Webinar Recap: Steps Towards a Painless Volunteer Interview

Volunteer Interview StrategiesEveryone knows that interviews can be awkward. But as a volunteer manager, you can implement certain strategies to make your interviews as sweat-free and successful as possible.

On Tuesday, July 12th, VolunteerMatch’s volunteer and nonprofit engagement manage, Jennifer Bennett, presented a webinar detailing how you can best prepare for, conduct and evaluate a volunteer interview. These strategies can fit into your overall recruitment and retention plan to build a better, more consistent volunteer corps.

An interview begins far before a potential volunteer walks into your office. Preparing for an interview is a strategy itself that can accrue or turn away volunteers. Writing a volunteer position description may seem obvious, but it is important to specify different kinds of volunteers that you are seeking.

For example, you may want a general volunteer for a two-hour project, which may not even require an in-person interview, or you may want a pro bono consultant for a high profile project within your organization. Interviews should match these respective levels of responsibility. (For more information about crafting volunteer positions, you can register for VolunteerMatch’s webinar Writing Effective Volunteer Position Descriptions on August 4th at 11AM PST.)

Jennifer stressed that an interview is not only a chance for you to get to know your potential volunteer, but it is also a chance for a potential volunteer to get to know you. An interview is a two-way street that also provides an opportunity to enhance your interviewee’s understanding of your work and mission.  A good volunteer interview is a genuine, comfortable conversation with someone that will allow you to convey your goals and the volunteer to share more information with you.

Jennifer outlined some guidelines that can make or break the interview:

  • Be prepared: If you are frazzled and disorganized during an interview, it will reflect poorly on your organization. Schedule enough time before the interview to put yourself in the right mindset.
  • Be a “Quiet Coyote”: An interviewer should only talk approximately 25% of the time. An effective interview involves active listening.
  • Ask open-ended questions: Some closed-ended, “yes” or “no” questions are necessary, but try to ask questions that foster more detailed responses.
  • Ask follow up questions: Asking a volunteer to elaborate on a specific experience or interest can help determine the validity of their statements. These answers often play a large role in evaluating an potential volunteer.
  • Say what needs to be said, but be tactful: If, for example, a potential volunteer’s religion might prevent them from completing a required task, you should ask the interviewee in a tactful, subtle way. Questions phrased like, “is there anything that would prevent you from…?”
  • Make your next steps clear: Be clear and concise about following up with your interviewee. Establish the next steps and timeline of when the offer will be made.

When evaluating an interviewee, you should do a write-up to summarize the pros and cons of the interview and jog your memory. It is often helpful to note interesting or surprising answers given by your interviewee.

By following these steps, you can make the interview process less painless and more effective. Attendees of this webinar also received possible interview questions via email, as well as specific information pertaining to conducting group interviews.

To learn more about recruiting, managing and engaging volunteers, you can visit VolunteerMatch’s Learning Center.

Laura Weiss is an intern at VolunteerMatch. You can reach her at lweiss@volunteermatch.org.

Photo by tedmurphy.