Recruiting VISTAs and VISTA Leaders

 

Single-site supervisors, and in some cases sub-site supervisors, are responsible for recruiting qualified and committed VISTA members and/or VISTA Leaders to fill the VISTA position(s) at their VISTA project. Sub-site supervisors should check with their intermediary sponsor for specifics about how recruitment of VISTA members and/or VISTA Leaders will be handled.

The CNCS State Office is responsible for final approval of all applicants. Supervisors must submit their recommendations in the national recruitment system in eGrants, but the applicant is not guaranteed to become a VISTA. The CNCS State Office must approve the application, and the applicant must successfully complete the Pre-Service Orientation (PSO). Final selection authority remains with the CNCS State Office.

Recruitment Roles and Responsibilities

The recruitment tasks are broken up into five steps:

  • Plan – Determine required skills, develop clear position description(s) and develop a strategy to find them
  • Market – Advertise and publicize the open position(s)
  • Screen – Manage applications and identify committed and qualified applicants    
  • Interview – Get to know top applicants and assess their fit for the position
  • Select – Make recommendation(s) to the State Office for approval
     

stages of recruitment

To access extensive resources on these stages of recruitment, visit the following Campus resources:

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Using eGrants in the Recruitment Process

In addition to submitting your recommendation to the State Office in eGrants, you are expected to use the system for the following:

  • Create Opportunity Listings and VADs for each approved project
  • View applications and references for VISTA applicants
  • Select or reject applicants (Note: to do this, you'll click the "Sponsor Recommendation / Rejection" tab on an applicant's application)
  • Approve assignment-related transportation forms if your member is driving for service-related purposes and is involved in an accident (V-81)

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Application and Selection Process

The following steps outline the general process of how an individual seeks out a VISTA position, and the supervisor’s role in the process:

  1. A potential member creates an application in My AmeriCorps and submits it to the project sponsor.
  2. The sponsor reviews the application. If the applicant seems qualified for the position, the sponsor interviews the candidate and checks references.
  3. The sponsor recommends selection of the applicant for the project via the online recruitment system in eGrants.  This is done by completing the “Sponsor Recommendation / Rejection” tab of the application, selecting the candidate, and linking to the approved VAD and service site location.
  4. The applicant accepts the position through MyAmeriCorps.  (Please note that all of the above steps should be completed at least 40 days prior to Pre-Service Orientation.)
  5. The CNCS State Office approves (or disapproves*) the applicant via eGrants.
  6. CNCS invites the candidate to Pre-Service Orientation (PSO). This invitation must occur a minimum of 35 days before the start of the PSO.
  7. Upon receiving the invitation, the candidate should quickly complete the Travel Request Profile (TRP) in My AmeriCorps.  This indicates how the candidate will travel to PSO or relocate, and any special dietary or medical needs.  Sponsors should help facilitate the rapid submission of this form.
  8. Prior to attending PSO, the candidate completes their required online training through the VISTA Campus (the Terms and Conditions Course and Civil Rights and Responsibilities), and fills out a number of required forms in My AmeriCorps.
  9. The candidate attends and successfully completes PSO and is sworn in as VISTA.
  10. VISTA arrives immediately on site and begins service.

*You should maintain a reserve of additional applicants in the event your preferred candidate is not approved, or does not successfully complete Pre-Service Orientation. To limit such occurrences, recommend only those applicants that you regard as highly motivated and well-suited for VISTA service for approval by the CNCS State Office.

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Minimum Standards of Eligibility/Selection Criteria

Many factors help determine whether an applicant, recruited either nationally or locally, is suited to a specific VISTA position. Applicants must meet the following minimum standards of eligibility.

  • Be at least 18 years old upon entering VISTA training. There is no upper age limit.
  • Be U.S. citizens or have permanent resident status.
  • Not be listed in the National Sex Offender Registry database as having been convicted of sex-related crimes.
  • Be willing to submit fingerprints for a criminal history background check.
  • Be in a position to offer full-time service for one year without regard to regular working hours.
  • Be able to relate previous education, training, military, or work experience, and demonstrate other relevant skills or interests necessary to perform a specific VISTA assignment.
  • Be willing, to the maximum extent practicable, to live among and at the economic level of the low-income people served by VISTA projects.
  • Understand that VISTAs serve on a full-time basis. Therefore, there are special conditions that a VISTA must meet if they decide to hold a part-time job, enroll in school, or are subjects of legal proceedings (civil or criminal) that may consume time needed for VISTA assignments. VISTA service cannot be used to satisfy service requirements of parole or probation.

