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Prepping for the job interview: Knowing the organization, asking questions and looking the part
Joyce Penland, CFRE

December, 2012

Bacon Lee & Associates conducts numerous job searches for nonprofits throughout the state of Texas.  We’ve seen job candidates come to the interview well informed about the positions for which they are applying and all too many who come ill prepared for the interview. This month, the Bacon Lee team focuses on knowing the organization in which you’re seeking employment, preparing yourself for the interview experience, asking appropriate questions, and looking the part.

 

Do your homework

 

Our team was unanimous in recommending that candidates need to know the organization in which they’re seeking a job.  All too often applicants come to the interview without knowing much about the nonprofit they presumably want to work for.  The interview is not the time to “wing it” and try to bluff your way through the process.  Instead, take the time to learn as much as you can about the position you’re applying for as well as the mission and culture of the nonprofit.

 

Estela Avery says, “Find out what the non-profit does, its history and purpose.”   And Beverly Seffel recommends doing research.  “Look at the organization’s website and 990.” 

 

 

Rehearse for the interview

 

It’s also important to “rehearse” for the interview and be prepared to answer questions about your “fit” for the organization.  Says Karen Kegg,  “The candidate should give good tangible reasons why their skill sets would benefit the organization.  It’s wise to know your own accomplishments and how they would translate to the position.  Many times people come to the table as generalists but can't define their specific strengths and expertise.”

 

Exhibiting enthusiasm for the nonprofit’s work is also a plus.  Says Alexis DeSela, “Be prepared to answer what you know about the organization and why you want to be part of it. Show us and clearly articulate your passion for the mission and how your experience and past accomplishments will translate into success for the organization.”

 

A job interview can be intimidating even for the most confident person.  Says Barbara Anne Stephens, “Develop skills to deal with your nerves and to calm your fears.  Answer questions directly.  For example, if the interviewer says, "Tell me about a time when you made a personal "ask" for a six figure gift," begin your reply with, "I will never forget the first time I asked for a six figure gift."  Be direct and as succinct as possible.”

 

Ask appropriate questions

 

It’s important to come to the interview with questions of your own.  Marion Lee says, “Ask thoughtful questions.  You are interviewing the organization as well being interviewed.  What you ask is as important as how you answer.  It makes a difference.”

 

According to Mike Bacon, “This is your chance to impress with astute questions based on the research you did. “  Mikes’ tips for good questions include:

           If this is a new position, ask about the reasoning behind creating it.  

           Ask what the interviewer sees as the greatest challenges for the person who gets the job.  

           Why is the organization so dependent upon events versus individual gifts?  

           Does the interviewer have any sense of what it would be like to work for the person will be your supervisor?  

           How engaged is the Board in true fundraising?  

Mike says, “All of these questions give you valuable information and show that you are savvy enough to know the right questions to ask.”

 

Dress the part

 

Looking as if you’re ready to assume the role for which you’re applying is of great importance.  A wise applicant will dress for the interview the way you would dress for your first day on the job. For male candidates applying for leadership positions in a nonprofit organization, that still means a suit and tie, and for female applicants that means a suit or a business dress and appropriate footwear, and jewelry.  

 

Says Alexis, “Dress professionally: don’t let your attire, jewelry or fragrance become a distraction.”  Another tip from Alexis is good for all job applicants:  “Leave your phone in the car!”

 

The Bacon Lee & Associates team believes applicants can make a positive impressions throughout the interview process by simply following these tips for success.

 

 

Contact Information:

Bacon Lee & Associates

www.baconlee.com

(210) 733-0893



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