Preparing for Member Recruitment
An AmeriCorps*State program is responsible for proactively recruiting qualified individuals who are interested in contributing their knowledge, experience, skills and service to your program’s target community. Understanding and determining who is eligible for AmeriCorps service is essential to recruiting the right applicants. Programs should refer to the most recently updated Terms & Conditions for AmeriCorps*State and National Grants, for a complete listing of eligibility requirements for AmeriCorps members. Eligible candidates must meet the following criteria:
- Who has been selected by a recipient or subrecipient to serve in an approved national service position;
- Who is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States;
- Who is at least 17 years of age at the commencement of service unless the member is out of school and enrolled in a full-time, year-round youth corps or full-time summer program as defined in the NCSA [42 U.S.C. § 12572 (a)(3)(B)(x)], in which case he or she must be between the ages of 16 and 25, inclusive, and
- Who has received a high school diploma or its equivalent, agrees to obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent (unless this requirement is waived based on an individual education assessment conducted by the program) and the individual did not drop out of an elementary or secondary school to enroll in the program, or is enrolled in an institution of higher education on an ability-to-benefit basis and is considered eligible for funds under 20 U.S.C. § 1091 (See Section IX. B.).
Please see ENROLLMENT AND RETENTION POLICIES for more information.
Recruitment Plan Development
Since each AmeriCorps*State program is different, an individualized recruitment plan is necessary to gain members who are avid about service and ensure member retention. Your program may find creating a timeline of budgeted recruitment activities a useful recruitment strategy. Regardless of the chosen strategy, your program’s process should include planning, revision when necessary, and commitment to the intended recruitment goals. CCCS strongly encourages AmeriCorps*State programs to commit their final recruitment plans in writing. Creating a typed document allows your recruitment plan to serve as a reference point that can be easily accessed, shared, and modified if necessary. See Appendix C-Questions to Consider When Planning a Recruitment Strategy for a list of questions designed to aid in developing a recruitment plan.
My AmeriCorps - A Recruitment Requirement
The My AmeriCorps Portal is an online member management system supported by CNCS. Among many functions, this resource gives AmeriCorps programs the opportunity to recruit nationally, free of charge. While the Commission has always encouraged the use of the My AmeriCorps system as a part of a program’s recruitment strategy, as of 2018 the Corporation for National and Community Service now requires that all AmeriCorps State and National programs post member position descriptions for which they are actively recruiting by creating Service Opportunity Listings on www.My.AmeriCorps.gov via the eGrants portal.” More information regarding this requirement can be found in the Commission’s My.AmeriCorps.gov Member Position Posting Policy.
Additional resources about creating Service Opportunity Listings and use of the online recruitment system can be found at: https://www.nationalservice.gov/resources/americorps/member-assignment-listings
Public Notice of NonDiscrimination
Programs must notify members, community beneficiaries, applicants, program staff, and the public, including those with impaired vision or hearing, that it operates its program or activity subject to the non-discrimination requirements applicable to their program found at §§175 and 176(f) of the NCSA or §417 of the DVSA, and at 45 CFR Parts 2540 (AmeriCorps State and National). The notice must summarize the requirements, note the availability of compliance information from the recipient and CNCS, and briefly explain procedures for filing discrimination complaints with CNCS.
Sample language is:
This program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, political affiliation, or, in most instances, religion. It is also unlawful to retaliate against any person who, or organization that, files a complaint about such discrimination. In addition to filing a complaint with local and state agencies that are responsible for resolving discrimination complaints, you may bring a complaint to the attention of the Corporation for National and Community Service. If you believe that you or others have been discriminated against, or if you want more information, contact:
(Name, address, phone number – both voice and TTY, and preferably toll free – FAX number and email address of the program) and/or
Office of Civil Right and Inclusiveness
Corporation for National and Community Service
1201 New York Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20525
(800) 833-3722 (TTY and reasonable accommodation line)
(202) 565-3465 (FAX); email@example.com (email)
Programs must include information on civil rights requirements, complaint procedures and the rights of beneficiaries in member or volunteer service agreements, handbooks, manuals, pamphlets, and post in prominent locations, as appropriate. Programs must also notify the public in recruitment material and application forms that it operates its program or activity subject to the nondiscrimination requirements. Sample language, in bold print, is: This program is available to all, without regard to race, color, national origin, disability, age, sex, political affiliation, or, in most instances, religion. Where a significant portion of the population eligible to be served needs services or information in a language other than English, the recipient shall take reasonable steps to provide written material of the type ordinarily available to the public in appropriate languages.
The Selection Process
Once you have implemented your recruitment plan, you should have a wealth of completed applications. The application review marks the start of the selection process. In approaching this process, it is important to understand and be able to explain what AmeriCorps is and the goals of your specific AmeriCorps program to prospective members, and how your program’s member selection criteria and means of testing for those criteria relate to ensuring the best member matches.
For example, Program X, a third-grade literacy program, has two tests for member match in their selection process: an interview and a multiple choice test. Program X should provide applicants with context for these selection process elements, i.e., that the multiple choice test is a ten-minute test designed to assess a prospective member’s ability to read, comprehend, and answer questions on a third grade reading level. Providing this additional information to prospective members — a specific time length expectation and general idea of content — allows them to estimate the level of mental exertion necessary to participate in the application process. If an applicant is still interested, he/she can determine if a reasonable accommodation for the test is needed and then decide whether or not he/she should like to request one.
