series and more by signing up for the Mission Driven Monthly Newsletter.