The recruitment process

The recruitment process involves a range of tasks and activities that take place during a recruitment campaign. While most of these tasks follow in a logical sequence, many also happen concurrently.

A little bit of planning and preparation helps ensure that the necessary timelines, procedures and documentation are in place to support everyone involved in your organisation's recruitment drive. A well-prepared recruitment campaign sends a strong message to prospective volunteers that you are an organised, professional and welcoming organisation that takes its volunteer programs seriously.

Before you recruit

Before you start the recruitment process, it is important to spend some time planning your volunteer program. This will ensure that you are clear about what volunteer-based services you are providing, what kinds of volunteers you plan to recruit and how they will be involved.

Our sections on Establishing codes and principles and Planning volunteer programs cover some of the preparatory tasks required for bringing volunteers into your organisation.

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Decide how you will recruit volunteers

There are many options for recruiting volunteers. The method you choose will depend on your organisation, volunteer program and what kind of volunteers you want to recruit.

Organisations that want to recruit locally or through established networks can:

  • Promote their information and advertisements through places like local councils, neighbourhood houses or other community-based services
  • Talk to organisations in their network directly to promote their volunteer program
  • Post an advertisement in relevant publications or even hold an information session for prospective volunteers.

Those that want to recruit more widely may choose to use a Volunteer resource centre or an online matching service like the one on this Portal.

If you want to recruit people in a specific demographic, like young people, seniors, skilled or corporate volunteers, start by contacting a relevant advocacy organisation to inquire about ways to advertise or promote your volunteering opportunities through their networks.

For more ideas see our Where are the volunteers? page.

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Create a recruitment timeline

Your recruitment timeline assigns key dates and timeframes to the main activities in your organisation's recruitment process. Having a timeline helps to manage recruitment tasks and keep everything on track. It is especially useful for managing the expectations of prospective volunteers who will be keen to know when they can apply and when they can start volunteering if they are successful in their application.

If your volunteer program has specific start and end dates, or if you have periodic recruitment drives, your recruitment timeline will work backward from your program's start date. If you have a more flexible program where volunteers can get involved at any time, you may have a more open-ended recruitment cycle which lets prospective volunteers apply for positions at any time.

Assign dates in your timeline for:

  • Briefing staff or volunteers involved in recruitment
  • Preparing advertisements, promotional material, info sheets, application forms
  • Distributing your advertisements or promotional material
  • Application opening and closing dates
  • Notifying applicants about the status of their recruitment - confirm the application was received, invite them for interview, tell them they've been selected (or unsuccessful)
  • Conducting interviews or information sessions
  • Running screening and reference checks. Please note that if your volunteers need to have a police or working with children check you will need to allow a few weeks for these to be processed. Find more information about screening and reference checks in our Volunteer background checks section
  • Complete any paperwork relevant to new recruits, such as volunteer agreements, volunteer records
  • Running orientation sessions.

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Prepare relevant documentation

As well as writing position descriptions, you may also need to prepare other documents to support the recruitment process, such as:

While many of these documents are useful to distribute to prospective volunteers, they can also help to brief and support staff or volunteers who are involved in recruitment.

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Brief relevant staff or volunteers

Often a volunteer's first experience of your organisation is when they make an inquiry about volunteering opportunities. Briefing other staff in your organisation about your recruitment drive helps to present your organisation as positive, professional, welcoming and well-organised. It also brings consistency to your organisation's recruitment processes with everyone involved knowing what to do and when.

Visit our Enquiries and applications page for more information. 

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Decide where to advertise or promote your opportunities

Depending on how and where you plan to promote your volunteer opportunities, you will need to prepare some information to advertise the roles. Typically this is a brief description of the position and your organisation, the benefits offered with the role and information about how to apply.

You'll find most of the information you need for this task is already included in your written volunteer position descriptions.

Visit our Where are the volunteers? page for more tips to promoting and advertising volunteer roles.

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Manage enquiries and applications

If your organisation requires prospective volunteers to complete an application form or follow an application process you will need to plan how you are going to handle enquiries and accept applications well before you start recruiting.

That way you can include information about how to apply in your advertisements or promotional materials. And you can make sure you have the people and processes in place to respond to enquiries and manage the applications in a timely manner.

You want to give prospective volunteers a good impression of your organisation from their very first point of contact. While it's unlikely that someone will be available to take enquiries all day, every day, you can easily manage people's expectations by clearly explaining how to get in contact with you and how long it will take until someone responds.

Try to avoid situations where prospective volunteers are calling a phone number that constantly rings out or sending emails that are never returned. A few simple administrative procedures will help manage expectations and leave a lasting, positive impression on prospective volunteers.

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Selection and interviews

For many volunteer roles, selection is a very informal process that might just be a simple chat about the position and its requirements may be all that's needed. Other roles require a more formal selection process that may include submitting an application form, attending an interview or information session and various screening and checks.

Whatever your approach to selection, it's useful to have a list of selection criteria that you will use to choose the successful candidates for your volunteer roles.

You should also make sure you have procedures and documentation in place to support the selection process before you start your recruitment campaign. And make sure prospective volunteers are informed in advance about your requirements for selection. You don't want to spring any nasty surprises on them halfway through recruitment.

Visit our Selection and interviews page for more tips and resources to help with the selection process.

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Screening and checks

Most volunteer organisations have a screening and checking process to protect volunteers and the people they work with. For most volunteer roles a simple identification check (to ensure that people are who they say they are) and some reference checks are all that's required.

For more information on this topic visit our Screening and checks page.

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Notify successful and unsuccessful volunteers

It might seem obvious but you will need to notify all prospective volunteers regardless of whether you selected them for a role or not.

It may seem unusual to reject an application but this is usually because the volunteer did not meet a mandatory requirement or failed your organisation's screening requirements. In some instances a candidate may simply not fit in with your organisation and its vlaues. In this case it would be helpful to suggest some alternative volunteering options for them to pursue.

You will also need to inform successful volunteers about the next steps in their volunteering journey with your organisation, such as completing paperwork, attending orientation and when they start the program.

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Tools and resources

Australasian Association of Volunteer Administrators - Resource Kits
A range of useful resources for best human resource practices for volunteer programs.

Volunteering England - The recruitment guide
General article discussing things to consider before recruiting volunteers, tips for the recruitment process and ideas for attracting volunteers.

Volunteering Queensland - Resource Central
A collection of useful resources, checklists and templates for volunteer coordinators covering all topics for volunteer program management.

Volunteering Victoria - Fact sheets
Facts sheets across a series of topics providing a basic introduction to key issues in managing volunteers and volunteering organisations or programs.

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Sign on a lawn saying 'Help Wanted'