Last week we posted a blog following up on our recent webinar with Beth Steinhorn, President of JFFixler Group, The Lifecycle of a Volunteer: Interviewing Best Practices. That blog, The Volunteer Interview: Which volunteers should I interview? touched on several topics, among them: (1) the difference between the employee interview and the volunteer interview, (2) which volunteer roles should be interviewed for, and (3) how to conduct effective interviews when you think you have too few staff and too little time. We also included answers to some questions posed directly by your peers during the webinar.
After reading that post, you know who to interview – and you know you can have your volunteers help you out when it comes to leading the interview. But what about the guts of the meeting itself? What kinds of questions should you ask during the volunteer interview? According to Steinhorn, you (the interviewer) can learn a great deal by asking questions that fall into 4 different categories.
What are some examples of questions to ask during a volunteer interview?
Interviewers can learn vital information about a volunteer candidate by asking questions from all – or at least most – of these categories. Tailor the interview script based on the specific responsibilities of the role you are trying to fill. Here are some examples.
- Please take a look at this brochure about our programs and tell us how you would improve it?
- Describe a difficult situation you experienced at work or school. How did you handle the situation? Is there anything you would have done differently?
- Helps you understand whether the candidate has critical thinking capabilities.
- Shows you whether the candidate can be reflective about past experiences.
- Your volunteer assignment is to develop a new curriculum for our outreach education programs. Whom would you engage to help you and why?
- A client who is very upset approaches you, complaining about…What would you say or do? How would you diffuse the situation?
- Is this volunteer going to be a leader within your organization? These questions help you get a sense of their ability to think independently and on their feet.
- Describe a paid or volunteer experience in which you were the leader of other people. What went well? What would you do differently next time?
- Demonstrates their experience as a leader and their ability to understand their own strengths, weaknesses and areas for growth.
- What are the skills at which you are proficient that you would gladly share with us, if we could make it possible for you to do so?
- Conveys to you skills or passions that a volunteer possesses which may not be part of the role. Is there a different role available where the volunteer could contribute meaningfully?
Modify these questions so that they make sense for your organization and try them out during the interview. You are sure to gain a tremendous amount of insight on your volunteer candidates – and whether they are a fit for your organization and the role in question.
Questions from our audience
Here’s a great question from a webinar attendee who is using technology to his or her benefit:
What are your tips for using Skype for volunteer interviews?
Skype interviews are great – almost as good as an in-person meeting. They allow the candidates and interviewer(s) to see each other face to face, read body language, etc. Here are some tips to make the most of the experience:
- Come prepared – make sure to have your questions written out in advance.
- Manage the space – if you have more than one interviewer, do your best to make sure that all of them can be seen by the individual on the other side.
- Manage the technology – if the video is skipping or the audio is off, the Skype interview can quickly turn into a disaster, so test it in advance to be sure that your end of the technology is working smoothly and you can focus more on the interview and less on the technology.
- Although Skype is second-best to an in-person interview, you should still do a little extra follow-up with the candidate to make sure all their questions have been answered and they are clear on next steps.
Read the previous blog in this series:
The Volunteer Interview: Which volunteers should I interview?
And next up: The Volunteer Interview: Making the offer...or not.
For more tips and tools from Beth Steinhorn, see the JFFixler Group website at jffixler.com.