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Guide to Preparing for Your Nonprofit Job Interview

Interviewing for a job with a nonprofit is different. Here is everything you need to know to prepare for an upcoming nonprofit job interview.
Guide to Preparing for Your Nonprofit Job Interview

You've submitted your application and you've been offered an interview for your dream nonprofit job. Congrats! But now the real work begins. Just like any job interview, the interview with a non-profit is about whether you are the best candidate for the job. However, the types of questions asked and how your answers are evaluated are different when interviewing for a job at a not-for-profit. This means that you will need to prepare differently to put your best foot forward for an interview with a non-profit. Here is everything you need to know to ace your upcoming nonprofit interview.

How the NonProfit Job Interview is Different

To effectively prepare for your upcoming nonprofit job interview, it is important to first understand how the interview will be different than in a corporate setting.  The big difference is in how the organizations are different. In the corporate world, the organization is there to make money. It may want to also do good, but it is a for-profit organization. Thus, in a corporate interview, the interviewer will be gauging your ability to make or save money for the organization so that it can grow.

In contrast, a nonprofit is there to do good in its own mission. Thus, in your interview, you will be assessed on how well you align with that mission. The interviewer will likely ask questions about your experiences and how they align with its values as an organization. They may also ask you how your skills will help them achieve their mission. Additionally, they may want to know if you understand the challenges of working in a nonprofit environment and what strategies you have for overcoming them.

Tips for Preparing for Your Nonprofit Job Interview

Now that you understand how a nonprofit interview is different from other job interviews, it’s time to start preparing for your upcoming interview. Here are some tips to help you get started:

Do Your Research

Before your interview, research the organization thoroughly. Taking the time to understand the work that the organization does will go a long way to understanding how the nonprofit delivers on its mission. This will help you to anticipate the questions and to prepare some questions of your own for the interview.

Some ways to do your research about the nonprofit include:

  • Read their website. Make sure to read the mission page on the nonprofit's website to understand its priorities. Also, check out the leadership pages and any other info that may be relevant to the particular job you are being considered for.
  • Do a Google Search. Check out the nonprofit online. You can use the "Tools" section on a Google search to filter for time and find the most recent articles or information. You can also click on the News tab to see any recent press coverage.
  • Get Social. Read through the social profiles of the organization online to see how it communicates with its supporters. Take this one step further and research the hashtags it follows to see how the organization fits into the bigger conversation and its challenges.

This will not only help you prepare for questions about the organization, but it will also give you a better sense of whether or not this is truly the right fit for you.

Be Passionate About Their Mission

When you're interviewing for a nonprofit job, it's important to demonstrate that you care about more than just a paycheck. The interviewer wants to see that you're passionate about the mission of the organization and that you would be committed to furthering that mission if given the opportunity.

Think about specific examples of how your skills and experience could be used to further the organization's goals.  You may not have experience in a nonprofit or working for their mission, but you do have an experience that shows you are motivated by the same things. Use these examples in your interview and talk about how they relate to the organization. In other words, show that you could be an asset in helping the organization reach its goals and make a difference.

Be Prepared to Discuss Challenges

Working for a nonprofit can present unique challenges. The interviewer wants to know that you understand these challenges and that you have strategies for dealing with them.

For example, many nonprofits have limited resources, so you must be prepared to discuss how you would use those resources efficiently and effectively. Additionally, think about how you would handle potential conflicts with donors or volunteers. Show the interviewer that you understand the complexities of working in a nonprofit organization and that you are prepared to work through these challenges.

Prepare for Common Questions

In addition to knowing about the organization, you'll also need to be ready to answer common interview questions. The common interview questions for a nonprofit job interview are similar to those in a for-profit job interview. It is how you answer them and how those answers are evaluated that is different.

Common job interview questions include:

  • "Tell me about yourself"
  • "What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
  • "Why do you want to make a change at this point?"
  • "Why do you want this job?"
  • "Tell me about a time you made a mistake"
  • "Tell me about a time you took initiative without being asked."
  • "Why should we hire you?"

While you don't want to sound like you're reciting rote answers, having a general understanding of what you'll say ahead of time will help you feel more confident during the interview.

Know Your Stuff When It Comes to Fundraising

Nonprofits rely heavily on fundraising to keep their doors open and their programs running. So, chances are, your interview will include at least one question about fundraising. Be prepared to discuss previous fundraising experience, whether it be through individual donations, grant writing, special events, etc.

Also, think about how you might approach a specific fundraising challenge and be prepared to explain the methods and strategies you would use. The interviewer wants to know that you understand the importance of fundraising for a nonprofit organization, and that you can create or support the organization's efforts.

Finally, don’t forget to do some research on the organization’s current fundraising efforts. This will help you further demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the organization and its mission.

Highlight your Transferable Skills

If you're coming from a different industry, don't despair—you have skills that can be transferred to the nonprofit sector! When answering questions, focus on highlighting examples of times when you've utilized skills that are relevant to the role you're applying for.

Be sure to also explain how your experiences have prepared you for a career in the nonprofit sector. Talk about the ways that your past work, volunteer activities, and other personal pursuits have helped shape your values and pushed you towards working in a mission-driven organization.

$ Be Ready to Talk about Salary $

Nonprofit organizations have limited budgets, so it's important that you have an open and honest discussion about salary early on in the process. This will help prevent any awkwardness or discomfort later on down the road if an offer is made that isn't in line with your expectations.

Be sure to do your research beforehand and have a clear idea of the salary range for the position. You should also be prepared to explain why you are worth that amount. But, don't reference your current salary in doing so. That's not relevant and it may scare off the nonprofit interviewer. Instead, keep the conversation focused on the job that you are being considered for.

Demonstrate That You're a Team Player

Nonprofit organizations are often collaborative places, so it's important to demonstrate during your interview that you're someone who works well with others. Talk about a time when you had to collaborate on a project or solve a problem as part of a team.

If possible, give an example of a time when you took initiative and took on additional responsibility outside of your normal job duties. This will show the interviewer that you're adaptable and willing to go above and beyond when necessary.

Ask Good Questions

One of the best ways to stand out during an interview is by asking thoughtful questions. Avoid generic questions like "What does your company do?" or "Can you tell me more about the team I'll be working with?" Instead, try to ask specific questions that show you've done your research and are truly interested in the role. For example, you might say something like "I noticed that your website says X; can you tell me more about that?" or "I read in the news that your organization is going through Y; how will that impact this position?"

Acing your nonprofit job interview comes down to being prepared and demonstrating your passion for the organization's mission. By doing your research ahead of time, thinking about specific examples of how you would further their goals, and knowing your stuff when it comes to fundraising, you'll give yourself the best chance possible of landing the job.

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