How to Ace a Nonprofit Interview

Nonprofit workers need to be positive and willing to work hard.

Nonprofit workers need to be positive and willing to work hard.

Nonprofits often operate with the help of a lot of volunteers and a bare-bones paid staff, putting a lot of responsibility on the backs of the paid employees. When you're headed for a job interview for one of those positions, come to the table with a professional, can-do attitude, advises the nonprofit staffing company Commongood Careers, to show you have what it takes to survive and thrive in the nonprofit world.

Research the organization. Use sites such as GuideStar and Idealist to get information about its budget, programming and leadership. Check out the organization's website to find out how it defines itself, how it handles outreach and marketing and the general vibe. While you're at it, start following the organization on Facebook and Twitter -- and make note if the group is not using those social media feeds.

Research other organizations doing what the nonprofit is doing, or organizations serving a similar mission. Nonprofit leaders want to know that you're passionate about the cause, and that means reading books, online journals, newspaper articles and competitor websites, as well as attending events that pertain to that mission. Your research may also put you in contact with other people doing similar work in your area; use them as a resource to find out as much as you can about the work and how you can make yourself as appealing as possible for the interview.

Prepare a list of questions based on your research. Prepare some questions that pertain to your job; for example, if you're a web developer, prepare to ask about the content management systems you'll use or the budget you'll be working with. Also prepare some questions about the nonprofit itself as you would with any other job. For example, ask about what an average day looks like or the populations you'll be working with. Your research may also have uncovered some ideas that you can share about the nonprofit's mission or ways you plan to add value. In that web developer example, you may have ideas about ways to increase revenue online or how to set up an automatic alert when new grants become available.

Present a professional appearance and demeanor as you would with any other position. Nonprofits may operate on shoestring budgets and its leaders may wear jeans to the office, but you still need to present yourself as professionally as possible during the interview. Dress in clean, well-pressed business attire, arrive on time and appear enthusiastic about the work and the mission.

Tip

  • Avoid bragging or talking badly about your past employers. In many nonprofit jobs, especially ones that work directly with people in need, a certain level of humility is key. Showing off those negative traits during your job interview is not going to win you points and it could make you bomb the interview.
 

Resources

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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