When it comes time for preparing that first big interview, there are so many things to be conscious of. From how you present yourself to the work experiences you reference, it’s safe to say that virtually everything you do and say during the hour-long meeting will be carefully analyzed by your interviewer.
That’s why it’s crucial that you arrive prepared. To aid in this, we’ve rounded up some tips to help you prepare for every aspect of your first nonprofit interview, whether it’s your first-ever career-launching interview, or just your first in the sector.
1. Do your research
As you’re getting ready for your first interview in the nonprofit sector, the most important thing is to get educated. Before your interview day, make sure you’re familiar with what that particular organization does, how they do it, and of course, how your skills can improve their existing operation.
Doing your research isn’t limited to a company’s mission statement, though – we urge job seekers to go a step further and take a look at their target organization’s social media pages to get a feel for what their culture is like, the kind of events they promote and participate in, and the content they share. These things will reveal a lot about how the organization goes about its day-to-day, and can give you some extra talking points in your interview. Think of ways you can weave things you saw online into your interview answers – imagine how smooth you’d sound cooly referencing their latest Instagram post to demonstrate your fit: “As an avid runner, I was thrilled to see on Instagram that XYZ Organization hosts an annual fundraising marathon. That’s something I’d love to get involved with should I join your team!”
At TalentEgg, we’ve heard from ambitious young professionals who have even dug a bit deeper and reached out to current employees to learn about their experiences with the organization. Fun fact – one of our TalentEgg interns did this when interviewing for her job, and it definitely made her stand out! Going that extra step to demonstrate your sincere interest in learning more about the job opportunity won’t go unnoticed by your interviewer, and it’ll give you a better idea of the environment you’re heading into as well.
After doing your homework, you’ll walk into the interview looking and feeling confident in what you know, and there will be no room for doubt – from you or the hiring manager!
2. Connect with the mission
It’s one thing to have studied what the organization does, but it’s just as important that you’re able to connect the dots for your interviewer and show them how your passion, combined with your experience, can contribute to the organization’s overall goals.
While you may not have direct experience working at a nonprofit, this is where your volunteer positions, participation in fundraising campaigns, and other charitable work come into play. If you don’t have any of those heading into your first interview (which we strongly encourage you do!), you can still foster a connection by asking educated questions, explaining why you’re interested in the position, and highlighting how your personal values align with those of the organization.
To truly make an impression on your interviewer, we advise young professionals to go beyond simply stating their desire to “make an impact” or “give back to their community.” As we enter a time where more and more young people’s careers are fueled by passion and drive to do social good, those answers don’t exactly stand out from the crowd anymore. In our most recent student survey, 96% of respondents stated that a company’s social responsibility initiatives are at least somewhat important to them. Therefore, if you truly want to make your mark on a hiring manager, make sure to come equipped with a strong reason for why your connection to the cause is most meaningful.
3. Focus on your transferable skills
Even if you’ve never worked in a nonprofit environment before, you’ve surely gained some valuable transferable skills in school and at other jobs that would be highly desirable in the sector. Below we’ve listed some soft skills you might want to focus on that could give you an edge, particularly when interviewing to work in a non profit environment.
- Positive attitude
Because of the fast-paced and collaborative nature of many nonprofits, these particular skills are likely to capture the attention of any nonprofit hiring manager. Whether or not you have a background in fundraising and charity work, exemplifying your can-do attitude will overshadow any shortcomings when it comes to your skills and the role you’re interviewing for. In doing this, your potential employer won’t worry about second guessing the time it will take to teach you any new technical skills – they’ll know you can handle it!
If you’re transitioning to a nonprofit career from the corporate world, you’ll probably find that the majority of your day-to-day tasks will be similar to your corporate gig (like coordinating marketing plans, managing finances, or bookkeeping) while the content, environment, mission, and people you’re collaborating with could be quite a bit different. If you can show the interviewer how you’ve navigated challenge and change with ease, you’re in good standing.
4. Practice your answers (but not too much)
After doing your research, identifying your connection with the organization’s mission, and making a short-list of your most valuable transferable skills, the next thing you need to do is practice. You don’t want to practice to the point where your answers sound rehearsed, but it’s a good idea to head into an interview knowing ahead of time what you’re going to talk about.
No matter where you’re interviewing, there are some questions that you’re almost guaranteed to be asked. For one, “Tell me about yourself.” Since you know this one is coming, you can decide exactly what experiences and traits you’d like to talk about that relate directly to this particular position. Another common one is, “Why do you want this job?” or “What makes you the best candidate for this position?” Even if you don’t get asked these directly, preparing answers for these will help you keep your eyes on the prize, and maybe even work them into other answers!
5. Ask questions
A lot of inexperienced interviewers worry that asking questions will make them seem complicated or too eager, but that’s far from the case. Asking questions demonstrates your interest in the position and shows the hiring manager that you care about what their business does and how you would fit within it.
We recommend heading into the interview with a few questions already in mind. It’s important to avoid questions that could be answered by looking online and focus on things that only an insider would know. We’ve listed some ideas below.
- Who would I be working with in this role?
- Is this a newly created position, or would I be replacing someone who has left?
- What do you like best about working here?
- How would you describe the office dynamic and culture?
- What is your hiring timeline for this job?
The key is to show your interviewer that you’re really trying to insert yourself into their business with your questions. Questions that are probably out of bounds for the interviewer would be anything to do with salary or benefits. There’s definitely a time to ask about those, but it’s not during the interview.
With careful consideration of these tips (and of course, adding some of your personality into the mix), there’s no question that you’ll make an impression during your first nonprofit interview. Good luck!