Recruiting | Attracting Top HR Talent into the Third Sector

Attracting Top HR Talent into the Third Sector
McGregor Boyall Associates

The “third sector” is a broad term for organisations belonging neither to the public sector (i.e., the state) nor to the private sector (profit-making private enterprise). You may have heard other terms used to describe these organisations such as the voluntary sector, non-governmental organisations or non-profit organisations.

I’ve always had a strong passion for recruiting into the third sector. My clients offer rewarding and socially engaging places to work. It’s a breath of fresh air to discuss with prospective candidates. At this point it’s an “easy sell”.

It’s not until you start talking about salary and bonuses that you can start to squirm in your seat, hoping against hope that the candidate is looking to move AND take a pay cut!

However, those times are changing….and if the Third can be a little savvier, and change their mindset on three key areas, they will be able to ensure they can attract top HR talent to their sector.

1. Flexible Working

There are a great number of candidates on the market who are looking for more for than just a salary. Many candidates are wanting to have discussions around agile or flexible working arrangements, and many are happy to take a small drop in their pay or move for the same money if they can work from a few days from home, work on a part time basis or have a flexible working arrangement that allows alternative start and finish times.

2. Diversify your Talent Pool

Everyone is talking about diversifying their workforce, and one of the simplest ways to do this is to focus on candidates from OUTSIDE the sector. You will be both widening your market for top HR talent that you hadn’t tapped into before and you will start to bring in a more diversified talent group. One that will have new ideas for the sector, may offer more commercial or different solutions and perhaps give you a more diversified culture and workforce.

I know its less risk to hire a HR Business Partner or Manager that understands the sector BUT let’s face it - if we do our due diligence on the candidates, run a tailored and comprehensive interview process and ensure we assess the relevant skills and experience then we will mitigate that risk significantly.

3. Millennials and Graduates

We need to be looking at Millennials or Graduates. When meeting and interviewing graduates looking to kick start their HR career, I find they are significantly more attracted to aligning with charitable work or doing their piece for society and are much less motivated by money. They want to work for “the cause” and for an organisation that understands what motivates them. They want to work for agile business’ that offer perks such as company days out, breakfast / lunches, break-out areas and who want to listen to their thoughts and allow them to implement new ideas or projects.

We can’t offer HR Manager roles to graduates but we can be open minded about hiring for HR roles that require less experience.

By focusing on attributes of the candidate and investing in onboarding and training a graduate you will see a higher level of engagement and longevity in your HR Team.


  • Focus on offering a complete package that includes flexible and agile working as standard. The vast majority of recent HR hires we have done have included some form of discussion around flexible or agile working at offer stage.

  • Look outside the sector – focus more on the commercial attributes that employees from the public and private sector can bring.

  • Hire millennials. Hire graduates. They are less attracted by salary and more attracted to aligning with charitable work or doing their bit for society.

About Kara Feller:

I’m an experienced Recruitment Consultant specialising in attracting top HR talent for the third sector. I have a strong network of HR Professionals who can offer "value add", commercial HR solutions.

I am always looking at how my clients can attract and engage top HR talent and can offer solutions around the challenges of lower salaries, attracting commercial experience and innovation and engagement through to retention.

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