07 September 2017

7 Tips To Nail A Job Interview: Nonprofit Edition

At the nonprofit where I work, hiring is a collaborative process. When someone leaves or is promoted, the hiring manager revisits the job description to make changes as necessary, then shares it with colleagues for feedback. The job description is finalized and posted (generally to our website and Idealist.org), and we wait eagerly for the applications to come streaming in.

The average job posting gets 20-100 applications during the 2-3 week posting window. The hiring manager is responsible for culling through the cover letters and resumes, grading applicants on things like relevant skills, nonprofit experience, volunteer experience, enthusiasm, grammar, and overall presentation (for tips on how to make your application stand out, check out my How To Get A Job: Nonprofit Edition blog), and selecting the 10-15 people who will move on to the next round of 30-minute phone interviews.

During this initial phone call, I specifically look for someone who is excited about the job AND about the organization, can give relevant examples of related skills, and stands our from the pack. These things, along with scores from the previous resume review round, are all tallied into a spreadsheet. The top 4-5 candidates are asked in for an interview with a team of interviewers (generally 2-4 people who will be working closely with the position).

No matter how hard we try, we always end up with someone in an interview who shouldn't be there. I once had a girl answer a scheduled phone interview while she was driving (she had picked the time!). We had another candidate come in for an in-person interview who was so long-winded we got through two questions and still went over our allotted time.

To avoid being "that person", here are 7 Tips to Nail a Job Interview:
  1. Do your research. Before you arrive, research the organization and make sure this is a place you want to work. I can tell if you want to work here or if you just want to work somewhere. I don't need you to recite the mission statement, but I want to see that you understand and relate to our ethos. Bonus points if you can relate the job to how it will benefit the overall organization.
  2. Say enough, but not too much. This should go without saying, but, per the example of Blabby McBlabberPants, it does not. You want to share enough information without losing your audience. You also need to talk long enough to answer the question that has been asked. If you are a numbers person, plan to talk for 2-5 minutes per question. A sure sign an interview has gone awry is if it's over well before the allotted time.
  3. Make eye contact. Always look at your interviewer(s) in the eye. You don't need to be creepy-staring-person, but use the appropriate amount of eye contact. This shows you understand basic human interaction and that you will be comfortable to work with. Bonus points if you use your interviewers' names in the interview.
  4. Assume interviewers know very little about you, especially the people who did not conduct the phone interview. With 10-15 phone interviews and probably no more than 5 minutes to review your resume and cover letter before an in person interview, it's safe to say you earned your spot at the table but need to remind your interviewer(s) why you're there. Don't be afraid to repeat things you've already talked about or reference relevant experience highlighted in your application. As long as you aren't quoting yourself verbatim, it'll be welcome context for your conversation.
  5. Prep answers to standard questions. I'm going to help you out. Here are some standard questions you should prep for: What do you find most exciting about this position? What do you think will be your biggest challenge? What's your greatest professional success? Failure? Can you provide an example of a difficult work situation, and how you worked through the conflict? What is your ideal work environment? Worst environment? How does this position help you get to where you want to go in your career/life? What other stories do you want to share with us?
  6. Bring 3-4 questions to ask in return. Interviewers expect you to have questions, especially ones that show you've given thought to how you would contribute to the team. Ask questions during the interview to make it more conversational or save them until the end. You can learn a lot when you ask how long people have been in their position, why this current position is open, and what people find most rewarding/challenging at their organization. The last question should always be, "I'm really excited about this position. What is the next step?"
  7. Remember, interviewers want it to go well too. The person sitting across the table from you is absolutely rooting for you. Hiring is exhausting work, and I personally want every person who to be my next great staff member. Because then I get to be done hiring and begin the next stressful activity of on-boarding. But seriously, I'm rooting for you.
Follow these steps, and basic common sense*, and you'll land your dream job*. I wish you the best of luck in your next interview.***

*Don't show up hungover and smelling of booze...yeah that happened...
**Dream job not guaranteed, but seriously these tips are sound. 
***Full disclosure: I wrote this during a really bad interview, so sometimes I'm not rooting for you so much as rooting for it to be over.

1 comment:

Cori B said...

You wrote a blog post DURING an interview? Yikes. :'D Thanks for the tips to save some future poor soul from not being that person...