How to Prepare for a Nonprofit Interview (5 Tips Included)
You did it. You scored an interview with a new nonprofit organization. You’re ready to save the world and get paid to do it! Now all you have to do is ace the interview to get the job.
Nonprofit jobs can be incredibly competitive, so we are here to share with you everything you need to know about how to prepare for a nonprofit interview, including the different interview stages, how to get ready, common interview questions and answers, and more.
Let’s get started.
Conducting Nonprofit Interviews: An Overview
Nonprofit interviews look a lot like traditional job interviews—you’ll have a series of phone, virtual, and/or in-person interviews to help see if you’re a fit for the organization.
In general, there are typically three different stages of the nonprofit interview process.
Initial Screening: The initial screening is often with a recruiter. They will ask you basic questions about who you are and why you want to work for the organization. You have to pass the screener to get to the next stage.
Phone Interviews: Phone interviews are often held with the hiring manager. You will learn more about the role itself, so be sure to showcase how your skills and background align.
In-person Interviews: In-person interviews are the final stage of the interview process. Often, you will meet with the hiring manager, as well as several other members of the team or leadership. Sometimes you’ll even meet with the Executive Director of the organization. They all want to get a sense of how you’ll fit with the team prior to extending the offer.
The size of the organization often determines how in-depth the interview process will be. However, it’s best to be over prepared for all stages of the nonprofit job interview process than underprepared.
Types of Questions to Expect
Most nonprofit job interview questions will fall into three categories.
Background: Interviewers will ask you to tell them about yourself, including your education and job history.
Skills-based: Interviewers will ask what qualifies you for the position, including any job-specific knowledge needed for the role.
Values-based: Interviewers will ask you questions to uncover your personal values and motivations to see how you align with the organization’s mission.
We’ll go over specific questions and sample answers later in the article.
Nonprofit Interview Criteria
During each interview, leaders take notes on whether you’ll be a good fit for the organization. They may consider the following criteria.
Job fit - Are your skills and background a good fit for the organization? If you are missing specifics, are you open to learning? Can the skills be taught?
Culture fit - Will you fit in with the team? Do your values align with those of the organization? How does your preferred work style mesh with others?
Practical fit - Do they have the budget and the resources available to extend an offer? Can they offer you what you are looking for?
At the end of the day, it’s expensive to recruit and hire employees, so nonprofits want to attract and retain the right talent to help them advance their mission.
Winning Strategies for Nonprofit Job Interviews
Once you get the initial interview, the heat is on! You want to feel confident going into it, so here are five winning strategies to help you ace your nonprofit interview.
Do Your Homework
The first thing you want to do is research the organization. Jot down some notes about it, including their mission, who they serve, and how they make a difference.
This knowledge can help you articulate what you like about the organization, what drew you to the position, and any questions you may have for the interviewer.
Next, check out the job description. Note any achievements that you have that align with the position and prepare thoughtful answers if you’re missing anything critical they are looking for. If available, look up the people you are interviewing with to see if there are common interests or background points you can use to help you stand out.
Come Prepared With Questions
While you should expect to be asked questions during your interview, you also want to come prepared with a list of questions of your own to show how engaged you are.
Start by writing down questions to ask based on the job description. For example, if you’re applying for a director of development position, you’ll want to inquire about their donor base and fundraising goals.
Dress the Part
When it comes to what to wear to a nonprofit interview, you will want to dress professionally. Consider a suit in neutral colors like black, navy, or gray.
If you’re hired, follow up about the dress code. Some nonprofits prefer business professional, while others are more relaxed. Don’t make assumptions before you start, so it’s best to over-dress for your interview than underdress.
Throughout the interview, be confident and make eye contact.
If you’re nervous, that’s okay! You still want to be able to put your best foot forward, so take a deep breath, remember how qualified you are, and share why you are the best candidate for the position with confidence.
Follow-up After the Interview
After the interview, you want to reach out to those you spoke with, whether via email or a handwritten thank you note.
Thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Reference a specific detail in the message, whether it’s something you had in common or something you are looking forward to so they can remember who you were. End by sharing they can reach out for additional information if needed and that you look forward to hearing from them.
This is a nice touch that could make the difference between you and another candidate.
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Common Questions Asked in Nonprofit Interviews (With Answers)
You never know what the interviewer will ask you, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go into it well-prepared! Here are 13 common nonprofit organization interview questions complete with sample answers.
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is X, and I have a degree in X. I am so passionate about X, which is why I am interested in your organization.
Note: You can share more personal information if you want; however, keep it high-level. Share what’s relevant for the position. For example, if it’s a children’s literacy nonprofit like Reading is Fundamental, it makes sense to share that you're a parent and passionate about education.
2. Can you tell us about your role at your current company?
I am currently X at Y, and I am responsible for X, X, and X. I have been there for X years.
Note: As you highlight your responsibilities, choose ones that align with this role to showcase your job fit. You may also share any career progression information.
3. Why do you want to leave your current role?
I am looking for a new role that better aligns with my personal values and skills, and I believe I would be a great asset to X.
Note:Be honest and transparent about why you want to leave; however, be careful not to bad mouth your current company. The nonprofit community can be small.
4. What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
My biggest strength is my compassion for others. I care about making a difference, and I have done so by X, X, and X. My biggest weakness is X, and I have been working to address it by doing Y.
Note: You want to be transparent and honest but actionable. Tie everything back to the organization and how you can help them further their mission.
5. What is your biggest accomplishment?
Can I share two? Professionally, my greatest accomplishment is X. Personally, my greatest accomplishment is Y.
Note: Approaching the question this way shows that you value both your work and personal life.
6. What skills and experience do you have that make you a good fit for this role?
Much of my experience to date makes me a good fit for the role, including X, Y, Z.
Note: If you can, use specific examples that are relevant to the position or the organization.
7. Do you have experience in X?
While I do not have direct experience in that area, I do have translatable skills and experiences that help prepare me for it, including X, Y, Z.
Note: If the answer is no to a question, soften it. Highlight other ways that you can get to the question at hand. This will highlight your critical thinking skills. And don’t forget to include any volunteer experience!
8. What tools and training would you need to be successful in this role?
What tools and training are available? I like to work within the resources available.
Note: Asking the question back demonstrates an interest in understanding the organization’s structure and resources before looking to invest in new opportunities.
9. What’s your preferred learning style?
I enjoy learning from my team and from my peers, observing and asking questions before making decisions.
Note: Adjust for your learning style, but be sure to highlight collaboration.
10. How would you approach X?
Note: Many organizations will ask a scenario-specific question to see how well you think on your feet. Consider several scenarios beforehand to anticipate. For example, If you are interviewing for a grant writing position, you may be asked how you would apply for a grant or write a winning application.
11. What drew you to our organization?
I feel connected to your mission because X, Y, Z.
Note: Tailor this answer to the organization to demonstrate your deep understanding of their work.
12. How do you demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in your work?
This is so important to me personally and professionally because everyone deserves equitable opportunities to succeed. I practice this through X, Y, Z.
Note: Much of what you do at a nonprofit will center around this work, so be sure to highlight your commitment in an authentic way.
13. What are your values?
Everything I do in my personal and professional life is driven by X, Y, Z.
Note: This question is intended to make sure your personal values align with the mission of the organization. If you want to work for a religious organization but fundamentally stand against some of its views, it won’t be a good fit.
Wrapping Up: What's Next?
Congratulations! You’ve successfully learned how to prepare for a nonprofit interview.
Make sure after your interview to send a follow-up thank you note or email, expressing your continued interest in the role. Then, all you can do is wait and hope for the best!
Even if you don’t get this job, there will be another one that will be a better fit for your skills. Check out Instrumentl’s blog for more nonprofit tips and resources that can help you for next time. You’ve got this!
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