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5 Top Interview Questions to Ask Nonprofit Candidates

The interview process is your chance to really get to know candidates and understand what they can bring to your organization, so it’s important to ask the right questions. 

While most of your questions will be tailored to the needs of the role at hand, here are five that can help you assess some of the intangible qualities that make an exceptional nonprofit hire.

Ask these 5 illuminating questions in nonprofit job interviews

1. What is it about our mission that resonates with you and why?

Ideally, your candidate should both understand and feel inspired by your organization’s work. If they don’t, they may not find the job fulfilling. 

Try asking a question related to your nonprofit’s brand. Provide an example of how these elements resonate with you, then ask how they might have inspired the candidate to apply.

Pay close attention to the candidate’s tone and body language as they answer this question. A great answer will convince you that the candidate wants to work with you because they share your organization’s core values and believe in its mission.

2. How could you use your unique skills, experience, or perspective to further our cause? 

This question gives candidates the chance to talk about things that may not be on their resume. Pay attention to how the candidate talks about their skill set, as taking a skills-based hiring approach can be an excellent strategy for creating a diverse, dynamic, and high-performing nonprofit workforce.

The candidate’s answer to this question can also provide you with natural follow-up questions. For example, they may mention experience working with the population you serve, which you could ask them more about. 

Exploring this question can help you imagine how the candidate’s unique skills and perspective would elevate your organization. Hiring for this kind of potential is another one of the most effective ways to build an outstanding nonprofit workforce.

3. What additional skills and experience would you like to acquire in this role?

A candidate might be a major asset to your team, but can you provide them with the learning opportunities they crave? According to the 2023 Workplace Learning Report, providing learning opportunities is the number one way organizations are working to improve retention. 

Instead of turning to a cliché like “Where do you see yourself in five years,” use this question to gain a clearer understanding of the individual’s ambitions and how working with your organization could be an important step toward achieving their goals.

An illustration of two people seated opposite one another having a conversation. A speech bubble above their heads shows an image of a growing plant being watered.

If managers at your organization work closely with employees to help them grow and develop their skills, discussing this during interviews can help you stand out as an employer. Environmental nonprofit 1% for the Planet experienced great success when it made employee development discussions a major part of its talent attraction and retention strategies

4. How do you stay organized when you have a lot of responsibilities to juggle?

Nonprofit employees tend to wear many different hats. You need to know your candidate is prepared for this. 

Listen for references to helpful organizational tactics and skills like maintaining to-do lists or blocking out time on their calendar to work on high-priority tasks. Ask for examples of situations the candidate has handled in the past, or ask them how they would tackle a specific challenge that has occurred within your organization before.

A stand-out answer will show a keen awareness of the fact that nonprofit work can be challenging — but that it’s rewarding, too.

5. Tell me about a professional experience where something didn’t go according to plan. What did you learn from the experience? 

Nonprofit work often involves a few curveballs. You need a team member who can adjust their approach and find a solution.

There’s no one perfect way to answer this question, so listen for references to the skills your candidate brings to high-pressure situations. Are they more analytical or creative? Do they rally the team? 

It’s fine if they handle things differently than you’re used to — after all, the right candidate may bring skills that complement and round out those your team already has. As your candidate answers, think about how their approach would affect the team dynamic. Would they bring something your team needs?

Build a transformational nonprofit team

Taking the time to build a thoughtful, tactical list of interview questions can help you find exceptional talent — and take your team to the next level. 

To learn how you can use LinkedIn to support your hiring strategy, get in touch today.

This blog post was originally published on May 26, 2021. It was updated on January 3, 2024, with new information.