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Interview Basics for Nonprofits


In order to get a job, nearly every person has to go through the interview process. And while this process may differ from organization to organization, there is an overall process and set of best practices that organizations consistently follow in order to determine which applicant will be the best fit for the role they’re filling.


When filling a role, every organization should conduct four types of interviews:

  1. Initial Qualification Screening

  2. Technical Skills Assessment

  3. Culture Add Interview

  4. Hiring Manager Interview

At each of these steps, there are important things to keep in mind. Let’s take a look at each step in the interview process:


Step 1: Initial Qualification Screening

The screening process should be your first step in the interview process. The purpose of screening is to make sure that an applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the job and has an interest in the mission of the organization.


The Dos and Don’ts of Screening

During screening, you should pay attention to the overall details. Did the candidate show up? Were they on time? Did they present themself well? Do they possess the most basic requirements needed for the job? This step is all about determining whether or not the applicant is worth further consideration; during screening you do not do any deep digging.


Who Does This Step?

Screening is usually performed by an individual in Human Resources or a recruiter.


What Questions Should Be Asked?

During screening, you’ll want to ask questions such as:

  1. “After having had time to review the details of the role, where do you see yourself hitting the ground running here if you were to assume this position?”

  2. “I would love to hear more about what interests you most about our organization and why.”

  3. “Tell me more about what interests you most about our organization?”


Step 2: Technical Skills Assessment

The Technical interview is where you begin to dig deeper into the candidate’s skills and job history. Oftentimes, nonprofit organizations over-index on the culture add and soft skills questions and focus too little on the technical skills. This is because nonprofit organizations tend to be very mission driven. The pitfall being that organizations hire people who are passionate about the mission but lack the necessary technical skills to truly make an impact on the organization.


The purpose of this step is to determine the candidate’s ability to actually do the job as it's designed, truly assessing their technical skills that will help you know if they can execute.


The Dos and Don’ts of Technical Interviews

During the Technical interview, it’s important to focus on technical skills; Don’t get too caught up in questions that relate more to the candidate’s values, culture, or soft skills. This part of the interview needs to focus on the technical skills and work experience that the candidate has had that may directly contribute to their ability to perform in the role.


Who Does This Step?

Technical Fit interviews typically involve at least two people from the team who have strong familiarity with the technical skills required for the job.


What Questions Should Be Asked?

While there are many questions that can be asked during the Technical Fit interview, some great example questions are:

  1. “Share your experience with promoting donor marketing efforts. Who would you work with to ensure the communications strategy is executed to deliver results? How would you leverage our CRM to drive success?”

  2. “Give an example of a project that best describes your organizational skills.”


Step 3: Culture Add Interview

The Culture Add interview is where you’ll determine if the candidate is a good culture add for your organization. Depending on the role and size of your team, some organizations combine the technical fit and culture add interviews in one step. Remember, while this is an important step, it is not the most important aspect of assessing candidates for the role. Technical skills and culture add evaluations must be balanced to ensure they assess both mission alignment and technical execution.


The purpose of this step is to make sure the candidate will be a good fit for the team and that their values align with those of your organization.


The Dos and Don’ts of Culture Add Interviews

During the interview, you want to make sure that you’re assessing the candidate’s personality and values to determine whether or not they both align with and add to your team. Focus on things like communication skills, work style, and personal values; the culture add interview is not meant to be a continued deep dive into the candidate’s technical skills.


Who Does This Step?

The Culture Add interview typically involves at least two team members that embody the culture and values of the organization. Oftentimes, the interview panel may include one team member that will report to the candidate, if hired. These team members can be the same individuals who participated in the Technical interview, or they can be different team members.


What Questions Should Be Asked?

During the Culture Add interview, you’ll want to ask questions such as:

  1. “In what type of work environment do you feel most productive?”

  2. “Our company holds [core value] as a core value. Please provide an example of how you displayed [core value] in your life or work experience.”

  3. “Can you tell me about a time when you received feedback about your work that was hard to hear? How did you handle it?”


