Written By: Amanda Tetanich - May 21, 2019
Consulting3 min read

Removing Barriers to Hire the Best Data Entry Staff

Finding great data entry personnel can be challenging.  You may already have a database manager or a strict budget, so you’re looking for an entry-level employee.  However, you need someone with high data standards and an understanding of  Raiser’s Edge, which can be difficult to find within a lower pay scale.

If your primary challenge is getting applicants, perhaps the issue is with how you’re describing the job itself in advertisements.  It’s tempting to include jargon and requirements that unintentionally discourage qualified people from applying.  For example, do you say that “Raiser’s Edge experience is a must”?  If someone has Raiser’s Edge experience, that probably came from their current or previous positions, which means they’re now looking for mid-career positions rather than entry-level.

Why not focus on the qualities that make someone great at data entry?  For example:

  • High attention to detail and consistency
  • Ability to repeatedly perform a task at the same level of attentiveness and quality
  • Ability to learn new software systems through videos and guides (self-taught, self-motivated)

It’s easier for a candidate with great potential to identify with the role when it’s described through familiar traits rather than unfamiliar tasks.

If you find that applicants are plentiful, but selecting the correct person for the job has been a challenge, maybe the interview process needs to be tweaked.  We ask so many questions that tell us how our applicant sees herself, but may not get to the truth of her work.  It’s also always tempting to pick the person who is most likable, but successful data entry doesn’t really depend on charisma the way successful major gift cultivation or volunteer coordination does.

During the interview, it may be helpful to do a few quick written exercises that help to assess the applicant’s comprehension of this type of work.  Why not try including a mock data file as part of the conversation?  I’ve always found that printing it out with basic instructions and leaving the applicant alone for a few minutes works best.  You can either leave it open-ended to see what they notice, or you can include a few questions to focus on specific concerns.  This test doesn’t require any RE-specific skills, but it does determine if someone can “think like Raiser’s Edge”:

If you were entering the information below into a database, what areas could cause issues?  If you could only make 3 changes to the file below, which would you prioritize as most important and why?

It’s important to remember that there are no right or wrong answers.  These types of exercises can reveal an applicant’s thought processes that are otherwise difficult to assess through normal interview questions.  For example, does the applicant comprehend the need for standardizing data formats or required fields?  Do they spot potential duplication errors?  The ability to recognize potential pitfalls of messy data is a great head start to maintaining a productive database.

What other quick puzzles or scenarios could you include in your interview that would be helpful in assessing whether someone could learn to do data entry?

Beyond the mechanics of data entry, we want someone who understands all of the challenges and joys of working in the nonprofit realm.  Being familiar with nonprofit concepts, such as campaigns and stewardship, is helpful.  But didn’t you have to learn that at some point?  Think realistically about how long it would take for someone to learn these concepts well enough for the data entry role. There are plenty of online training programs, books, and blogs that are great resources for understanding nonprofit operations.  Not to mention the wealth of knowledge that can be gained by just being in the office with your team.  If the training would take less time than continuing to look for the perfect applicant, then you’re recouping your investment.

In summary, think creatively and realistically about how to market the position and assess candidates.  Focus on qualities of good data entry, rather than nonnegotiable experience.  Understanding how an individual thinks and what behaviors they value will help you better evaluate their potential rather than qualifications.  By taking a new route, you may find that next rising star for your organization!

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About Amanda Tetanich

Amanda Tetanich is a Senior Product Manager for Omatic Software. Amanda has worked with nonprofit data solutions for over ten years, including about five years at Blackbaud prior to joining Omatic. She has held a variety of roles, including product support, consulting, and development. These experiences contribute to her user-focused style of product management. As a professional problem solver, Amanda enjoys finding creative, collaborative solutions to the data challenges not-for-profit organizations face. Amanda is from Charleston, SC and she is a graduate of Furman University.