In August 2018, Mission Talent placed Aura Freeman as Head of Campaigns – Animals in Disasters at World Animal Protection. She previously worked in human rights as a senior campaigner with Amnesty International and with the United Nations, covering issues from LGBT and refugee rights, to FGM and ending slavery.
Before you joined World Animal Protection, you were a campaigner and researcher for human rights for various NGOs. How did you manage this shift from human to animal rights?
I had never worked in animal welfare before joining World Animal Protection, but what really helped was my campaigner skillset. The approach is very much the same: there's a problem and we want to change something in the system. This involves building a strategy, identifying the kinds of tools and tactics that you can use to influence your target audience, and hopefully, get the outcome that you desire.
I did read up a little bit about animal welfare before joining, but I've also had a chance to now learn about it in a more systematic way within the organisation. I think it’s really great that you can shift from one thematic area to another because that flexibility allows you to bring in new perspectives as well. My human rights background has certainly helped me navigate this area with a bit of a different viewpoint and that's been very good.
Bright Ekweremadu is the Country Director of CBM in Nigeria, an organisation working to improve the lives of people with disabilities in the poorest countries worldwide. He was previously the Managing Director at Society for Family Health (SFH), where he served for 14 years.
How have you enjoyed the first months with CBM? What has surprised you about your new role?
I have been here for about three months, and it has been really exciting. I have wonderful colleagues in the country, regional, and international offices as well as the member associates — who are all very helpful, experienced and passionate about their work. It is very motivating and reassuring that I am in the right place.
One major surprise that struck me a few days after I joined is that CBM’s is not as widely known in Nigeria. Even though CBM started here in 1968, it is more known through the work done by its programme implementation partners than by itself. I think we all have to work on making CBM’s name known a lot more — not to take the glory, but for people to know that there is an organisation supporting these partners and their great work.
If you reflect on your transition from Society for Family Health to CBM, how do the two organisations compare in terms of organisational culture and challenges?
Although SFH and CBM both work in health, the two organisations have very different focus areas. At SFH, the focus is on HIV prevention, malaria, and neonatal, maternal and child health. At CBM, the overarching focus is on disability inclusiveness, which is something that is completely new to me. In Nigeria, there are a large number of people living with disabilities and nobody is listening to them or taking care of them.
Both organisations face the challenge that the Nigerian government is still not contributing as it should to public health. It is really unfortunate that the international donor agencies are the ones funding health improvement projects, and the Nigerian government is riding in the backseat. That is gradually changing, but it is going to take some more time before we get to a comfortable level.
What challenges do you see for people with disabilities in Nigeria?
I am very concerned about how persons with disability are surviving in internally displaced people’s camps. If people who are not physically challenged are finding life difficult in such situations, I can only imagine what the disabled are going through. This is one area where CBM has carved a strong niche for itself, although working in conflict areas is a major challenge for us. On a daily basis, I worry about the safety of the staff and partners. They get up in the morning and go into what I would call a battlefield to make sure that they are reaching people. The Government forces are there to help as well as the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO). INSO gathers information about safety issues in the Northeast and we get online immediate alerts once there is an issue at any place and we circulate the information to our staff members. This has been very helpful.
What projects are you currently excited about?
The Seeing is Believing project really excites me. It is a comprehensive eye health programme targeting children under five and it has made a lot of impact with regards to preventable eye problems because children are screened at a young age. For example, recently the Albino Foundation in Nigeria had a national awareness conference where a large number of albinos gathered. We used that opportunity to conduct free screenings for all participants and treating eye problems that would have gone unaddressed otherwise.
Mental health is a major problem in Nigeria and many people are walking around with stigma and are not being helped, so I am excited about the Comprehensive Mental Health Project that is being implemented by the Methodist Church in Nigeria through its NGO subsidiary called Comprehensive Community Mental Health Programme (CCMPH) based in Oturkpo in Benue state. We are currently expanding the project to Borno, which is one of the states where the insurgents have been wreaking havoc since 2009. There are a lot of psychosocial issues associated with people who leave their homes and stay in these camps, so this project could help a lot of people recovering from this trauma.
As a senior leader in Nigeria, what do you consider the key skills a good Country Director needs to bring to the health sector to make an impact?
First and foremost, you need strong advocacy skills in order to see that the relevant policies are promoted and implemented. You also need a strong network and networking skills to partner with government and other organisations. Also, you must have team building and people skills to be able to build a trusting team, socialise and get involved.
What impact did the recent elections in Nigeria have on topics like disability-inclusive development and inclusion as a whole? What challenges or changes do you expect?
An estimated 25% of people have some form of disability, yet at the most basic level, disabled people were hardly considered during the planning stages of the election. Something has to be done so that they are able to exercise their right to vote. The Government of Nigeria should strategically consider the inclusion of disabled people in governance — as is the case in most African countries. But until disabled people are included in government, they cannot be represented adequately, they need to be on the table when decisions are being made so that they are able to speak on behalf of their membership.
Unfortunately, the umbrella organisation of persons with disability in Nigeria seems to have been embroiled in a leadership crisis. This is one area where I want to get involved, to ensure that the trouble gets resolved amicably so that this group can present a common front. This would help them to confront the challenges facing them as a team so that they can speak for themselves and fight for their place at the decision-making table at both the state and federal levels.
