How to Interview Candidates for Nonprofit Jobs - dummies

How to Interview Candidates for Nonprofit Jobs

By Stan Hutton, Frances Phillips

After you’ve chosen the top three to eight resumes, invite the applicants in for an interview. Interviewing nonprofit job candidates is a formidable task. Big companies have human resources departments with trained interviewers who spend their days asking questions of prospective employees. We’re neither human-resources specialists nor trained interviewers, but here are some tricks we’ve learned over the years:

  • Prepared lists of three or four standard questions that you ask all applicants enable you to compare answers across applicants. The interview shouldn’t be so formal that it makes both the candidate and you uncomfortable, but standardizing it to some degree is beneficial. Here’s a short list of typical questions:

    • Why are you interested in this position?

    • What do you see as your strengths? As your weaknesses?

    • How would you use your previous work experience in this job?

    • What are your long-term goals?

  • Group interviews with three or more people can give interviewers good insight into how the applicant will perform in board and community meetings. Also, different people notice different things about each applicant. Avoid making the candidate face a large group, which can make her unnecessarily nervous.

  • If an employee isn’t your first hire and the job to be filled is for a director or supervisor position, have each finalist meet at least some of the staff he’ll be supervising. Giving staff members a chance to meet their potential new boss is courteous, and their impressions are helpful in making the final selection.

You can’t ask an applicant personal questions about his age, religious practice, medical history, marital status, sexual orientation, or racial background. You can’t ask whether he has been arrested or convicted of a felony without proof of necessity for asking.

You also can’t ask whether he has children. Nor can you ask about any physical or mental conditions that are unrelated to performing the job. HR World has a useful list of 30 questions you can’t ask in a job interview.

Taking notes during the interview is acceptable, and you may also find that preparing a checklist on which you can rate the applicant in different areas is a helpful exercise. If you do, try to rate applicants discreetly. Job interviews are stressful enough without letting the applicant know that you rated him a three on a scale of one to ten.