By Stephanie McAllister

Conducting a hire can be resource-intensive, especially for a small not-for-profit. At Framework, we are a team of six who run 12 Timeraiser events across Canada. The demands of this programming mean that we have limited time to dedicate to hiring new staff.

We are constantly looking for ways to make ourselves more efficient, collaborative and transparent to our stakeholders. In pursuit of these goals, we often test out new processes and use our experience as a case study for the non-profit sector.

Our most recent experience was hiring a new event planner while hosting four Timeraisers in three weeks. With very little time, we needed to find a way to efficiently attract, screen, interview and hire a strong event planner for the 2013 Timeraiser season. We decided that this was the best time to pilot HR in the Cloud, which uses a combination of affordable, simple-to-use, and integrated cloud-based technologies.

Our main goals for HR in the Cloud are to:

  • Avoid repetitive or redundant tasks
  • Easily share the workload and collaborate while assessing applicants
  • Learn more about our applicant pool to improve future postings

In order to accomplish this, we used a combination of cloud tools that talk to each other:

  • a project management tool (Smartsheet)
  • a cloud storage solution (
  • a content management system (Weebly)

While these are the tools we chose, there are other comparable options on the market. It is important to evaluate tools based on the features needed, their interconnectivity and your budget.

Here is how to perform your next hire in the cloud:

Step One: Get Rid of Email Submissions

Make it clear in the job posting that submissions should not be sent to an HR specific address or a member of staff’s email. Instead, use your project management tool to create an intake form and embed it on your website using your content management system. In the job posting, you direct them to the appropriate URL.

Step Two: Collect Applications and Prepare the Hiring Team

All the applications are collected and automatically populate a spreadsheet that is hosted online. Users can view and edit this spreadsheet from any Internet-enabled device. Simply grant them access to the spreadsheet. All confidential candidate information is secure and not publicly viewable. The resumes and cover letters can be quickly uploaded to a cloud storage file (, Dropbox, etc) shared with all the same reviewers.

Everything needed for the review process is organized and shared in under two hours. No printing, no manual input. We timed ourselves opening, downloading and sharing emailed resumes. For the size of applicant pool we had, the preparation time would have been closer to 10 hours.

Step Three: Collaborate, Rank, and Interview

Once all reviewers are shared and online, they are able to assess candidates in real time. The team can design the spreadsheet using simple conditional formatting familiar to anyone who has used Excel.

In addition to these rankings, reviewers can begin comment threads on any given candidate, allowing discussion to begin even before the hiring committee meets. Once some decisions have been made, record times, dates, and locations for the interviews. Everything is in one authoritative place that can be accessed from any Internet-enabled device.

Step Four: Lessons Learned

You have conducted your interviews and have hired your new employee. So you are done with the spreadsheet? Not yet.

In my capacity as Action Research Co-ordinator, I was not only interested in how much time this process saved us, but also what we could gain from the information we collected. Traditionally, a hiring committee might literally toss out unsuccessful resumes, but what are we really throwing away?

In our efforts to learn from this process, I gathered the data and presented it on our website, without any specific or confidential information about our applicants. For example, we required applicants to tell us where they saw the posting. This meant that we knew where our strongest candidates found us, influencing where we post in the future. We learned a lot from analyzing our applicant pool, and will continue to do so to see how our new tactics influence the quality of the applicants we attract.

While this analysis has had positive implications for our organization, we quickly realized that our findings are not only useful to those looking to hire, but also jobseekers. Certainly any future candidates who want to apply to Framework can look closely at how we define a standout application.

The more organizations that do this kind of self-analysis and share their findings, the greater the resource for employees, employers and those who help connect the two: career counsellors, job centres, etc. How could this resource help post-secondary institutions quickly adapt and offer the skills their graduates need for a changing, and increasingly tech-savvy, workplace?


Stephanie McAllister, MA is Action Research Co-ordinator at Framework where she helps develop capacity-building strategies for the not-for-profit sector. She also works on Framework’s marquee event, the Timeraiser, where people bid volunteer hours instead of money on artwork, emerging Canadian artists are paid full market value for their work, and local non-profits are matched with skilled volunteers.