If you look at the public health situation in West Africa as a whole, what progress do you see and what gives you hope?
The health indices in almost every country in West Africa are poor. Over 80% of people in West Africa pay for their health out of pocket despite a large number of people living below the poverty line. Recently Ghana has made progress because of its ability to embrace a health insurance scheme. Nigeria has a national health insurance scheme, but it is not working as effectively as it should. Although some state governments in Nigeria have started their own insurance schemes, it will be difficult for them to be effective if the national health insurance scheme is not working well. Both need to be rejuvenated.
Another priority is that healthcare centres need to be strengthened in terms of structure and equipment-- and more importantly in terms of human resources. Our tertiary institutions are supposed to handle only referral cases, but they have become places where people go to for primary ailments. However, there is renewed interest at the federal and state level to rebuild the primary healthcare system. The states of Lagos and Delta are piloting arrangements where private institutions run the primary healthcare centres on behalf of the government. This is an innovative and wonderful approach and I see it as the future of primary healthcare centres and the health system in Nigeria.
In 2016, Mission Talent placed Yeb Saño in the role of Executive Director with Greenpeace Southeast Asia. He previously served as Climate Change Commissioner for the Philippines at the UN climate talks. In this interview, Yeb reflects on making the transition from a diplomat to a campaigner, and what it means to be a leader in a world facing climate crisis.
You have now completed almost four years in the role of Executive Director for GPSEA — can you share how this experience has been for you?
It’s been very rewarding for me, I really love this job. Many NGOs, Greenpeace included, have undergone a lot of challenges in the past three years. But there are also many reasons to celebrate the work we do in Southeast Asia, a very important planetary battleground. This work gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning, much more than reasons for me to lose sleep at night. I have been in this role for 1275 days, and within Greenpeace, it has become a bit of a running joke that I count the days because counting days is often interpreted as being in a jail cell awaiting your freedom day. But no, I count the days because I believe every day is a blessing — I get to work with amazing and passionate people who really want to change the world. In the last three years, I've led two ship tours with the Rainbow Warrior in Southeast Asia. In Greenpeace, we say that after you have been on a ship tour, you don’t want to see the ship for a while, and so doing it for two years in a row is quite intense, but it’s been an amazing experience for me and for all the staff and volunteers.
In 2017, Mission Talent placed Melanie Rutten-Sülz in the role of Secretary General at Youth For Understanding. Melanie works at the heart of a global federation of intercultural youth exchange organisations. Previously, she was the Executive Director of the Global Coffee Platform, a multi-stakeholder sustainable coffee partnership. In this interview, Melanie reflects on what inspires her, and what she has learned from leading global membership organisations.
You have almost completed two years in the role of the Secretary-General at Youth For Understanding (YFU). Could you tell us in a nutshell, how has this been for you?
It has been an amazing journey over the last two years. I landed in a completely unknown and new organisation, with a strong mission, a very engaged and dedicated community with a global, decentralized setup, and an impressive legacy. But at the same time, from the first moment I started, I really felt at home and that I have arrived in a place where I can have an impact. I identify strongly with the mission and there are great people at YFU helping to bring the organisation into the future.
What are some of the most exciting moments you have been involved in?
Our office in Berlin is expanding and we recently welcomed two new highly-qualified team members to add to our global resarch capabilities in the southern hemisphere:
Nihal Saad Zaghloul is our new associate consultant: research with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa. Nihal holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and Engineering. Parallel to her studies, Nihal worked as a research assistant for DOX BOX e.V., where she researched Arab documentary films for their project Data is Beautiful. Nihal also worked with the International Civil Society Centre in Berlin where she organised their annual conference Global Perspectives 2018 which focused on engaging a new generation. She is also the co-founder of Imprint Foundation in Cairo, which focused on creating awareness campaigns and educational material against gender-based violence in public spaces. Read more about Nihal on Linkedin.
Anabella Botbol is Mission Talent's second new associate consultant: research and supports our research and outreach for searches in Latin America. Trained as a social psychologist, Anabella has over ten years of experience in social development, diversity and inclusion. She holds a M.A. in Intercultural Management, focusing on organizational development in cross-cultural contexts. Anabella has previously managed programs for collective action and community empowerment in Latin America, and recently advised an organization working with Syrian refugees on how to design spaces that promote childhood development. Originally from Venezuela, she is fluent in Spanish and English. Find out more about Anabella on Linkedin.
Are you interested to join our team? We are currently searching for a research and support consultant, preferably based in South Africa and fluent in both English and German to support consultants in research strategies for specific executive search clients. This includes mapping of organisations and sectors, as well as documenting outreach and communication. If you enjoy learning about people and analysing the international development and nonprofit landscape and are also organised and understand how to order across databases and other digital systems, send us your application and CV in German. Check further details under our current searches. We'd love to hear from you.
Now that 2019 is rapidly getting underway, we hope this mail finds you back at your desk and ready to do great work. While the struggles of the world can weigh heavily upon us, we hope you took some time with your family, friends - and yourself, for some reflection and renewal.
