Tips to prepare for a not-for-profit job interview
By Kirsty McLaren
Kirsty McLaren is a Director of McLaren Associates – a recruitment firm who specialises in not-for-profit recruiting throughout New Zealand. Following on from Kirsty’s blog: “Five ways to wow at your next job interview”, we’ve asked her a few frequently asked questions to help you stand out in your next do-good job interview.
Q: Job interviews in the do-good space can be a bit different from the corporate world. If there is one piece of advice you would give to someone heading into an interview in this sector, what would it be?
Kirsty: Treat the interview like any other in terms of the basics: dress appropriately, be prompt (but not too early as that can make things awkward too), be respectful and professional in your interactions and still make sure that you do your prep beforehand. What makes the not-for-profit (NFP) world so special is the genuine commitment and compassion that the people working in this sector have, so don’t be afraid to let your enthusiasm for the cause show.
Also, be mindful that NFP organisations may not have the same resources at their disposal as bigger companies or government departments, so try to be as flexible and accommodating as you can throughout the process, which includes being upfront about your salary expectations – a common sticking point in the NFP sector!
Q: What are the THREE interview questions that few people get right?
“What do you know about the organisation?”
This can be one of the first questions to get thrown your way, and can quickly undo any good impression you have made so far if you get it wrong. Of course, you are not expected to spout off their entire history and current financial position. Chances are this employer may be completely new to you too. But if you have made it to the interview stage and still haven’t done any research into the organisation, that sets off alarm bells. One of the worst things you can do is give the impression that you know very little about who they are or what they do!
“Why should you get the job?”
It’s no secret that we Kiwi’s struggle when it comes to self-promotion. But if there is one time when it is absolutely acceptable and encouraged, this is it! We see this often in interviews – candidates are breezing through giving great answers, but then when it comes time to really “sell” themselves, many stumble over how to answer this, worrying they will sound conceited. If talking about yourself in a positive way doesn’t come naturally, don’t be afraid to prepare a little “elevator pitch” in advance. Test it out on friends or family if you are worried that it’s sounding too egotistical. But as long as you are being honest, there’s no harm at all in talking yourself up. After all, if you can’t toot your own horn now, when can you!
“What are your strengths?”
This is another one of those self-promotion questions that can really stump people. Saying “I don’t know” or “everything” is not going to fill the interviewer with confidence in your abilities. Clever candidates will tailor this answer to suit one of the key skills the job requires. So just like your elevator pitch on why you should get the job, it’s not a silly idea to think about what you would say to this question before your interview, and be prepared to back it up with examples!
Q: Interviews often feel like a one-way street. What smart questions should I ask at the end of my interview to get a feel if I am the right fit for the organisation and if I am going to enjoy working there?
To get an idea of what the culture or working environment is going to be like, ask questions such as:
- How established is the team here?
- Why is the position vacant?
- What would a typical day look like in this role?
- What are the biggest challenges I would face in this role?
- Why do you enjoy working here?
- Is there anything that you are wanting this position to improve or change?
Be wary of any indications that there is high staff turnover, difficult people or unrealistic expectations regarding workload.
To get a sense of where you stand in the process ask questions like this:
- What do you think are the most important skills to have in this role?
- Can you see any gaps in my experience that might impact this role?
- What is your process and timeframe from here?
Q: Any other pearls of advice for interviews that you can pass on?
Be honest, be respectful, be friendly, but most importantly, be yourself. Remember that gratitude goes a long way, so be thankful for the time that is given to you, even if you don’t get the outcome you had hoped for. Don’t forget that even though this job might not have worked out for you, there could be other opportunities or connections that can come from each and every interview. The old saying is true, practise really does make perfect, so don’t look at it as a lot of failed interviews but rather a lot of really valuable practice. Don’t be shy, ask for feedback, stay professional, clean up your social media accounts or set them to private and above all, stay positive!
About Kirsty McLaren
Kirsty is a Director of McLaren Associates – a recruitment firm who specialises in not-for-profit recruiting throughout New Zealand. In her role, Kirsty has interviewed many job seekers, so speaks with a wealth of experience.