I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of follow-up blogs around our recent webinar The Lifecycle of a Volunteer: Interviewing Best Practices. Beth Steinhorn, President of JFFixler Group, certainly had a lot to say. This post, the last in the trilogy, deals not with the volunteer interview itself, but what happens afterwards.

The interview is over. How can I assess the candidate?

Following the interview, it may be quite clear to you whether the candidate is a good fit or not. Sometimes when you know, you know. But in some instances you’re on the fence. In those cases, what are the criteria you should use and think about in order to know whether to move forward with an offer or turn your applicant down?

  • Strengths – what about the candidate makes you think they would thrive in the volunteer position or with your organization?
  • Challenges – what about the candidate would you identify as a roadblock to success in the role?
  • Red flags and concerns – did the candidate say or do anything at any time that makes you think twice about their fit?
  • Style assessment – Will the candidate’s way of working and thinking fit with other volunteers and/or staff at your organization? Styles don’t need to be identical, as a diversity of ideas and styles can be a benefit. But, we do want to be sure people can work together.
  • Skill assessment – Does your candidate have the right set of skills to accomplish the tasks or projects at hand?
  • Culture fit – Each organization has its own unique culture. Does this person fit with yours?

When the fit is not there…

Sometimes a person is just fine on paper, but there is simply no fit between them and the position to be filled. Perhaps there is another position within your organization with which they better align. Or maybe there is another agency or a local volunteer center that you can refer the candidate to – one where you think they would fill a need more appropriately.  In any case, you should always confirm their status (that they were not accepted for the role for which they applied) in writing (letter or email). It provides closure for them and it’s always a good idea to document correspondences of this nature.

Making an Offer

In certain cases you might be “jump-up-and-down-ecstatic” about a candidate, ready to have them get started right then and there. Don’t! You should always avoid making an offer during an interview. Why? Because you want to give a candidate time to reflect on your conversation, think about the role and ruminate on the expectations. So, instead of asking them to join the ranks, thank them for their time, shake their hand, and let them know you’ll be in touch within a few days. Then give them a call and ask:

  • What questions have come up since we last spoke?
  • What were your “aha” moments from our interview?
  • What else has occurred to you over the past few days? Great ideas? Concerns?

These questions are designed to give them the opportunity to opt out if they want to. You don’t want someone accepting who doesn’t truly want to be there, after all.

If the candidate does opt out, ask them if you can keep them on your list should any future opportunities of interest arise.

If the candidate accepts, your support begins. Set up a time over the course of the next week or two – whether by phone or in person – for them to learn about next steps.


Questions from our audience

Our webinar attendees asked Beth to expand on some of the points she made throughout her presentation.

How do you politely tell someone that they are not the right fit?

Be simple and straightforward. It is important, no matter what, to depersonalize the situation. Not accepting their offer is not about your feelings; it’s simply business. 
Some phrases you might use to relay this information include “We don’t have a position available at this time that is a fit for your skills and interests” or “We don’t have enough positions available.” Make sure not to lie, but to tell them the truth gently.

Please go into more detail about red flags and concerns that could come up.

Potential red flags will differ by organization and role. You want to make sure, for instance, that someone does not have philosophical differences with your organization – and that they are there because they truly care about the cause. If the candidate says or does anything to make you think otherwise, dig deeper. A red flag shouldn’t automatically mean no, but it does mean you need to find out more.


Read the previous blogs in this series:
The Volunteer Interview: Which volunteers should I interview?
The Volunteer Interview: What questions should I ask?

Related resources:
Volunteer Screening: The Interview
The Lifecycle of a Volunteer: Interviewing Best Practices

For more tips and tools from Beth Steinhorn, see the JFFixler Group website at jffixler.com.



Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *