Rising Stars

How to Find Rising Stars for Entry-Level Openings

by Angela Struebing

As the president of a direct response agency I’m always on the lookout for talented people. After all, people are our most valuable asset. But good candidates–especially those to fill entry-level positions–are hard to find. Here some ways to seek and identify rising stars.
1) Develop Internships
Internships give an employer a chance to try someone out while having an extra hand around the office. It also gives students and new graduates exposure to an industry. We at CDR Fundraising have relationships with several local colleges and try to host an intern each semester. We make sure to keep their projects meaningful and not all busy work. By giving an intern valuable work we have a chance to evaluate their true potential and they have a chance to obtain actual portfolio examples.
2) Mentor
Mentorships are less formal interviews and include informational meetings. I’ve had several mentors in my career and feel it’s only fair to help others in the same way. This also presents a networking opportunity for the agency. We often get referrals from recent grads we’ve spoke to as they tell their friends.
The DMAW Educational Foundations’ “Mentor-for-a-Day” Program is a valuable recruiting tool. It matches students who are recommended by professors with a host organization. The student then spends a day shadowing the host’s employees to learn more about careers in their field.

3) Create a Farm Team
I believe in finding people early on in their career and giving them on-the-job training. I call this a farm team. It also happens to be how I was trained–starting as an intern and working my way up. Learning each part of the direct response process from copy writing to production to caging and data processing gave me an invaluable foundation. These farm team employees can be trained exactly how you need them and don’t bring old habits to a position.

4) Network with Collegiate Institutions
College and university career offices and professors are quite helpful in finding entry-level talent. Through the DMAW Educational Foundation I was introduced to Paula Morris, a professor at Salisbury University. I spoke at one of her classes on integration and mentioned that CDR Fundraising Group had some openings. Paula has been instrumental in passing along the names of several graduating seniors. We’ve hired five outstanding employees from her recommendations. Our most recent hire, Jessica Lee, had also participated in the DMAWEF Collegiate Maxi Awards. I always love hearing about the thought put into and ideas coming out of this exercise. It gives grads a leg up on others as it is truly a team effort and mimics how to work collaboratively in an agency.

A candidate’s first real job is something they’ll always remember. It’s there that they’ll learn what it’s like to work in a professional environment. As that first employer, be patient with your new hire and don’t assume certain knowledge. You’re not just teaching the fundamentals of the job but how to work and that will leave a lasting impression.

Angela Struebing is the president of CDR Fundraising Group, a multi-channel agency focused on helping nonprofits optimize their online, direct mail, telemarketing and DRTV fundraising results. Please reach out to discuss anything from fundraising campaigns to management topics at astruebing@cdrfg.com.