Looking back at 2018, we see shocking incidents of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct, followed by inspiring movements such as #TimesUp and #MeToo. We take strength from the courage of the individuals who have stepped forward, and we are motivated by organizations that are working to authentically address the scope of these issues. The scale of these revelations makes us at Mission Talent feel our sense of mission even more strongly. Now more than ever, the world needs strong leaders who will promote diversity, confront inappropriate behaviour, and shake the structures that allow it to continue. As your search partner, we are committed to helping you find people who can lead this change internally within our sector, and act externally as advocates for human rights in our society.
Within Mission Talent, we take energy for the coming year from our new colleagues. We recently welcomed Nihal and Anabella, who respectively bring knowledge of civil society in Egypt and Venezuela; and expertise in social psychology and lean management. In our tenth year as a company, we look forward to continuing to expand our team in 2019.
We are also inspired by some of our new clients, like BRAC, ALIMA, OPEN and the Oak Foundation, and returning clients like CBM and Greenpeace. These searches further deepen our commitment to placing diverse candidates, specifically women and leaders from the global South and East. We look forward to continuing to strengthen our expertise in recruiting diverse leadership for our clients worldwide.
We wish you every success for the coming year, that you may have a strong team around you, passion for your work, and space to personally develop and grow.
Please write to us anytime and say hello, we would be happy to hear from you.
The Mission Talent Team
Katja, Emily, Lin, Spencer, Lara, Mwende, Anabella and Nihal
It’s a career truth: one day you are the candidate, and the next you are sitting across the table leading the interview. But being a panel member is not the time to sit back and relax − your engagement plays a key role in a successful hiring process .
Since 2010 Mission Talent has led more than 340 search processes for roles in over 60 countries across the world. We have worked with a variety of panels; most of them great - though some were not engaged, others too participative and some which even pushed candidates away with an old-school hierarchical approach.
We have found that the quality of your contribution does not depend on how experienced you are: whether you have interviewed hundreds of people or whether it’s your first time, your approach, attitude, and engagement are crucial.
Let’s start at the beginning: if you are working with a hired search consultant, let them guide you. Understand and respect the process to which you have agreed; you are partners with the same goal. Do not dismiss the importance of specific steps, and ask questions if you do not understand.
An initial briefing call forms the foundation of the whole search; give the recruiter 40 minutes of your valuable time to have a briefing about the role. During this conversation, you can provide your insights into the role and share what your key requirements are. Even the best recruiters won’t find outstanding candidates for you based only on the job specification!
The role briefing is a conversation that has to happen with everyone who is part of the panel. Why? To ensure alignment amongst panel members. If you disregard this step, chances are, that weeks down the line, you’ll be forced to discuss the role when presented with candidates that not everyone finds suitable. Not only will candidates pick-up that the panel has no idea what they want, you might also find yourself back at the drawing board and having wasted the candidates’ and the recruiter's time − not to mention your own. It could even affect the reputation of your organisation.
It is your responsibility to ensure that the right questions are asked when you interview candidates. Ask your own questions; no one else can decide on your behalf what questions should be asked that would ultimately determine whether you want to hire someone or not. Therefore, before an interview, familiarise yourself with the profiles of candidates, read previous interview reports, and think about what you want to know about this candidate for you to feel equipped and comfortable in making a decision.
During an interview, have a conversation and a debate; an eye-level discussion is the respectful way to engage. There is no need for trick questions or an interrogative top-down approach. Be honest, transparent and professional. If you want to know about the candidates’ strengths, weaknesses and failures, then you should also be prepared to discuss your organisation’s successes and challenges. Not allowing candidates the time or safe space to ask questions, or even refusing to answer questions about non-confidential information is just bad manners.
It is crucial to keep in mind that, during an interview, candidates are also interviewing their potential future employer. If you do not perform and represent your organisation well, there is a big chance that you might lose the interest of your most sought-after candidates. Start off by introducing yourself as a panel− do not expect that candidates know who you are. Ensure that you also introduce the role before you start asking questions, as this will lay the foundation for an informed and trusted discussion where both parties can test suitability.
Use an appropriate setting for an interview. The setting conveys a lot about you and your organisation. Refrain from using a telephone for off-site interviews since voice calls reflect only half the story. Modern technology allows for video calls, even in areas with weak connectivity (yes, we have had interviews with someone sitting in the Zimbabwean bush with elephants strolling by in the background).
Double-check how you come across during the video call. A virtual space does not warrant you to neglect basic manners. Act as you would if you were all sitting together for an on-site interview: do not lie on a bed(!), be dressed appropriately, ensure that there are no interruptions, and do not read or respond to emails or check Facebook. For more about video call etiquette, please read this blog we published recently.
Overall, it is important that you assist your search consultant to stick to their process. You can support this by participating in meetings and calls scheduled to discuss candidates and by not changing set interview dates. Again, a frequent or inexplicable change of dates makes candidates lose interest; and rightly so.
Respond promptly to your search consultant’s questions. Great candidates are in demand and have other options; they need to be kept engaged and attracted to the role. Delaying a response might lead the candidate to lose interest. Remember, the search consultant can only represent your organisation favourably if you present him or her with sufficient information to actually do so.
