Since I do not yet have grandchildren of my own, I spend a lot of time with my neighbors and their kids and grandkids. I love kids. It always tickles me to see how little ones do repetitive acts as they learn. For example, my 2-year old neighbor spent much of last Sunday afternoon turning my ink pen off and on. That is what he called it. And he spent the rest of the time climbing up and down into my lap and getting back down in the grass. Of course, I did not mind.
I am at the stage of my career where there is likely less time in front of me and more time behind me. When I think back over my history in Development, I can calculate how much money I have raised for my institutions and how much our clients have raised with our advice and counsel. I continue to value the friendships I have made and relationships I maintain as part of our work in the community.
If I were to try to define how I have spent my time, I would have to say I have spent more time interviewing job candidates than in any other assignment. You know how hard it is to find and keep good development officers. The average tenure of a development officer is 14-18 months. Interviewing for me has been a pleasant, but repetitive task.
You see, my MBA is in human resources and my first job was as a Personnel Assistant and then a Personnel Director. My job was almost exclusively interviewing. When I moved into development at my college, I was able to build a team which I repeated at all of the institutions where I worked.
Our Fundraising Search came about because our clients had trouble finding and keeping good development officers. So, we started our business and continue to this day providing all manner of fundraising and nonprofit management services, but our core business is search – so still interviewing.
Someone asked me the other day how many interviews I have conducted. To be honest, I had never really thought about it. I could tell you about some of my best and worst experiences, like the time a guy came into meet with me wearing flip flops. Then there was the woman who sang opera to me right in the middle of the coffee shop where we were meeting. But how many?
I did the math. I have been raising money for nonprofits and served as a consultant to nonprofits, especially for hiring, for 43 years. I made a few other logical assumptions based on the positions I have held and the folks I have hired for teams at multiple nonprofits. I calculated it two different ways and had a third party double check me, and I came up with the same answer. 10,000. Not counting conversations in recruiting volunteers, or informational interviews when there was not a position for which I was actively recruiting, just sharing personal experience. I did not include the conversations we have had during our Walks with the Consultant over the last 10 years. This number does not include dialogs where we were seeking clients or board members.
I was amazed to find I have conducted exactly 10,000 interviews.
As Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his bestseller, Outliers, to “become an expert it takes ten thousand hours (or approximately 10 years) of deliberate practice. ”Deliberate practice” is a specifically defined term. It involves “goal setting, quick feedback, and countless drills to improve skills with an eye on mastery.” If you assume that most interviews take 45-60 minutes, I have spent 10,000 hours interviewing. So, I must be an expert. I expect there are not too many search consultants that have conducted as many interviews, and we are not even counting the interviews performed by the rest of the team at Our Fundraising Search.
I have always believed in investing in the success of others. So, yes, I have taken interviews with less than promising candidates. They don’t always get hired for their first choice of jobs, but we keep on the lookout for other opportunities for them as they do for us. I have never regretted taking the time to meet with someone. It has always proved to be mutually beneficial eventually.
So, I am pleased to tell you about my last interview, which I believe was my 10,000th. Allow me to introduce you to Jenneh Scott. She is a delightful young woman with a well-rounded background both in the US and internationally. She is an enterprising Development Director dedicated to creating social change. She is especially skilled at cultivating strong relationships with major donors. Currently she is serving as Development Director for Morehouse College.
She is the newest consultant at Our Fundraising Search. We are so glad to call her our teammate and friend and can’t wait for you to meet her, too.
For now, I will continue to meet and greet folks and interview all takers. I hope you will as well. There is no telling when you might meet your next teammate.