Program Directors must ensure each applicant understands that, if selected, he/she will:
- Be an AmeriCorps member of your service project, who is a participant that has committed to a specific term of service.
- Not be an employee of your organization who receives wages for hours worked.
- Member Contract/ Service Agreement, over the course of the program year and/or upon successful completion of their service term.
Note: Some member benefits vary from program to program. Consult your program’s grant agreement and/or your CCCS Program Officer for clarification. For general information on all AmeriCorps*State benefits see the Member Benefits section.
An opportune time to present an applicant with information concerning your program’s selection process is during the contact to schedule an interview.
The principal thoughts a Program Director should be cognizant of throughout the selection process, but especially when interviewing are:
- Anything that is asked, requested, required, or done for one applicant must be asked, requested, required, or done for all applicants.
- An interview should uphold the right for all individuals to be evaluated based on merit and potential.
When interviewing, a Program Director should:
- Interview in facilities that are accessible to everyone.
- Interview in private confidential spaces.
- Use the service position description as a guide/reference.
- Use the same list of interview questions for all interviewees.
- Record interviewee responses. Note: This can help to make impartial comparisons between applicants when deciding selections for membership.
- Ask about education, experience, skills, licenses and/or certificates that are relevant to the service position.
- Be clear about the essential functions and expectations of a service opportunity.
- Be willing to consider alternative ways an essential function, marginal function or task can be performed.
- Focus on what an interviewee can contribute to the needs of your service program and target community.
- Focus on what an interviewee can gain from participating in your program’s service opportunity.
The Program Director should also adhere to interview etiquette:
- Be respectful and courteous to all interviewees.
- Greet all interviewees with a handshake, even if they may have short arms, use a prosthetic, are blind, etc. If a handshake is not possible or seems inappropriate, please exercise personal judgment to provide a suitable gesture/expression that can be perceived and interpreted by your interviewee as an equitable greeting.
- Face the person being interviewed.
- Provide an interviewee your undivided attention.
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewee, even if he/she is blind, using an interpreter, etc.
- Use appropriate language (e.g. use “disability” instead of “handicap”). If you are ever in doubt of the proper term or language, ask the interviewee and/or refer to the interviewee by his/her name. For more information please refer to Appendix D-Acceptable and Unacceptable Language in a Service Environment.
- Use “Person First” language; people are human beings first and foremost (e.g. a “person with a disability” instead of a “disabled person”).
A Program Director must not:
- Make assumptions about an interviewee’s abilities.
- Make assumptions about the type of accommodations an interviewee may need.
- Make medical inquiries, even if an illness or disability was disclosed by the interviewee.
Note: Medical inquiries and/or requests for medical documentation must occur after an applicant is officially offered a service opportunity.
- Allow the disclosure of a disability during an interview to be used as a factor in the consideration of your selection decision.
- Ask direct or indirect questions related to the existence, nature, severity, or cause of an illness or disability, including questions concerning past attendance and leave from work related to illness or disability.
- Ask personal questions related to an interviewee’s marital, family and financial status.
- Inquire about an interviewee’s non-professional affiliations (i.e. clubs, social organizations, union membership, etc.).
- Ask race-related questions.
- Make biological sex and gender related assumptions about an interviewee’s abilities.
Note: When an interviewee reveals information that is illegal for an interviewer to ask, inappropriate, and/or information of which you would rather not be aware, a Program Director should always change the course of the conversation back to an appropriate topic. Further, information of this nature should not be noted nor serve as a factor in your selection decision.
Reasonable Accommodations Considerations
A Program Director should communicate reasonable accommodation rights to all current staff (and the larger agency if applicable) prior to start of the recruitment process. Throughout the recruitment process all applicants should be informed about their reasonable accommodation rights, including their right to request a reasonable accommodation at any time during the selection process for any portion of the selection process.
If an applicant discusses, discloses, and/or requests a reasonable accommodation unrelated to the selection process a Program Director should not discuss, inquire, or use this information when selecting members. To address this potential situation a Program Director can redirect the conversation. For example, one could say, “Thank you. I appreciate the fact that you felt comfortable enough to express X information, here at Y service project we encourage the participation of every individual with the skills and abilities to execute the responsibilities of this service opportunity and we will provide the accommodations necessary to ensure inclusive participation.”
Also, a Program Director can briefly explain the program’s accommodation process. Prohibiting disability, illness, and medical information questions (or discussions) prior to the official offer of a position helps to prevent an interviewer from being perceived as someone who offered or denied a service position to an applicant based on the applicant’s disability/illness/medical history.
Once selection decisions have been made and the applicant is offered a service opportunity, then a confidential conversation can occur concerning the best way to accommodate the member. For examples of interview questions an interviewer can and cannot ask please refer to Appendix E-Interview Questions: Dos and Don’ts.
Applicants chosen for AmeriCorps membership with your program should have successfully demonstrated interests that relate closely to the goals and activities of your service position. Establishing and fostering a connection between the needs/wants/desires of members to the activities and aspirations of their service opportunities fosters member satisfaction and personal/professional development from their service. Member satisfaction and fulfillment translate into member retention for the entire service year. Although sources of fulfillment are unique to each member, addressing the motivations that can influence member fulfillment (recognition, ability to make a difference, learning, growth, the ability to be a part of something greater than oneself, etc.), programs can enhance their member retention.