Please remember, every step in a search and selection process is supposed to be a two-way street: both your relationship with your search consultant and your interaction with candidates. You have to show as much excitement, investment and interest in filling this role as you would expect from the candidate. If not, you’ll just end up sitting at the table alone.
These days, it seems every organization has a plan: a 2020 vision or a 2030 Agenda. It all sounds so futuristic. The years tick by faster than we think, and as soon as we know it, it’s time to devise a new plan.
But when we at Mission Talent look to the future, we want to see a goal for more diverse and representative leadership. Who are the leaders of 2030, and what are we doing right now to promote diversity in leadership?
Organizations must take responsibility for their diversity– and we as employees, partners and members of civil society– must hold them accountable for doing so. The excuses of the twentieth century are crumbling, now is the time to be courageous and forward-thinking.
Here are eight ideas. We would also love to hear your thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn comments.
1. Understand that diversity covers many things – ability, gender, race, nationality, economic status, language and more. Diverse leaders bring diverse perspectives.
2. Do a diversity audit at all levels of your organization: you might be surprised what you find.
3. Have uncomfortable conversations with colleagues. Take the time to understand what’s missing from your team and plan for the future.
4. Design recruitment processes that reach broader talent pools. A strategic process will help you reach more diverse candidates. Bring in experts to help you do that if necessary.
5. Take risks & invest. Don’t just hire the safe candidate or the insider – recruit people to challenge the status quo. Invest in employee training. Today’s junior hire is tomorrow’s leader.
6. Don’t tolerate discrimination and harassment anywhere; you lose great talent when people feel marginalized.
7. Give employees opportunities to fit work into their lives. Raising small children and caring for elderly parents are life phases. So are caring for one’s well being or pursuing further education. Employees who are given flexibility through these periods are likely to stay loyal.
8. One new diverse hire is undoubtedly a good step. But it’s the beginning of a journey, not the end. Build an onboarding plan that prepares the employee to succeed and provides her with ongoing support.
Nervousness hit me when I read the email from the Africa Prisons Project:
“Kamiti is a male maximum security prison... [Visitors] should avoid being in a secluded area alone with an inmate. It is important to adhere to appropriate official dress code, avoid tight fitting or revealing clothes. The clothes should not show cleavage or expose upper arms and mini or small dresses should be discouraged.”
From my childhood, we knew that the worst criminals were locked up at Kamiti, and here I was voluntarily visiting the prison! I imagined it to be dark and grungy. I expected it to be in the poorest conditions possible. I felt butterflies in my stomach. Why am I doing this?
On the way to the prison, I sat quietly. My Mum was driving; we were going to do the visit together. She tried to calm me down with bubbly talk, but all I wanted was quiet to deal with the nerves. I kept the reason for our visit in mind: I was keen to see the work that APP is doing, firsthand. I am leading the searches for their new Director of Development, Legal Services and Director of Legal Education. This visit would allow me to have a better understanding of APP, and help me as I continue with the search. I also wanted to experience true Christianity in action, which is what I believe APP is doing with the work in prison.
We reached the gates of the Kamiti Maximum Prison 20 minutes before our appointed time. A call to the Country Director assured us that we could drive in and park, but we would have to wait in the parking lot for her, as she had our permission letter for us to enter the prison. There was a long pedestrian line at the main gate. By coincidence, we had come on Remote Parenting Day. Families would bring food and spend the day with Dad, as the children are also on holiday at this time.
The second gate into the prison, where the prisoners are actually held, is a big wooden door with a red sign at the top. No pictures allowed. We proceeded to the reception where we handed in our IDs, letter and car keys. Then we had a security check; removing our shoes, belts and jewellery.
A guard was assigned to us, and we walked across the courtyard to the Academy, where APP carries out its legal education programme. There is also a primary and secondary school for inmates who would like to complete their education.
As soon as we were assigned a guard, I remembered our conversation with the Country Director: we should stick close to her and the guard, we should not speak to inmates, and if they did approach us or even ask for contacts, we should direct them to APP. I noticed that the CD was also fiddling with her coat and buttoning up! I pulled my sweater close across my chest. My Mum was so calm!
As we walked through a third gate, into the courtyard, there was a lot of camaraderie. A tent set up on one side and a jumping castle on the other. There was music playing and generally happy mood in the air. I felt calm. There were family members everywhere.
We went through a fourth gate to the industrial side of the prison where the Academy was. As we passed through each gate, the guards greeted us with big smiles, hearty handshakes and only good vibes towards APP.
There were prisoners everywhere. As we walked past, I kept my head down. No eye contact. I did not want an incident. Nonetheless, I looked around the courtyards. It wasn't as I expected. It was clean, for all intents and purposes. It was not grungy. But we could not access the area where the prisoners are locked up. The cells. Maybe that side is a different story.
A fifth gate led us into the Academy. Here we spoke briefly to an administrator, and then we sat down in the back of a class session for the law programme. Two of the students were prison guards and the third was an inmate. The students interacted with each other and with the tutor in a way that showed interest and passion. At this point, APP has about 40+ inmates and prison wardens enrolled in the law degree programme with the University of London. The courses have already saved lives: a death row inmate and APP student named Susan Kigala won her court case and was released from prison. As a result of her case, the law no longer mandates capital punishment for all murder cases in Uganda.
