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An Interview for a Nonprofit Job Might Include These Questions

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Here are more of the favorite interview questions for nonprofit job seekers. They were posed by nonprofit professionals across the spectrum of nonprofit organizations.

  • I ask the candidate to describe a situation that didn't go as they had planned or hoped, then describe how they remedied it at that time, and finally describe how that lesson learned may have changed the way they did things going forward. It helps me understand whether they can see and take responsibility for things that went awry, as well as learn and grow.
    Lisa Froemming, Columbia St. Mary's Foundation, Milwaukee

  • The best question I've been asked as a candidate for a development position is, "How would your co-workers describe working with you?" It was for a role in a very team-oriented shop, and the fit of the candidate was going to be critical to their being successful. How the candidate responds tells the questioner a lot about their self-awareness and how they interact with others.
    Sean Ingram, University of Toronto

  • Actually, it's a naturally progressive series of questions. "How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, ten being best?" I then follow that up with "Why?" Finally I ask, "What do you have to do to move that number higher? I'm looking for a 7-8 -- someone mature and strong enough to recognize and be proud of their accomplishments, and yet mature and strong enough to have goals for continuous growth and improvement, with those being more important than compensation.
    Bob Gregg, MA, CFRE, The Bridge Consulting Group

  • "Why this position in this organization at this time in your career?" It allows the individual to explain what they know about the organization, anticipated responsibilities of the position, and where they want their career to go.
    John C. McGee, McGee Consulting

  • "Give me an example of when you needed to change projects quickly and how did you manage your time and quality of work?"

    At the nonprofit I work for, it's important that staff be able to switch gears quickly and efficiently, because sometimes breaking news occurs or there is a change that must be made to event(s).
    Allison Nassour, MBA, Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Los Angeles

  • I like to ask: "How do you like to be managed?" and "How do you like to be thanked/rewarded for your work?"
    Morrie Warshawski, Non-Profit Management Consultant and Contractor, San Francisco

  • I’ve been actively interviewing and have been asked most of the questions that have been mentioned. For the positions that involve direct fundraising vs. management, I have been asked to describe a particular fundraising ask and describe all the components of it. There are usually follow up questions.

    Also, I am always asked what I know about the organization for which I'm interviewing. It is very important to do your research and not to lie. Remember, they always know more than you do. It is important to do more than just read their website. Look up people on LinkedIn so you know their backgrounds. Also, see what other things come up on internet searches. This will let you know if they are in the middle of any controversies or have won any big accolades.
    Laura Russell, CFRE

  • I'd most like to know how a candidate would help an organization move from one level to the next. This can provide insight on the full gamut of organizational, creative, and technical aptitudes...as well as interpersonal style. Many, if not most, nonprofit organizations today are challenged to one degree or another by change - be it through inertia, fear of change, cultural baggage (a major factor), entrenched attitudes, autocratic management, and archaic attitudes...to name just a few things. I want to know how someone can work to keep the outfit vibrant, relevant, and flexible.
    Michael McWilliams, Rapporteur, Boston

  • "How do you measure success in this position?" This is especially important if the role entails any sort of revenue-related metrics. It helps establish a common quantitative understanding that is crucial to guiding expectations in the early stages of the new hire's acclimation to the agency. It also helps clarify qualitatively the person-job fit.
    Perry Jowsey, Freedom Service Dogs, Inc., Denver

  • I like to ask "If you were not applying for this position and worked somewhere else, would you want to be a volunteer or board member for this organization?" Of course, they will say yes, but then I ask "In what way would you contribute to the organization as a volunteer or board member?" The way they answer helps me decide if they are passionate about our mission or not.
    Terri Lenahan-Downs, Louisville Zoo

  • One thing I don't do is start to tell them about our organization before asking them about us. Thus, my first question is usually something along the lines of "What can you tell me about our organization?" If they don't know, especially in the internet age, then it says a lot about how prepared they are.
    Brian Sheridan, Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council

  • I like asking candidates for upper level positions if they can name the chair of our nonprofit board or any of the other trustees. Also, it's worth asking candidates if they know my organization's mission statement (at least the thrust, the actual wording is not important). These questions let me see if the candidate has done their organizational homework.
    Rich Brame, NOLS, Wyoming
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