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Prohibition on Nepotism

To avoid actual or apparent favoritism in the operation of a VISTA project, the AmeriCorps VISTA program prohibits certain VISTA placement and assignment arrangements, as follows:

VISTA Members cannot be placed or assigned to a VISTA project site*, if the VISTA is:

  • In the immediate family (e.g., spouse, domestic partner, parent or guardian whether by blood or adoption, child whether by blood or adoption) of a project site staff member or a project site’s board of directors
  • A close relative, whether by blood or adoption, (e.g., grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin) of a project site staff member or a project site’s board of directors

A project site employee is prohibited from holding a VISTA project supervisory position, if she/he is:

  • In the immediate family (e.g., spouse, domestic partner, parent or guardian whether by blood or adoption, child whether by blood or adoption) of any CNCS program official responsible for the AmeriCorps VISTA project or any project site employee who holds supervisory authority over him/her
  • A close relative, whether by blood or adoption, (e.g., grandparent, grandchild, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, first cousin) of any CNCS program official responsible for the AmeriCorps VISTA project or any project site employee who holds supervisory authority over him/her

* A VISTA sponsoring organization may operate a VISTA project out of a single project site, or multiple sites. When a “project site” is referenced, the prohibited arrangement is limited to that particular site, rather than a project as a whole.

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What to Communicate to Applicants

During the interview, you are expected to present an accurate picture of serving as a VISTA by sharing essential terms and conditions including:

  • This is a full-time service for one year without regard to regular working hours.
  • The specific amount of the living allowance for the area where they will serve, and benefit information including the VISTA healthcare benefit options, end-of-service benefits, etc.
  • VISTA members may have outside part-time employment as long as it does not conflict with their service nor conflict with any applicable law or AmeriCorps VISTA program requirements or policies. VISTA members cannot be an employee or contractor of the sponsor or project and they must receive supervisor approval for outside work.
  • Also, VISTAs can’t be enrolled full time in school (part time is ok with certain criteria met), or be subjects of legal proceedings (civil or criminal) that may consume time needed for VISTA assignments. VISTA service cannot be used to satisfy service requirements of parole or probation.
  • Reiteration of the VISTA Criminal History Check policy.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Relocating VISTA Candidates

VISTAs relocating more than 50 miles for service are eligible for a Relocation Travel Allowance and $550 for settling in. CNCS State offices need to be notified by the sponsor so this information can be relayed to the VISTA Member Support Unit. VISTAs will be notified of their travel routing and reimbursment up to 3 weeks prior to PSO, and should not make arrangements or relocate prior to their notification.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resource

VISTA Travel Fact Sheet

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Service-Related Transportation & Mileage Reimbursement

Sponsors are responsible for reimbursing VISTAs for on-site service-related travel as specified in the project application and Memorandum of Agreement, or for providing other means of transportation.  When interviewing applicants, make sure they are aware of an service-related travel required, and whether a vehicle is required and whether or not they must provide the vehicle.

The AmeriCorps VISTA Member Handbook chapter on Service-Related Transportation goes into greater detail about the topic.

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Health Care Benefits for VISTAs

At the start of the VISTA term, VISTA members complete a Member Enrollment Form online at americorpsvista.imglobal.com to enroll in one of these options.

VISTA sponsors should make applicants aware of this information during the interview process so they are prepared to purchase health insurance if they are required to under the ACA.

Because there are differences in how the states administer the ACA, as well as individual variables that determine which requirements apply, each individual needs to assess their personal circumstances, determine how the ACA applies to them, and determine if VISTA is the right fit for them at this time.

VISTA Sponsors may provide a healthcare subsidy to off-set healthcare costs. They must provide it in the form of a reimbursement (i.e., they must document that the member has incurred costs) and must use private funds (not federal). They may also include VISTAs on their organization’s health insurance plan, but cannot identify the VISTAs as an employee for any reason. Sponsors cannot reimburse VISTAs who do not maintain insurance and are required to make the individual responsibility payment. Talk to your CNCS State Office for more information on these policies.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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Criminal History Checks

CNCS must take an applicant's criminal history into account when determining the suitability and fit of an applicant to a particular position/program. Making such a determination can be complex. Supervisors’ role in the process includes the following:

  1. Review an application for disclosure of a criminal history and discuss the history with the applicant during the interview.
  2. Ensure the applicant’s criminal history has been accurately reported on the application.
  3. Inform all applicants that they must submit to an FBI criminal history check and search on the National Sex Offender Registry database.  If the applicant is found in the NSOR database, they cannot serve as a VISTA.
  4. Make recommendations to the CNCS State Office.

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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VISTA Assignment Description (VAD)

The VISTA Assignment Description (VAD) is developed by the sponsoring organization during the project application process and submitted in eGrants.  Each VISTA must have his/her own VAD.
 
VADs are used during the recruitment process, to guide and support your members during the service year, and as an assessment tool to measure success. The VADs include activities that, taken together, make up the milestones identified in your Project Plan.  The VAD can be adapted as the project evolves and the strengths of your VISTA become apparent. Significant changes should be discussed with, and approved by, your contact at the CNCS State Office.

VAD flowchart illustration

For more information on this topic, visit the following Campus resources:

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