As we left the Academy, we stopped to speak to an APP student, now in his third year. He is the 13th petitioner in a case before the High Court. Because of his studies under the APP Legal Education Programme, he is able to represent himself and the other 12 petitioners! He told us that he is in favour with the judge, maybe because of good standing of APP, or the fact that he is an inmate who knows the law.
Seeing the work and positive impact of APP at Kamiti Prison was heartwarming. The good name that APP has amongst the prison staff and wardens was also great to see. This visit was definitely an added motivation to continue supporting APP!
On the way out of Kamiti, my Mum made sure to buy some plants from the prison nursery to support the inmates' efforts; may they grow as the work of APP grows and positively impacts the lives of prisoners.
Mwende Njuguna is a Senior Consultant with Mission Talent.
In 2003, I was an intern in New York City and I went to see Jeffrey Sachs (then director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University) deliver a series of lectures on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These became the foundation for the Millennium Project, and Sachs served as the chief ambassador for the MDGs for several years afterwards.
It was an exciting time. The MDGs were new, digestible goals that people could latch onto. Pragmatic thinking was king – if we just had the planning and the resources to go about it, we could end poverty.
I would take the train uptown and then sit in the audience, utterly inspired. I was young and impressionable and Jeff Sachs was my hero. After every lecture, there was Q&A, and I remember a student asking him, “what advice would you give us? how can we be involved?” He said something to the effect of -- get a skill: become a water engineer or a health specialist or a city planner.
His answer haunted me for years. Like half the students in the room, I had studied international relations. I could not fit water pipes and knew nothing about distributing bed nets. It was too late for me.
But last week at work I had an “Aha!” moment. After talking to the ED of an organization providing access to legal education for prisoners, and then with a social entrepreneur scaling up services for farmers in West Africa to access credit, I realized that I was actually doing what Jeffrey Sachs advised: I acquired a skill and I was using it.
I like to think that international development has come into a new way of thinking. That we now recognize that in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to invest in developing leaders and strengthening organizations. They are the lifeblood of sustainability.
That is why our work at Mission Talent is so important to us. No matter what an organization may be tackling; from climate change to safe abortion access, we listen to their needs, analyze the market, and dive into the work of finding great candidates. And maybe it is not as simple as what Jeffrey Sachs proposed, but 2015 has come and gone.
Emily is Head of Research at Mission Talent, and she previously wrote about the SDGs here.
How many times have I heard someone say that they applied for a job that they thought was a great match, but they did not even get a response from the advertising organization?
Whether or not you get that interview depends on what the organization wants. This may or may not be explicitly stated in the position’s description. They may be looking for the “outside of the box” candidate rather than someone with a proven track record.
Even if that’s not the case, experience and a great track record do not guarantee that you will be selected for the interview or get the job. Some positions are just not made for you – even though they may look like they are.
The interviewers may be looking for “new” skill sets or a “different” type of candidate. In an NGO context, this might mean candidates with a business background or entrepreneurial experience. At a CEO level, it could mean someone with change management experience.
The organization may be more interested in candidates with compelling backgrounds that can represent the organization externally, perhaps those working on issues like justice and human rights. Larger INGOs are likely to have more resources to invest in their staff’s professional development.
Contractors or organizations that are grant and performance-based are more likely to look for the best candidate in terms of experience, past results, and technical skills. They often cannot afford to take a chance or wait for employees to learn and grow. They have goals to reach within a time frame.
If you have already relationship with the recruiter, you may always send a quick message to them asking about the role and its scope and find out their opinion on your background and whether the role would be a good fit.
The bottom line is: if you believe you are right for the position, take the time to craft your CV to highlight where you meet the job requirements. If you believe your skills are transferrable, make your case succinctly.
You might know you have the experience needed, but it may not be visible on your CV. Make your CV easy to understand and no longer than a couple of pages. Include numbers of staff and budgets managed, and your responsibilities. More importantly though, state your achievements! To some readers, your CV is more important than your cover letter.
A few weeks ago, on the brink of a new search, I contacted a candidate - who we had placed last year in another role - for recommendations. Based on the location and scope of the role, I was pretty sure she would know some interesting leads to potential candidates. .
And she did. She actually recommended someone who she had seen in a recruitment process a while ago and explained why the panel had really liked and appreciated that individual , even though they eventually chose someone else.
We then got in touch with that person, assessed her interest and evaluated her as part of the process for a client. A few weeks later she was hired.
So, what is the takeaway?
Once you join a recruitment process, you are keen to explore the role and see if this is for you - and you the right fit for the organisation.You imagine yourself in this role, you prepare, you have conversations about it and you feel ready for the challenge. But not everyone can be the perfect fit. However positive and constructive the feedback might be, being declined can hit hard.
But there is a bright side: you have been out there and demonstrated your capabilities! And the advantage of that is that even if you were not the right fit for that particular role, people will remember you for your capabilities, expertise and passion.
