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How Nonprofits Conduct Interviews for Great Hiring Decisions

Nonprofits must be observant and creative when searching for new hires.

By University Alliance
How Nonprofits Conduct Interviews for Great Hiring Decisions

Finding the right person for any job can be difficult, but nonprofit organizations may experience additional hurdles before closing the deal.

The goal of recruitment is to identify the person who best fits the agency’s values and goals. Sometimes that person may already work for the company, but seeking potential job applicants should never be limited to an in-house search.

The best hire might be a friend of a current employee, but according to websites such as, companies that recruit solely through word of mouth recommendations from existing staff risk alienating other, more suitable workers.

Getting the Word Out

The best approach is a broad campaign of both internal and external solicitations. Nonprofits may be limited in the amount of money they can spend, but when possible they may want to consider employing a recruitment agency or headhunter, advertising in local and/or national media and/or utilizing social media, online job resources and email.

Many online resources are more cost-effective and sometimes free of charge, allowing the organization to distribute a job posting so that it reaches a large audience.

Print advertisements can range in cost depending on the size, the amount of copy included and any specific design requests.

Preparing the Job Listing

Regardless of the platform, job advertisements need to include specific information, such as the job title, a detailed description of work requirements, an explanation of any expectations such as travel, instructions on how to submit an application, and the submission deadline. Some advertisements include salary data and other information.

Nonprofits also need to determine how they want to receive applications, either by mail, email or through their website.

Scrutinizing Submitted Applications

Once a nonprofit begins receiving applications, it’s time to begin the winnowing process to determine the shortlist of candidates.

Companies likely want to have a list on hand that highlights the desired qualifications. Each application can then be reviewed for matching keywords and specific skills.

Employers need to keep in mind that some applicants may have transferrable skills and relevant experience outside of the traditional employment structure. Some may have gaps in their resumes that need an explanation. Others may contain errors that disqualify the candidate.

Know How recommends sorting applications into three piles based on those the nonprofit definitely wants to interview, those it might want to interview and those who don’t qualify.

Each applicant needs to be contacted with the priority falling first to the people the agency wants to meet. Companies can choose to call, email or send a letter to each of the applicants, but any rejections need to be done in a professional manner so as not to generate resentment and the potential for bad word of mouth.

Conducting the Interview

Interviews are like first dates. Both sides want to make a good impression. There may be anxiety, but having a plan and a list of prepared questions will help set the tone.

For employers, it is recommended that two people participate in the interview so that one can take notes while the other asks questions and makes visual observations.

Any lingering questions about the candidate’s resume or application packet should be included in a list of information that the company hopes to get from the interview.

Typically, one of the people conducting the interview will meet the applicant when he or she arrives. This gives the interviewer an opportunity to make a connection with the interviewee, and allows for them to talk about the company as they walk to the designated room reserved for the interview.

Most interviews involve a brief back and forth between both parties where some personal background may be shared, followed by specific, job-related questions. Employers must be mindful of topics that are OK and those that aren’t OK to discuss, such as marital status, age, religious affiliation or sexual orientation.

Employers should ensure that anyone responsible for conducting applicant interviews is well-versed in applicable diversity and discrimination laws.

If more than one person is being interviewed for a position, the same questions should be asked of all applicants in order to compare and contrast responses. That’s why it’s important to have someone taking notes. Those notes also should be placed on file if a question ever arises about why someone was or was not hired.

Once the interviewer reaches the end of his or her questions, he or she should ask if the applicant has any questions about the company, the job or anything else.

By following these steps for preparing a job application, advertising the application, receiving and sorting through submittals and then conducting the interview, a nonprofit can ensure that it has the best plan in place to find the best person possible for any open job.

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Category: Nonprofit Leadership