Restore Strategies | Five Key Musts For Any Volunteer Interview
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Five Key Musts For Any Volunteer Interview


If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your organization uses volunteers to some capacity (if not, you should check out the top five reasons you should). However, are those volunteers being placed in a way that’s maximizing their impact for your nonprofit and clients?

A few weeks ago we talked a little about why volunteer interviews are a critical piece to that puzzle and necessary to finding and placing the best volunteers possible. The real question is, though, HOW do you get all the information you need out of a single one-on-one interview? Below you’ll find five of the most important things your organization can do to get the most out of the time you have.

“MUST” #1: Be prepared.


1.The interviewer should have a list of other jobs (and their descriptions) ready to go in case the volunteer seems to be a better fit for or expresses interest in another position.

2. Collect, organize, and review background information on the candidate prior to the interview. This will help him/her ask more tailored questions and follow up on interesting answers or details they provided on an earlier document like an application.

3. Determine who will be meeting with the candidate. It may actually make more sense to have another volunteer to conduct the interview as he/she 1) may have more time than a nonprofit leader to meet with prospective volunteers; 2) may appear less intimidating to interviewees than paid staff; and 3) will likely share more in common with the prospective volunteer (such as a desire to freely give their time to the organization!)

“MUST” #2: Come with the right questions.


1. Most questions should be open-ended so that prospective volunteers are able to elaborate on their backgrounds, stories, feelings, and concerns. Close-ended questions (such as “Yes/No” questions or those with predetermined options) prevent greater nuance and specificities.

2. All candidates should be asked about their backgrounds and passions, even if they come in for a particular position in mind. This allows the interviewer to determine whether they may actually make a better fit (or find more satisfaction) in another kind of role.

“MUST” #3: Ask about the volunteer’s:


1. Motivations: Individuals may want to serve with your organization for a variety of reasons. Some may be fighting loneliness and looking to build relationships with other community members, some may want to serve as a means of sharing their faith, and others may serve because of some form of “coercion” such as court-mandated community service.

2. Education/Skill Set: If the volunteer possesses unique (and/or valuable!) knowledge, you and your team may ask him/her if he/she is interested in performing some other kind of role in the organization that other general volunteers are unable to perform. This is also important if one or more of the positions requires some kind of certification or license.

3. Availability: Determine what other types of commitments he/she has and how they affect his/her schedule each week. Be forthcoming about the time you expect volunteers to devote to particular roles – while there may be a temptation to play down the needed commitment on the front end, volunteers may become burned out down the road and may even develop a sense of resentment toward the organization.

4. Questions: Creating an interview environment in which the individual feels comfortable voicing fears or concerns he/she may have about the role is critical. The person showing up to the interview may have not yet decided whether he/she wants to actually volunteer, so asking for this feedback will not only show that you care about their experience but help your team identify areas for growth as an organization.

“MUST” #4: Use scenarios to assess volunteer fit.


1. For role play to be helpful, interviewers will need to know what kinds of responses they are looking for prior to presenting the scenarios. It is also helpful to have relevant staff members contribute to this process.

2. Scenarios help the conversation move from generic answers about responsibilities and organizational culture to the volunteer’s unique thought processes and approach to difficult situations.

“MUST” #5: Provide next steps.


1. Help the candidate determine which opportunity option would be the most appropriate (if any) prior to leaving.

2. Ensure that the candidate has an actionable next step and a clear sense of if/when they will hear back from you.

3. At the end of the interview, collect any remaining signatures, references, or other forms of documentation you may need to complete the screen in/out process.

Interviewing prospective volunteers – whether it be over the phone, over a web platform, or in person – does require time and resources. However, interviewing volunteers should be seen as nothing less than an investment. By making sure that your volunteers are well prepared for their roles and are happy with the work they are doing, you will experience less turnover, greater cohesion as a team, and amplify community transformation.

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