And while it may seem little comfort after rejection, it is important to remember that being being declined for a job is just that—it’s not about you, but simply your fit for that one post. Staying positive and engaged will mean there are many more chances for the future.
A few years ago I was having a conversation with the daughter of some very good friends. While our exchange was trivial and I don’t remember what we were talking about, I do know that it subtly but importantly altered my outlook on life.
There was a moment during our discussion when I said; “Well, respect has to be earned.” It was probably a slightly lazy response; a phrase I had heard often enough in my own youth from parents expecting high standards.
Her response was swift. “No,” she shot back, “disrespect has to be earned.”
I saw and understood her point immediately. She was quite right and I remain conscious of the way it changed my behaviour even today—I have no right to expect people to have prove themselves to me in some way. This approach of positive engagement is essential in our business; although our aim is to reveal the best in candidates, sometimes they can still surprise us with talents or stories we’d never imagined!
Of course, in a few cases that respect may diminish over time, but I’ve found life’s exchanges are richer when they are approached from this perspective. Including conversations with 14 year-olds.
The first ever Mix’n’Talent event brought forward a range of crucial reflections on how the civil society sector can drive social change in uncertain times.
One of the challenges that emerged from the discussions was that of silos. None of the challenges we face today can be separated from one another. And yet, all too often we try to address the world’s challenges from within our silos. We find silos at every level of our work: departmental silos within an organization; silos between one organization and another; silos between types of NGOs such as “environmental NGOs” and “human rights NGOs”. And even the civil society sector itself is a silo that views other sectors with suspicion.
Certainly, one NGO cannot prioritize everything. But we know that this is not necessary if we open up to the idea of strengthening coordination across and beyond the sector and work in alliances. Not simply partnerships, but true alliances built on a shared cause. Alliances that break through silos and stand above competition for funds and defending logos. Alliances with a strategic allocation of roles among partners that play to the different strengths and areas of focus, compensating individual shortcomings through a holistic approach.
The world around us is changing at increasing speed and global developments are challenging assumptions that many civil society organizations were founded on. Just as digitalization demands adapting funding models, the increasing interconnectedness of issues requires rethinking concepts of organizational identity and brand if we want to pursue our cause successfully. It demands a shift in our culture towards more networked thinking. And, as the discussion concluded, this requires trust. Trust beyond the silos, extending to other individuals, organizations and sectors. We need to learn to think and work as a movement.
This blog was written by Jana Merkelbach who also moderated the Mission Talent event. Her first guest blog entitled “Leading Change in Uncertain Times” was published on this site on 31/05/2017.
Faced with challenges such as political uncertainty, climate change and a global humanitarian and refugee crisis – how can we effectively drive social change in uncertain times?
This question brought together leaders from the civil society sector in Berlin on 24 May for Mission Talent’s first-ever Mix’n’Talent event. I had the pleasure of moderating an inspiring panel with Susanne Baumann, Chief of Staff at Crisis Action; Sabrina Schulz, Head of the Berlin Office of E3G; and Jeannette Gusko, who manages International Brand and Engagement for Change.org. By sharing their experiences, lessons and thoughts on the topic, the panel quickly engaged the event’s guests in a fruitful discussion.
A great initiative is happening today throughout Africa, attempting to garner pan-African solidarity towards ‘calling out our leaders on (Africa’s) failures and building a better, more just, more peaceful and sustainable Africa’. The ‘Africa Rising’ initiative was created by a group of 272 people from 44 African countries assembled in Arusha, Tanzania in 2016. The greatest thing about this meeting was that young Africans were at the core of this movement with ‘social inclusion, peace and shared prosperity’ as its themes.
Mission Talent is inviting leaders in the social impact sector to our first ever Mix’n’Talent event in Berlin:
It’s a challenging time to work for social change. We face political uncertainty, climate change and a global humanitarian and refugee crisis. Traditional funding streams and organizational models are changing. So what does this mean for how we plan for the future? Amongst the threats, are there opportunities?
It’s easy to surround ourselves with people who think just like us. Depending on our social media bubbles, we might not even know anyone who voted for the other candidate, or takes an opposing view. But by not engaging with people who think differently, we don’t make the world better, we just make it more divided. And division weakens our society further.
Many might expect a connection between seniority of a candidate and the quality of their interviews. That is not what we experience at Mission Talent: we’ve seen excellent interviews with more junior candidates and rather disappointing interviews with more senior candidates.
So what makes an interview successful? In-depth preparation, excellent communication and some empathy are all crucial—as is meeting the key requirements.
Note: Everything in this blog is based on real experience.
The other day I was arranging a few matters with a client. There were a number of terms she used during our communication where I had to ask what she meant by them in order to be sure we were on the same page. That made me realise - we all have our own organisational languages. Words we use often and that receive a certain meaning in the context we use them in.
When I talk about a search report to my colleagues we all have a clear understanding what this entails as it is our daily bread and butter. If, however, I use the exact same word with a new client I may need to be more specific and explain what we mean by it.
At the same time, when a candidate describes a campaign, some research, or a project, I need to make sure I know their organisational context and perhaps ask them what this work means in their specific area.
