Screening and selection is the process of ensuring your organisation chooses the appropriate applicant for the appropriate role. Ideally, screening and selection incorporates a variety of steps and does not rely on any one method or measure. Getting each step right will improve the quality of applications and ultimately improve your chances of finding the right match. The level and extent to which you screen volunteers is determined by the services you provide and the nature of the role. Screening is particularly important if volunteers work with children, young people or vulnerable adults. Screening may also be necessary in cases where volunteers are unsupervised, deal with finances or visit a client's home. It is vital to remember that screening does not provide a 100% guarantee that the volunteer will be a perfect fit.
Having checks in place, and advertising this, is in itself a good screening technique, but organisations should also be careful in the method they adopt. Screening methods should be appropriate to the nature of the voluntary work. The screening approach taken by organisations is the decision of each organisation. At the recruitment and selection stage organisations can include the following:
- Role & Organisational Description: A precise role description with detailed information of the tasks involved, in addition to relevant information about your organisation, helps ensure the right match between the volunteer and the role.
- Application Form: Many organisations develop a volunteer application form. Application forms, unlike CVs, ensure the same information is collected on everyone so all applicants can be treated the same way. Forms can be offputting for those with literacy needs or with poor English so always offer to help fill out an application form.
- Interview: The interview process is crucial in enabling you to accurately measure if the applicant is a good 'fit' for your organisation. Interviews should always be regarded as a two-way process in which the organisation and the volunteer have the opportunity to assess one another.
- Reference Check: Checking references allows you to verify details gathered from the volunteer during the application and interview process. Reference checks are generally conducted once you have interviewed the applicant and have decided you would like to involve them in your organisation. It is best practice to request permission before contacting referees. Generally, organisations request two references, from non relatives and from separate sources: education, employment, previous volunteering or from a person of standing within the community.
- Garda Vetting: Garda Vetting is the process by which the Central Garda Vetting Unit discloses details regarding prosecutions and/or convictions in respect of an individual. While Garda Vetting is not necessary for every organisation or role, it is generally regarded as an important step for organisations whose volunteers are involved with children or vulnerable adults.
- Induction: An induction is an information-sharing process. It provides a space to introduce volunteers to the work of the organisation, meet fellow staff and volunteers and to become familiar with organisational policies and procedures. It also provides an opportunity to review the role description and introduce the volunteer to the tasks they will be responsible for.
- Volunteer Agreement: A volunteer agreement clarifies the expectations of both parties in relation to the time commitment involved, confidentiality, training and adherence to the organisation's policies and procedures.
- Training: Volunteer training that takes place prior to starting gives volunteers an opportunity to come to terms with the role and to decide if it is definitely something they want to pursue. From the organisation's perspective, training provides an opportunity to learn more about the applicant and ensure they are willing and able to undertake the volunteer role.
- Trial Period: A trial period provides an opportunity for both parties to see if each other's expectations are being met. In addition, it provides an opt-out for either party if things are not working out.
How to say thanks, but no thanks
Screening means you sometimes have to say 'no' to potential volunteers. Always make sure you tell people if they are not suitable to volunteer in your organisation and do not simply hope that people will go away. You can refuse people by letter, on the telephone or face-to-face. Whichever method you choose, stress that you are following official policy, explain why they have been unsuccessful, offer suggestions on building experience/skills and if appropriate, offer alternatives.
Please remember that just because a volunteer might not be suitable for your organisation, it does not mean that they cannot volunteer at all. Please suggest they contact the Placement Officer, Linda by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 066 7117966, where we will endeavour to help them find a suitable volunteering opportunity.