There are times when volunteering is treated, for some reason, as less important than careers. That makes sense to a certain degree – volunteers are, by definition, not making a living off of their work. As such, there can be something of a “take who you can get” mentality.

That should not be the case. Volunteering is valuable to everyone involved – the volunteers, the people using their services, and the organization recruiting volunteers as a whole. That value should not be diminished by accepting sub-par volunteers – you can and will get qualified candidates with the proper screening process. 

Volunteer Canada is an excellent resource for organizations looking for volunteers, and for volunteers who are looking for the right placement. We’re going to use their volunteer screening resource as a framework for this post, then expand upon each of their points, with a particular focus on how fingerprinting can help you screen volunteers.

Let’s get started.

What is screening? 

Screening is the act of ensuring that would-be volunteers are qualified to volunteer in a given position – screening is also used to ensure the safety of all stakeholders. According to Volunteer Canada, the screening process has ten steps:

  1. Assessment
  2. Position – Assignment
  3. Recruitment
  4. Application
  5. Interview
  6. References
  7. Police Checks
  8. Orientation and Training
  9. Support and Supervision
  10. Follow-up and Feedback

Let’s explore each of these steps in greater depth.

Step 1: Assessment

The first step is assessing the needs that need to be met by a particular position. What will the person hired in the position be doing? Who will they be working with? What skills do they need? Will a criminal background check be required for the position – for example, is the person going to be working with vulnerable populations like children or the eldery?

Assessing what qualifications are desirable in a given position, the exact nature of the work the person in that position will be doing, and the risks inherent in hiring a person for that position is the essential first step – everything you do going forward, from advertising for the position to your training program, will be based on this step.

It will be helpful to have a well-constructed organizational chart to make it easy to see who each position will be reporting to and who or what they’ll be responsible for. 

Step 2: Position – Assignment

If the position you create is “We need help now to do anything and everything”, you may get candidates who are unqualified, unscrupulous, or unspecialized. On the other hand, if you create a detailed description of the volunteer position, you’ll get more candidates who feel like they meet the specific requirements and demands of the position. 

Take time to understand the position you’ve created before you begin advertising for volunteers.

 Step 3: Recruitment

Now that you know what the position looks like, write a description of the position and the desired qualifications and requirements to be considered for the position (e.g., a clean criminal record check). 

Post the position on various websites – national organizations like Volunteer Canada and local organizations like Volunteer Manitoba are great resources for posting positions you’re looking to fill. Make sure the job posting is as detailed as possible. 

Step 4: Application

Make the position simple to apply for while sifting out unqualified candidates with specialized application forms. These forms can make it easy for candidates to list their qualifications and experience, all while informing them of what will be required in the position. Make easy-to-fill PDFs available for your candidates.

Step 5: Interview

An in-person or video interview is an essential part of any volunteer recruitment and screening process. You should develop a list of interview questions to determine the candidate’s qualifications, motives, and readiness for the position.

During the interview, notice if the candidate is answering with simple yes/no answers, appears evasive, or is giving roundabout and indirect answers. Some of this may be due to nervousness but trust your gut – if the candidate seems to be avoiding answering questions, they may be underqualified or have something to hide.

Step 6: References

Compile a list of questions that you want to ask to the candidate’s references. Ask for references – preferably, you should be able to get work references and personal references, both at arm’s length (not the candidate’s immediate family).

Be very direct with questions to candidates. Instead of saying something like, “I think the candidate will be great for this position, don’t you?”, address specific concerns. A question like “In this position, the candidate will be expected to work closely with children. Would you be comfortable having the candidate work with children? Why or why not?”.

While direct questioning can be uncomfortable, it will force the references to reflect on the nature of the position, and on the candidate’s ability to meet the needs of the position.

Step 7: Police (criminal record) checks

Before you move forward on this step, note that the Government of Canada has very stringent rules on when a criminal record check can be conducted. Conducting criminal record checks for positions where such checks are deemed unnecessary can be considered a human rights violation. We highly recommend you consult with a lawyer before conducting checks.

These checks are extremely common when the volunteer position is responsible for vulnerable populations. To obtain a criminal record check, fingerprinting will be necessary.

FASTCHECK can help your organization conduct criminal record checks through the use of our mobile fingerprinting service. We can come to a location of your choosing and conduct fingerprinting for multiple candidates on a given date and time. This can expedite the process of obtaining a criminal record check. 

Step 8: Orientation and training

Before even beginning to recruit candidates, you should develop a comprehensive training program to ensure that the volunteer is prepared to take on the responsibilities involved in the role. This process should include onboarding, a summary of the organization structure, the responsibilities of the position, and hands-on training.

Optimally, training should be provided by a trusted volunteer with experience in the position.

Step 9: Support and supervision

This is what a fully fleshed-out organizational chart is for – volunteers should know who to turn to for support if they encounter any kind of problem. It’s also prudent to actively supervise volunteers for a certain period of time to ensure that they understand and are compliant with the standards set by your organization.

Step 10: Follow-up and feedback

It’s important to consult with all stakeholders about the new volunteer, from the volunteer themselves to their supervisors, coworkers, and the people they’re caring for. Getting feedback is essential to ensure that the volunteer is the right fit.

There’s another key piece to feedback – improving your process. Did you accurately assess the scope and requirements of the role? Could you have described the position better? Could you have improved the recruitment, application, and interviewing process?

When you’re looking for a Canadian volunteer, you won’t find any shortage of candidates. The quality of your volunteers depends heavily on your screening process – so get as much feedback as you can about your process and the volunteers you hire.

We hope reading this helps you improve your process and the quality of your volunteers. Thank you for the work you do in improving our communities.