Although we tend to move in similar circles, we cannot always expect people to understand our everyday vocabulary. Even though we speak the same language, sometimes we really have to make sure we understand the sector-specific, or even organization-specific, nuances—and that we make ourselves similarly understood.
Dr Hannah Fry, a mathematician at University College London, recently described how data is becoming ever-more important. She went on to point out that the algorithms being used are often hidden from view, which means that “software is built with an incentive that might not align with the interests of individual people, who are just data points within it.”
Recruiting and selection software is a case in point. The promise of efficiently finding the ideal candidate using keywords and algorithms is very seductive, but depends on the programmers and their approach. In her conversation with The Register about algorithms, Dr Fry said: "you can't argue against them. If their assumptions and biases aren't made open to scrutiny then you're putting a system in the hands of a few programmers who have no accountability for the decisions that they're making." She went on to describe how a LinkedIn algorithm showed higher-paid job advertisements more often to men than women.
Mission Talent doesn’t evaluate people with algorithms. We look at people who fit the bill and we speak to them to find out more. But we’re also curious; we chat with others who don’t fit the bill because they’re interesting and—just sometimes—they have a great deal more to offer. The next time you need to bring someone into your team, think about applying your humanity rather than decisions made by a machine.
The Internet has been enjoying the interview between the unfortunate Professor Robert Kelly and the BBC, during which his two children entered his office. The good news is, as said by the BBC he “managed to keep his composure and complete the interview successfully.”
The nature of our work means we regularly hold interviews with people in their homes or other environments and we understand that unforeseen things can happen when candidates are speaking to us, or even their future employers. Of course, being on a global TV network is one thing, but what might people do when faced with this situation in a meeting or interview?
Our advice is to know how to mute your microphone and cut the camera before your appointment starts. If you are interrupted by a child, a well-meaning colleague, your cat or dog, the doorbell, or even a fire alarm, excuse yourself briefly and turn off your microphone and camera. Resolve the situation and then take an additional five seconds to gather yourself before turning back on the camera and microphone. Most interviewers will be very understanding—and you will also have demonstrated your calmness under pressure.
With much excitement we have been following a growing resistance movement throughout the world in recent months – led by women. We feel moved, inspired and honoured to witness this.
Mission Talent—a team of eight, seven of whom are women from different countries—was debating how best to show solidarity on Wednesday, 8th March 2017 during A Day without a Woman. We felt strongly about not being silent on this day, showing solidarity and somehow using the opportunity to make an impact. We chose not to go on strike, as others are planning, because we believe that it would not have the desired impact in our particular context. On International Women’s Day we shall continue working for our clients and candidates, supporting them in their mission towards the very same goals.
Some of our team members would like to share with you what International Women’s Day means to them.
When searching for potential candidates, I always look for the best. But sometimes candidates do not present themselves well during interviews, so I also look for additional evidence. As well as their CVs, candidates may also have made presentations or published articles. Perhaps they have some good videos online, or an active blog or Twitter account.
As candidates move forward in our process, we offer coaching on how they can present a true representation of themselves in an interview, and we advise them on how to show how their previous achievements align with the aims of the new role. In this way, what we discover and learn about the candidate grows throughout the recruitment process —and in some cases, so does the candidate’s understanding of themselves!
This is my favorite part of search -- developing this relationship with candidates and getting to know them in different ways.
On the day after the American people voted last year I avoided the news and Facebook. Last Friday, people on my Facebook timeline were quoting the inauguration speech of the 45th President of the US and I decided neither to watch it, nor to read it.
As a Westerner I was raised in a world that aspired for women to be equals and those achievements are now being challenged in a way that I would never have thought was possible, including by someone occupying the role often designated as “leader of the free world.”
We are still seeing and experiencing grave differences between men and women all over the world. Different religions. Different nationalities. Different cultures. Discrimination of anything people might perceive as ‘the other’. Overall a lack of humanity, of empathy and compassion for one another.
Kris Torgeson, who Mission Talent placed as the first ever Global CEO at Lifebox, said in a recent interview that “no matter how big or how small the organisation or crisis, the humanitarian act is still about one person helping another.”
This reminded me of a moment’s reflection that I had over Christmas. I was unpacking some decorations with my children, including some my mother used before her death 10 years ago. I came across a small box of Oxfam candles that reminded me of her preference for buying things from charity shops wherever possible. She didn't think she was changing the world, but just doing the right thing in a small town in rural England.
In a world where so many problems seem so large and so insurmountable I see a link between Kris's comment and my mother's actions. None of us can change the world alone, but millions of us doing the small things that we are capable of; whether it is doing surgery by Lamplight, teaching a new language to a refugee—or simply buying trinkets in a charity shop; millions of small acts and gestures can and do add up to big differences.
“Let’s definitely plan a trip the first week of the new year.”
But our initial plans for a quiet get-away soon became a trip to the Greek island of Lesbos.
Lesbos is not only a beautiful island for tourists. It is also the first European destination for thousands, likely millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.
Theoretically it’s a quick procedure: boats with 30-60 people arrive, ideally welcomed by a group of cheering volunteers. People get off the boat, take off wet shoes and socks. Blankets are wrapped, water and snacks distributed. Then busses arrive to take everyone to Moria camp, where they need to register before their onward journey. Ideally, the new arrivals do not even have to spend the night.
