Job Applicant Interviewing Checklist: Non Profit Organizations

Although any staffing discussion is an important one, hiring a staff member for a non profit organization is particularly challenging. Planning an interview strategy in advance is key to ensuring that you move beyond questions and answers an applicant may have prepared specifically for.

The following checklist will help:

  • Be sure each member of the interview panel has a copy of the Job Description in advance, along with a copy of the Job Advertisement.
  • Each member of the panel should also have time to review each applicant to be interviewed in advance.
  • Plan the structure of the interview with your fellow panelists in such a way as to elicit the information that is important to suitability for the position.
  • Consider whether you want an external member of the panel (this may be especially appropriate if hiring a CEO or senior management position) that will interact significantly with key community stakeholders.
  • Consider how the room should be set up – this is often an afterthought, but layout can help with a conversation and in making both interview panel and applicants comfortable.
  • Decide the level of conversational style making sure that it matches the culture of the organization.
  • Seek to maintain objectivity during the interview progress – one way to do this is to have an agreed upon set of questions, and an agreed upon applicant evaluation template so that you can discuss the relative weightings that should be given to each application.
  • Think about this interview like a “getting to know you” session: move from general and light to more specific.
  • Listen to the applicant. Don’t ask a question just because it is on the list if they have already answered it.
  • Show empathy and respond appropriately to the applicant
  • Use a variety of questioning techniques – use both open ended questions and yes or no questions. Ask for examples of where the applicant has previously demonstrated a skill required for the position.
  • Be aware of the kind of questions that are discriminatory. Be sure that your organization has sought legal advice if you believe that you are able to be exempt or able to ask about topics or ask questions that would ordinarily be considered discriminatory.
  • Give information during the interview: about organizational culture, about the kind of work involved. Remember that this is an exchange. They are trying to see if they’ll be happy in the organization too.
  • Silence is not a bad thing. It will give you an opportunity to see how the applicant handles themselves.
  • If there are answers that you would like the applicant to expand upon, echo those back to the applicant paraphrased; Echoing is an effective information gathering technique.
  • Be careful of allowing one or two aspects of the applicant to color your impression – either positively or negatively. Be aware of what underpins your biases.
  • Interviewers should not speak more combined than the applicant. This is about an exchange of information.
  • Relax as an interviewer. You already have your job, be at peace with yourself and you’re more likely to help relax the applicant.
  • Don’t try to counsel an applicant during an interview or give advice
  • Make note of follow up questions that arise out of the applicant’s answers – especially when it comes to asking about their weaknesses or challenges in previous roles.
  • Be clear about the time boundaries for the interviews and don’t allow the interview to drag on. Be sure to finish the interview on a light and positive note, however don’t say or do anything that would lead an applicant to believe that you have promised them anything you cannot deliver on.
  • Be sure to complete the applicant evaluation form (or if you haven’t been given one, your impressions and any factual support) as soon as possible after finishing the interview, and preferably before any other interviews are conducted.


Speaker. Reader. Thinker. Writer. Traveler. Advocate

Anna Blanch Rabe, founder of Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates, has been working with Social Enterprises, socially-responsible businesses, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations since 2006 to develop and effectively execute strategic, digital, and narrative initiatives to gain exposure, develop community- capacity, attract talent, and reach new customers. Anna is an Australian-born speaker, writer and advocate. Connect with Anna on Instagram, facebook page, & Twitter.
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