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Evidence Action: utilizing archetypes in hiring for growth

Evidence Action is scaling up rapidly from year to year. How do they recruit effectively and efficiently in such a dynamic environment? The answer we found was in using the power of archetypes as an additional tool in their recruitment process.

Kali Bell

Kali Bell

Kali Bell is an Associate Director, Talent Strategy at Evidence Action.

archetypes in hiring

After a decade of outsized impact, Evidence Action has experienced a remarkable journey of growth and transformation. As a global nonprofit scaling proven health and development solutions to reduce the burden of poverty for hundreds of millions of people, our team has recently grown exponentially, with more than 700 staff members now.

Rapid scaling brings forward unique challenges, and as an evidence based organization, we wanted to make sure we were also using the best evidence based recruitment strategies to hire talented professionals, especially for critical senior roles to support our growth.  Utilizing archetypes in our process is the one of many tools we use in our recruitments to ensure this. 

Understanding archetypes in recruitment

Archetypes in recruitment are ideal candidate profiles – a blend of traits, skills, and experiences that we believe align closely with specific roles in our organization. 

These archetypes are more than just a list of qualifications; they are a holistic view of what an ideal candidate could look like, considering the nuances of our organizational culture and goals. 

They serve as a guide, a north star, for our recruitment efforts, ensuring we’re not just filling positions but advancing our mission with the right people. 

The archetype-based approach

Our archetype-based approach emerged from the need to navigate the complexities of hiring for an array of new positions. Previously, we often found ourselves sifting through a vast pool of candidates without a clear idea of who the ‘right’ candidate was. 

First, we identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that align with the role. 

Second, we identify archetypes to align on the multiple types of ideal candidates we could hire for the role. This approach not only brings clarity to the recruitment process but also ensures we are consistent and fair in our evaluation.

For example, if we are hiring for a Program Director position, our KSAs for the role may include:

  • People leader
  • Building and maintaining global culture
  • Strategic thinking
  • Government & partner relationships
  • Growth Mindset

Then we apply our archetype-based approach and identify that an ideal candidate:

  1. Should have global experience; working with and across countries and in a matrix
  2. Should have a balance between global heath, International development, and management consulting; prioritizing someone who has run large scale health programs
  3. Has experience working at like-minded organizations that are ambitious, data-driven, and partner effectively with governments 
  4. Has delivered results with a team of 100+ employees 
  5. Can articulate their key achievements, and use data to highlight their results 

Lastly, we identify 3-5 ideal candidates on LinkedIn, in our talent pools, or silver medalists from previous recruitments that align with our archetype.

At this stage, the goal is not to have 3-5 candidates we can source; rather the goal is that everyone has a very clear picture of the varying types of candidates we could hire for the role. 

By defining archetypes, we’ve created a framework that allows us to identify and agree on the qualities we value most for each role, streamlining the recruitment process significantly.

Balancing growth, diversity, and a global reach

One of the key advantages of this approach is its support for our growth and global expansion.

Instead of only using KSAs to identify candidates, by aligning on various types of candidates we could hire for the role we can identify diverse candidates across different geographies, aligning with the various needs of our operations worldwide.

This method also aids in maintaining diversity, not just in terms of background and experience, but also in thought and approach, which is crucial for an organization like ours that thrives on innovation and creativity.

Aligning expectations with reality

A significant part of our recruitment process is calibration – aligning the expectations of our hiring managers with the realities of the talent market.

By creating prospective candidate tables and utilizing a clearly articulated rating system, internally we foster a mutual understanding of what is desirable and achievable in a candidate. 

This calibration isn’t solely about skills and experience; it’s also about finding the right fit for Evidence Action’s ethos and values.

Working with hiring managers

One of our biggest hurdles has been engaging with hiring managers, especially those who do not hire regularly. Their vision of an ‘ideal’ candidate doesn’t always align with what talent is available or realistic. 

We tackle this by educating our teams about the market and guiding them through the archetype process. 

It’s a collaborative effort where we ensure that their needs are met while also setting realistic expectations about candidate capabilities and availability.

Saving time in the recruitment process 

A pivotal aspect of our hiring strategy is in streamlining the recruitment process. By implementing the archetype system, we’ve managed to front-load much of the assessment work. 

This means we’re not scrambling during the later stages of hiring – a common issue in many organizations.

We’ve found that taking time to align on candidate profiles before posting a job advertisement saves us invaluable time and resources down the line.

 Taking time to align on candidate profiles before posting a job ad saves us invaluable time.

Our structure as a matrixed organization adds another layer of complexity to our recruitment process.

We often find ourselves working to balance the opinions and needs of multiple stakeholders in hiring decisions. 

The archetype approach assists in this by providing a common ground for discussions.

It helps us bring different stakeholders to alignment, ensuring that the final candidate is not just a fit for the role, but fits the diverse perspectives within our organization.

Technology and pool navigation

Technology plays a crucial role in our recruitment strategy. Tools like Workable and LinkedIn are integral to our process, from sourcing candidates to managing their profiles. 

These platforms allow us to efficiently navigate through large pools of potential hires and keep track of our ‘silver medalists’. 

This technological integration ensures our recruitment is not only efficient but also wide-reaching.

In conclusion, we’ve been able to grow rapidly while maintaining the quality and diversity of our team – a critical factor in our success. As we continue on this journey, we aim to refine our strategies, embrace new technologies, and remain adaptable to the ever-evolving landscape of talent acquisition.

Kali Bell is a mom of two boys and Associate Director, Talent Strategy at Evidence Action. With recruitment experience spanning the United States, the African continent, and more recently in India, Kali thrives in streamlining People operations with the goal of creating more time for managers to focus on increasing their impact. Her passion lies in creating efficient systems that enhance the recruitment process and empower teams to excel in their roles.

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