And so that is where we found ourselves. Geared up with gum boots, gloves and beanies, for our week of four, 12-hour shifts in Moria camp. As Arabic speakers, we spent most of our time in the queue for the registration of Syrians and Iraqis.
It was a crash course in refugee transit life.
It's always a good idea to prepare for an interview, but how? Of course, it pays to know about the organization and the role that you are applying for - but how to prepare for those tough interview questions? We've all read about how to make weaknesses appear as strengths and there are any number of websites which claim to have the answers to interviewers' toughest questions.
But let's consider what the interviewer wants. A well-run interview is not confrontational, but designed to give you the opportunity to show your strengths and how they match the role concerned. Typically, interviewers want to find out three things:
Have you heard? It's 2015; the Millennium Development Goals are up, the Sustainable Development Goals are on and governments are supposed to agree on a plan to prevent disastrous climate change at COP21 in December. Et alors?
I recently attended a conference on global transformation. The conference organizers (GIZ) announced that the gathering would become a biennial platform to review the Sustainable Development Goals. Admittedly this did not fill me with excitement. After 15 years, we have just arrived at the supposed completion of the eight MDGs, and now we are rushing forward with 17 new goals? The goals were agreed upon via one of the most consultative processes ever, but in the massive group think they have become so dull that I would only advise reading them now if you are thinking of heading to bed.
The idea behind creating a broader set of goals was to set targets for developed countries too. A nice sentiment, but in the process the goals have become owned by no one, yet for everyone. There is a saying in Brasil: A dog that has two owners starves. Without firm champions, the SDGs will never get off the ground.
We can't just propose another round of goals and hope for the best. We need to break the mould and propose something that will excite people. From a mobilisation point of view, it’s amazing that the MDGs worked as well as they did from 2000-2015. Many smart campaigners poured their heart and souls into spreading awareness about something incredibly hard to communicate. In 2000, the concept of development goals was new, and if you read the fine print, they were even achievable.
At Mission Talent, it’s our job to ask questions. We want to find out from our clients exactly what kind of leaders they are looking for, and we ask our candidates to tell us about their careers and goals for the future. This time, we thought we would turn the tables, and have our team members Katja, Sarah, Spencer, Emily, Lin, Priya and Tim answer the questions.
I see a greater realisation of the importance of citizen participation. NGOs used to be closed entities where it was difficult to get in and participate. This has changed drastically and NGOs are increasingly acknowledging the importance of everyone's input to drive change.
I recruit for many campaigning roles, and I previously worked for an advocacy organization, so I think a lot about how to create popular demand for change. While many of the causes we are working on are so huge, I am encouraged to see campaigning organizations take on specific targets that are winnable, such as changing the purchasing policy of one company. I am also glad to see NGOs increasingly use online multi-media in creative ways to engage people in making change.
What makes me hopeful is the fact that many stakeholders, political and economic ones, take NGOs more and more seriously. But also society as a whole increasingly acknowledges that NGOs fulfil an important regulatory role in the international political system.
Having been privileged to recruit for Greenpeace offices all over the world, we’re especially proud of two of our recent recruits. Both executives are female and both represent a new kind of leader for the environmental movement.
Joanna Kerr, Greenpeace Canada’s new executive director, was previously global CEO of ActionAid International, and before that was executive director of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development (AWID).
Like Kumi Naidoo, the anti-poverty activist who is now executive director of Greenpeace International, her appointment reflects a growing awareness by “green orgs” that climate change and conservation are linked to development and poverty.
It’s not just organizational strategies that are shifting, so are the attitudes of the leaders themselves. Many working in global development or even humanitarian spaces see linkages to the issues of climate change and will consider taking a position in what was previously seen as a completely different sector.
This month, I attended the Global Perspectives conference in Johannesburg, organised by the International Civil Society Centre, co-hosted by ActionAid International and CIVICUS.
The theme of the conference was “Navigating Disruptive Change – How civil society organisations can survive and thrive in an increasingly disruptive world.” The goal of the conference was to gather executives and leaders from international civil society to building alliances and talk about common issues. The conference organisers certainly picked a challenging topic.
In the last twenty years, change itself has changed: it has become faster, more fundamental and more surprising. When these elements come together, we experience disruption. Think of the music, telephone, bookstore or newspaper industry. Market forces have redefined them, despite what the media giants of the corporate sector wanted.
Between 25-27 October, I attended the Humanitarian Congress in Berlin organised by Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, the German Red Cross, the Berlin Chamber of Physicians and the Charité Universitätsmedizin. The event brought together about 500 researchers, practitioners and students to discuss the current trends, knowledge and innovations in the humanitarian sector, particularly from a health perspective.
This was the second time I attended the Humanitarian Congress. The theme this year was “No Access! Who Cares? How to reach people in need" and the event focused on obstacles and limitations to providing humanitarian assistance, calling on the need for more research, innovation and accountability. One of the interesting solutions offered was the new MEDBOX initiative, a hands-on library resource designed to quickly get humanitarian knowledge directly where it is needed.