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  • Nailing The Nonprofit Interview

    By The NonProfit Times - March 17, 2011

    One of the most important parts of the job searching process is, of course, the interview.  If you are lucky enough to get to this step, pat yourself on the back.  If an organization asks you to come in for an interview, it means they think of you highly, and you are likely one of the finalists for the position.  In a field that is as competitive as the nonprofit sector, it is extremely important to make the best impression you can during your nonprofit interview.  So here are some tips I have used that should really impress your interviewer:

    1. I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, but it bares repeating: research the organization you are interviewing at!  If possible, you should bring up specific things you found out about the company.
    2. Always make eye contact.  This may seem obvious, but it’s something that is very easy to forget during the heat of the interview.  One way to make sure you do this is….
    3. Practice before the interview.  If possible, try and do it with someone you don’t know too well; say, a friend of your parents. This will help simulate the actual interview better, because in all likelihood you will not know this person.
    4. Don’t hesitate to ask the interviewer to repeat a question if you are confused.  It is often thought that asking this makes you look stupid, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  On the contrary, it shows that you are listening.
    5. Bring an extra copy of your resume, just in case.
    6. Be upbeat and positive.  Even if something before the interview happened to upset you, it is imperative that you put that behind you.  Interviewers look closely at body language and attitude; one little negative signal can sink your chances

    Next, here are some nonprofit interview questions you should expect to be asked (and the best ways to answer said questions):

    1. “Tell me some of your biggest weaknesses”: This is sort of a trick question.  What I mean by this is that you should not, under any circumstances, answer this truthfully.  I don’t mean you should lie; I mean you should find a way to spin one of your negatives.  An example of how to do this is to say something like “sometimes I work too quickly, so I always make sure to go over everything I write to check for errors.”
    2. “What are your biggest strengths?”: Make sure to emphasize the skills that will be most helpful to your potential employer.
    3. “Tell me about yourself:” This is a standard question, one that you are almost 100% guaranteed to hear.  When you answer this question, keep the answer related to the job in question.  In other words, don’t talk about your obsession with Dungeons and Dragons.
    4. “Why have you been unemployed for a while?”: This is a tough one.  You should be totally honest, and be sure to mention the tough conditions in the economy.  But also say how you were looking for the perfect job for you, and didn’t just want something that would pay you the most.  Of course this question may not apply to you…
    5. “Why did you leave your last job?”: Avoid the word “fired” or “terminated” if this was the case with your last position.  Say things like “my contract ended” or say that you wanted to pursue a career that fit your personality better.  Whatever you say, you should be sure to make it a positive statement.

    Finally, be sure to ask some questions of your interviewer.  While it might seem more impressive if you don’t have any questions (“doesn’t it show that I understand everything?”), asking a question will show initiative on your part.  They don’t have to be complicated questions; it can be something as simple as “who will be my supervisor?” or “is there a particular way I will need to be dressed?”  Just be sure you don’t ask something you have already been told.  That will definitely make it seem like you weren’t listening.

    As always, leave your feedback in the comments section.  I’d love to hear from you!

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