Interviewing with a non-profit is a different experience than your standard for-profit company. While a company may be looking for someone who can drive numbers and sales, organizations really dig deep into your values and how you align with their big picture (especially in leadership and executive positions).
Therefore, non-profit interview questions are likely to be more theoretical than skill-based, and because the field is so people-facing, your interviewer may dig into your interpersonal skills and experiences.
Non-profit interview questions (skills very well covered in Major Gifts Today) are comprehensive and designed to give both you and your interviewer an idea of what to expect from each other. There are some questions that are common throughout standard interviews, but some are directly targeted at determining if you and the staff are a good fit on a personal and professional level.
What to Expect in a Nonprofit Interview
Non-profits are mission-driven and serve particular populations. Their bottom line is to secure financial longevity to provide the services and financial aid needed to help the people they serve.
Non-profit interview questions really aim to discover who you are as an employee, and how you can help advance the cause. Careers in this field require dynamic personalities, strong interpersonal skills, and the ability to think creatively.
While non-profit interview questions will vary depending on the position you are applying for, the fundamental questions remain the same. Consider the experience as a chance to have a conversation about the organization, discuss your viewpoints, and decide if the partnership is mutually exclusive.
Popular Non-Profit Interview Questions
What was the most important contribution you made to your last workplace?
When your interviewers ask you this, they are looking to gauge your creativity. They are wondering how you can breathe life into the mission. Can you come up with fresh ideas for services or fundraising? Do you have the experience to rehaul their social media?
Non-profit interview questions like this want you to take the time to showcase your work. They can gain a lot of knowledge about you from your answer, and this is an easy way to see if your ideology and experience make you a good candidate for the position.
Preparing some examples of previous work (if tangible) is an easy way to demonstrate your abilities. However, whether you have a portfolio to share or not, it is a good idea to focus on the impact your work had on the organization, not just the work itself.
Demonstrating that you are results-driven shows that you can take initiative to help propel the organization forward.
How has your experience prepared you for this job?
This is a really good opportunity to demonstrate your interpersonal skills. Since many non-profit questions are geared towards analyzing your personality, showing that you have had positive relationships with clients, donors, and colleagues is essential.
Highlight your ability to work with the target population, handle sticky co-worker situations, as well as having the confidence to interact with board members and donors. Give solid examples of a time when you had a successful interaction, and focus on the outcome.
Demonstrating both your strengths in this area gives your interviewer a comprehensive picture of how you may fit into the workplace and a solid answer to the non-profit interview questions.
Which non-profit has an excellent fundraising strategy, and why?
Let’s face it, non-profits can’t function well without fundraising. That’s why popular non-profit interview questions often revolve around your experience with fundraising. By identifying other organizations that do an excellent job in this area, you are demonstrating that you understand fundraising basics.
Your ability to break down a strategy by another company can give your interviewers a good idea of your level of creativity, and possibly some of the ideas that you could bring with you into the position.
In which areas do you feel you need to obtain professional development? Why?
This question is a sneaky way to ask the age-old “What are your weaknesses?” question. By reframing the question, your interviewer is wondering about your growth mindset.
If the organization you are interviewing with is looking for someone forward-thinking for the position, your answer to this could make or break your chances. Being able to acknowledge the areas you lack experience in, as well as having a plan to advance your knowledge is a good way to show that you feel responsible for your personal and professional success.
Non-profit interview questions that are framed towards professional development can also demonstrate the values you may hold in this area as the leader of a team.
What questions or concerns do you have about working here?
Experienced non-profits know that an interview is a two-way street. This is a dual-purpose question. It allows you to highlight any foreseeable issues you may have if they decide to hire you, and it gives them an outside look to see how they are viewed by interviewees.
Acknowledging any issues important right out of the gate, so that neither you nor the non-profit end up unsatisfied in the future. If you do have questions, now is the time to clear the air.
Interviewers expect that you will have questions, and this can be a more casual part of the meeting. Instead of asking you questions, they pass the floor to you. This can help them understand what is important to you as an employee. If they are eager to hire you, they may be quick to address your concerns.
Tips for Interviews
Since 118 people on average apply for each position, you can feel confident that you’re already at the top of the pack when you get called for a future meeting.
However, you need to be swift in making a positive impression. They say it takes 7 seconds to make a first impression, but you have 90 seconds before your interviewer decides if you’re moving on to the next round of interviews.
Since 93% of our communication is non-verbal, remember to display confidence, make eye contact, and give a firm handshake if offered the chance. Keep calm, respond appropriately to the people in the room, and use positive body language.
Prepare for your initial meeting by ensuring you have a portfolio of past work or an example of how you can help move the mission forward. Having statistics to back up fundraising initiatives that you participated in can help boost your chances as well.
Ensuring that you have researched the non-profit and providing real-life examples directly related to their programming or campaigns can show that you are invested in succeeding at the job. If you take the conversation seriously, you are likely to take the job seriously.
Non-profit interview questions may differ depending on the organization and experience level of the interviewer. You may also discover that you will be interviewed by more than one person, including the executive director or a board member.
Keep in mind that acing non-profit interview questions depends on your skills to back up your experience, as well as your ability to tell a story. Ensuring that all of your answers focus on how you can connect with the mission of the organization, or demonstrating how your experience can impact the cause will help you pass any non-profit interview questions with flying colors.
Nonprofit job interviews are a mutual event and do not have to be nerve-wracking, even if you want to land an executive director’s role. You do not have to view them as an and employer “giving you a job,” but a chance for you to decide if you want to work with them. Changing your mindset about the purpose of the company is foundational to portraying confidence.