Washington DC Nonprofit Advisers Offer Interview Tips

As Washington DC nonprofit advisers, we are often asked if we know of any potential candidates for open positions among our nonprofit clients. Networking, as you know, is one of the oldest and most trusted methods of finding great people for open positions. But, there are other ways in which you can find the best person for an open position. Pre-interview preparation is one of the most important tasks we recommend to our clients when they claim they can’t find great talent for their open jobs.

What is pre-interview preparation? As the term implies, it’s doing your homework before the candidate walks through the door or picks up the phone to begin the interview. Here, our Washington DC nonprofit advisers offer tips to help you prepare for candidate interviews.

Consider Past History When Preparing for Interviews

Every organization has their share of stories—the great candidate who turned out to be a nightmare, the star player who quit after one day, the great candidate who ended up being not so great.

Before you even begin the new hire recruiting process, take time now, as a team, to talk about those mistakes. It’s not about blame or shame. Rather, it’s about finding some commonalities behind the mistakes.

For example, were you rushed into making a hiring decision? Like buying a house or a car, rushing through the decision often leads to disastrous consequences that are difficult, although not impossible, to rectify.

Did you check references? Many candidates sail through the interview process because they have a professional appearance and are practiced at answering in just the right way to offset any questions. Checking references may open other avenues of questioning that can get to the real person behind the shiny, perfect facade.

Bring together a group of managers from your organization to talk about the new hires that worked out well and those that didn’t. Seek common problems, situations, or reasons why people didn’t work out. This will point you in the right direction to fix the problem now, before you go through the hiring process again.

Plan for Each Interview

Set aside time to research each candidate and think through the questions you’d like to ask them before the interview begins. A question guide, created in conjunction with the human resources department, can be a useful rubric to start an interview.

Online research may bring to light any issues with the candidate’s reputation or work ethic. Google searches, LinkedIn profiles, and other techniques can help you verify information or get a better idea of questions to ask potential employees.

Don’t skimp on the interview process. Although phone interviews are a great first step to narrow down the pool of suitable candidates, in-person interviews are the gold standard for finding the right fit for your team.

Ask Open-Ended Questions

Make sure you ask plenty of open-ended questions to get a feel for the person’s character and problem-solving abilities. Open-ended questions do not allow for a simple “yes” or “no” answer.

Some examples of open-ended questions include:

  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Tell me about your career goals.
  3. Share an example of a problem that you experienced at your last job and how you solved it.
  4. What would you do if faced with [common situation at the nonprofit?]
  5. What do you know about our organization?
  6. What attracted you to this job?
  7. Where do you see your career going five years from now?

Learn to Read Body Language

Body language is a controversial subject, but many believe that we communicate just 7% of our intention through words. That leaves 93% through tone of voice and body language. Some simple body language cues include:

  1. Expressing nervousness by fidgeting, flushing, or playing with hair, pencils, etc.
  2. Indicating a false answer by averting the eyes, looking down, or raising the voice.
  3. Looking at the clock or watch and sighing repeatedly as a sign of boredom or tension.

Positive body language indicators include “mirroring” in which the candidate mirrors the interviewer’s body language, thoughtful answers that reflect an engaged and neutral tone of voice, eye contact, and a firm handshake. Keep in mind that these cues may shift with cultural differences. What is considered professional behavior in New York may differ from perceived professionalism in Bangkok.

Read the Resume and Cover Letter

You’d be amazed at how many hiring managers fail to read through the entire resume or cover letter of a candidate. Reading through both may provide you with icebreakers (“You enjoy kayaking; how interesting. Tell me more.”) or commonalities that can put the candidate at ease (“I see you went to Duke University, too.”)

Although there’s no perfect way to find great candidates, with a little preparation, you’ll improve your chances of finding the right person from among the applicants at your doorstep.

Washington D.C. Nonprofit Advisers

We’re Washington D.C. nonprofit advisers with a passion for the world of nonprofit organizations. We offer consulting, accounting, auditing, and other services to help nonprofits grow and thrive. Contact us today.

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