Which Association Jobs Are The Hardest To Fill?

It depends, according to one staffing professional's insights into the trends and cycles of the association talent market.

This time last year, human resources firm Nonprofit HR predicted a positive employment prognosis for the nonprofit sector throughout 2015.

In fact, the group estimated that 37 percent of associations and membership societies would create new positions last year, and its 2015 Nonprofit Employment Practices Survey [PDF] also found an increase in voluntary employee turnover rates from previous years.

While the 2016 report hasn’t yet been released, the relative health of the nonprofit and association employment markets is closely watched, especially when it comes to recruitment strategy.

But what association jobs are the hardest to fill? That’s a question that Bob Corlett, executive search consultant at Staffing Advisors, set out to answer.

Analyzing Staffing Advisors’ internal data on job ad response rates in the Washington, DC, market, Corlett and his team have identified trends in what he calls “hot” positions, or the roles that are the most difficult to fill at particular times.

“We’ve been gathering all this data for a decade and looking at the trends and which [positions] got harder and easier in terms of whether people actually responded to advertising,” Corlett said.

For example, five years ago, communications positions were hard to fill. Because of the demand for social media skills, which at the time was relatively uncharted territory within the association space, finding candidates with the requisite experience was more difficult.

“Then a bunch of people came into the association space who had that background, and now it’s a pretty easy search to run because everybody’s got the experience,” Corlett said.

Currently, education managers are the “hot” roles that associations are having the hardest time filling, Corlett said. “Everybody wants e-learning and learning zones and online forums, and suddenly the education job changed for everybody.”

There are just as many education managers in the market now as there were five years ago, Corlett added, but changing expectations means that those education managers with specialized experience in those technologies have become much more marketable. He expects that, following former trends, the difficulty will level out in several years after more education professionals from outside the sector enter the market and those in the field become more proficient in those technologies.

In the next five years …

Looking into Corlett’s crystal ball of trends, which he said tend to follow five-year cycles, he predicted that policy and research positions will continue to be difficult to fill as a result of a low influx of people entering into the association industry from outside.

Marketing will also remain difficult to recruit for because of the changing nature of the field. “Nobody has quite a beat on how to do the new kind of marketing,” Corlett said. “It sure isn’t sending out a salesman with a brochure anymore, so marketing is probably going to remain complex.”

Additionally, because of the high return on investment and the dynamic nature of technology, IT positions will most likely remain in high demand. Similarly, the changing nature of membership and the challenges of determining value propositions could make membership a difficult sector to hire for in the next several years.

Meanwhile, communications, Corlett said, will remain relatively straightforward and stable, and two departments that traditionally don’t see much challenge in terms of recruitment—HR and finance—will also remain stable. Corlett attributed the relative ease of hiring for HR and finance positions to the translatable skill sets that each field encompasses. “They’re jobs where you can come in from elsewhere and do well,” he said.

Which role does your association have the most difficulty filling? Please share in the comments. And check back in here next week for more of Corlett’s insights on the hiring process.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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