Are You Prepared for Your Next Nonprofit Job Interview?

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By F. Duke Haddad

I was recently asked to sit on a nonprofit job interview as an unpaid adviser. I was also asked to serve as an adviser to a nonprofit search committee. Another hiring firm contacted me recently and asked me to recommend them to a prospective nonprofit. There is a great deal of action in the nonprofit hiring world these days.

Going back to the interview, the position was complex and demanded a variety of skills. The person interviewed was experienced but not in the nonprofit sector. At times, I felt I was speaking English to someone that only understood Spanish. Hiring someone with no knowledge of the nonprofit sector is a tall order when you need someone to hit the ground running. But currently, many individuals in the for-profit sector are considering nonprofit positions. Understand the sector before interviewing for it.

According to Candid, the nonprofit sector lost more than 7% of its workforce in the first year of the pandemic. As of February 2021, the nonprofit workforce remained down by 926,000 jobs compared to February 2020 levels despite gaining 26,562 nonprofit jobs in February. Nonprofit organizations employ the third largest workforce in the United States.

The Foundation List noted that nonprofits account for 12.4 million jobs and about 14%of private sector employment. Many nonprofits came into 2021 with decreased staff levels and budgets because of the pandemic. As of July 2021, examples of positions with high demand included director of development, major gifts officer, social media manager, IT systems administrators and database administrators.

The NonProfit Times noted that nonprofits gained an estimated 63,192 jobs in May, of the 796,061 jobs still lost. The May nonprofit jobs report job gains was led by the areas of arts (11.5%), education (11.4%), social assistance (10.2%) and other fields (9.8%). The nonprofit sector is projected to return to pre-pandemic levels of employment in an estimated 16 months. The CEO of Careers in Nonprofits, Nurys Harrigan-Pedersen, said the job market for nonprofit executives is making a major comeback. Nonprofits are now hiring for six-figure positions, and many employers that had to cut back in 2020 are now reversing that course of action.

If you are in the nonprofit sector or thinking about going into the nonprofit sector, you need to determine if this sector is right for you. At the midpoint of my career, I paid a consultant $15,000 to determine if I should stay in the nonprofit sector, go into the government sector or for-profit sector. After many tests, analysis, etc., it was determined that I was a perfect fit for the nonprofit sector. If you do not have the means to hire an independent consultant, according to the Harvard Business Review, examine several variables to determine if the nonprofit sector is right for you.

Ask yourself if you are excited about the problems the nonprofit is trying to address and if you believe you can add value to the nonprofit’s mission with your skills. To succeed in the nonprofit arena, you need passion, skills and love for building relationships. You also need to determine if your job role will be an on-the-ground implementation role or enabler role.

You need transferable skills, which can be soft, or people related or hard in nature, which are technical in nature. If you are looking for a career where money means meeting, then the nonprofit sector is right for you. If you are ready to interview for a nonprofit position, be ready mentally, physically and emotionally for the experience.

Nonprofit HR provides several nonprofit interview tips that will help you succeed in your quest to secure a nonprofit position.

These tips are:

  1. Do your research. Understand the employer’s purpose and mission.
  2. Dress to Impress. Dress like you want the job and would represent the organization well.
  3. Show your excitement. Show you are enthusiastic about the culture and values, have a wiliness to work for the organization.
  4. Be interested. Ask open-ended questions about the job and organization.
  5. Be an expert. Show the employer you have the knowledge, skills and ability to do the job well.
  6. Show maturity. Be positive about your previous employers and do not be negative.
  7. Focus on the opportunity. Do not discuss salary or benefits, at first. What is the opportunity?
  8. Finish strong. Close the interview on a high note. Have energy and believe in yourself.

A Philanthropy News Digest article suggests successful nonprofit sector job seekers will have done their homework by studying every public piece of information on the organization for which they are interviewing. Show the interviewer that you are truly interested in the job by showing off your research knowledge. Demonstrate your connection with the organizational mission, by sharing a personal story that links you to the organization in some manner.

Show the organization your “why” for the job. This could include why you are interested in the job and why you believe you are the best candidate for the position. Make sure to be yourself and show your positive personality to the interviewer. Prepare a list of questions that shows you have done your homework. Be proactive and not reactive to the interview. Be confident and professional in your approach and interest for the position. Never interview for a position unless you are 100% committed to it.

Top Resume notes that you need to bring questions with you in an interview. Use the following five questions to ask the interviewer at the end of the interview when you are asked if you have questions for them.

These questions are:

  • What do you expect from team members in this position?
  • Will those expectations change over time?
  • What is a typical day at (company name)?
  • Where do you see the company in five years?
  • What are the next steps in the job process?

Ask questions that reflect the job requirements, the company, the people and the atmosphere. Make sure you bring your A-game to the interview as the competition will be fierce.

Try to interpret what questions a nonprofit hiring manager might ask you. This may have to do with leadership of staff, accomplishments in your career, failures you have endured and what separates you as an effective manager and leader, according to The Balance Small Business. You may also be asked how you would describe yourself and what you know about the organization.

The pandemic has led to much employment disruption in the nonprofit sector. That transition, plus an increase in job openings in this sector may give you a chance to get a job, land a better job or jump sectors successfully. The key for you is to prepare yourself now for your next job interview. Have a positive attitude and show your next employer why you are the candidate of choice.

If you are hungry, engaged, confident and prepared, your chances of success will greatly increase! Are you prepared for your next nonprofit position interview.

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