Step 4: Hiring Manager Interview

The Hiring Manager Interview is a crucial step in the nonprofit hiring process. This interview gives the hiring manager an opportunity to assess the candidate's potential fit within the team, evaluate their qualifications, and gain insights into how the candidate's skills align with the organization's mission and goals. The hiring manager is often the person with the most direct knowledge of the role and is responsible for making the final decision about the candidate.


The primary objective of the Hiring Manager Interview is to finalize decision-making for the role by confirming the feedback your interview team has already provided as part of the technical and culture add interviews. It allows the hiring manager to dive deeper into the candidate's resume, work history, and accomplishments. Additionally, this interview aims to assess the candidate's ability to work well with the team and contribute positively to the organization's culture.


The Dos and Don'ts of Hiring Manager Interviews

During the Hiring Manager Interview, it is important to strike a balance between evaluating technical expertise and assessing cultural add. Here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind:


Dos:

  • Review the candidate's resume and cover letter before the interview to prepare targeted questions.

  • Focus on the candidate's specific accomplishments and how they align with the organization's needs.

  • Ask behavioral interview questions that assess the candidate's problem-solving abilities, collaboration skills, and adaptability.

  • Allow the candidate to ask questions about the role and the organization to gauge their level of interest and engagement.

Don'ts:

  • Duplicate or discount the efforts of your team that you have entrusted to evaluate each candidate prior to your final interview.

  • Rely solely on the candidate's technical skills; consider their potential for growth and willingness to learn.

  • Make assumptions about the candidate based on first impressions; give them an opportunity to showcase their qualifications and experiences.

  • Rush through the interview or dominate the conversation; create a comfortable environment for the candidate to express themselves.

Who Conducts the Hiring Manager Interview?

The Hiring Manager Interview is typically conducted by the direct supervisor or the manager of the position for which the candidate is applying.


What Questions Should Be Asked?

The Hiring Manager Interview should delve into both technical skills and organizational fit without duplicating the efforts of your interview panel team members. Some example questions include:

  1. “Now that you know the full scope of the position, where do you think you will be able to hit the ground running and add the most immediate value?”

  2. "My team has shared great feedback about your overall experience. Based on your experience, I’d love to hear more from you directly about how you see your skills contributing to our organization's mission?"

  3. “I have reviewed all of your application materials and my team has spoken very highly of you. I’d love to hear, in your own words, why you are interested in this role at our organization.”

 

Interview Best Practices

Throughout the interview process, there are best practices that organizations should follow. These practices allow organizations to remain organized, communicate with the interview team effectively, and make unbiased/independent decisions about which candidate is best:


Everyone keeps separate score sheet

During the interviews, each member of the panel should complete their own score sheet. This sheet allows the panel members to take notes about their own thinking and the candidate’s responses. These notes can then be used to complete the candidate rating rubric.


Each person on the interview completes a private rubric to rate candidate

As mentioned above, after the interview is finished each panel member should privately complete a rating rubric for the candidate. This ensures that each panel member's impression and thoughts about the candidate are uniquely their own; it helps to ensure that panel members are not influencing each other’s opinions about the candidate and that all panel members’ opinions are heard.


One person compiles/reviews ratings to minimize rating bias

Once the rubrics are completed, one panel member should review them and compile the results. This helps to minimize rating bias and ensure that all panel member’s voices are reflected in the overall rating of the candidate.


Ask behavioral interview questions associated with your organizational values (values-based interview questions)

Alignment with your organizational values is important for any candidate to be a good fit for a role. Therefore, it’s important that during your Cultural Add interview, you ask questions that allow you to gain insight into how the candidate aligns with your organization’s values.

 

Conducting interviews in a thoughtful manner is important if nonprofits want to identify and bring on the candidates that are the best fit for the role. Of course, there’s much more beyond interviewing (such as decision-making, offer presentation, onboarding, etc.) that organizations need to navigate when bringing on new talent. If your organization has any questions about interview basics or needs support with any of the things that happen after the interview stage, we’re here to help! Book a FREE Discovery Call today!


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