6 Ways to Nail Your Next Job Interview
I do not have many hobbies at this stage of my career. I cannot tell you why, as I have tried to select new areas of focus and interest. But one area that always has interested me is human resources with respect to job searches. I love to help candidates get jobs in the nonprofit arena. I always believe job candidates consistently need advice, counsel and encouragement.
Unfortunately, the tenures of nonprofit professionals are not long, and many of us constantly are thinking about our next jobs while working in our current ones.
Each candidate must be prepared for a job search and what that entails. A major piece of that process is the dreaded job interview. You would think experienced professionals, over time, would improve in this area, but, sadly, many do not improve because of lack of focus and preparation.
I have had a long history of interviewing and recruiting job seekers. I have a fairly good batting average with securing quality candidates, but unfortunately it is not 100 percent. For a variety of reasons, some employees failed to deliver on what they promised during their interviews.
I recently spent a full workday interviewing several candidates for a development position. This position was very important to the organization. It had a direct fundraising focus. I was looking for a dynamic individual who could represent our organization in the most positive way possible. I also was looking for the candidate who could promote our mission, plus tell stories with conviction and close significant gifts.
On this day of interviewing, I talked to four individuals—all with diverse levels of knowledge and experience. Prior to the face-to-face interviews, the candidates were vetted and put in order of who would be interviewed first. On paper, all of these job seekers could be hired. Each person provided an array of strengths and weaknesses.
But it is the little things that set candidates apart. In my case, each candidate had interesting positive and negative features. My takeaway from this process gave me thoughts for you to consider when you are involved in your next job interview.
- Make sure you practice your opening statement. When someone says, “Tell us about yourself,” be concise and to the point. Relate your thoughts to the job you are applying for as this sets the tone for the interview. Do not ramble and talk for the sake of nervous-talking. Make the interviewers want to hear more about you.
- Answer the questions you are asked, but do not go beyond that boundary. Know when to talk and when to listen. Take the time to process the question, and remember the quality of the answer is just as important as the quantity of the answer.
- Have positive eye contact and positive body language. Show the committee that you are the candidate for the job through your nonverbal actions. Be confident and proud of your track record. Provide some different and new information not previously known to the search committee. Tell the committee about a story or situation that impacted you.
- Be prepared to ask thoughtful questions when it is your turn. Show the search committee you have done your homework.
- Be proud of yourself, and explain to the search committee why you are definitely the candidate of choice. Many candidates do not show fire and passion for the positions they seek. They are too reactive—at times, it is OK to be proactive.
- Try to make sure you say or do something that will allow you to be remembered. Show the committee you have done your homework by providing information that shows the committee you really know the organization and can master the position in question based upon your past experiences.
In summary, prepare for the job interview. My greatest pet peeve when interviewing candidates is their lack of knowledge about the organization for which they are seeking employment. If, during the interview, someone asks you what you know about the organization, dazzle him or her.
Show your knowledge and insight about the organization’s mission, vision and values. If you start off the interview with a great first impression, your chances of getting hired greatly increase.
If there is a sticky question about any former job separations, be honest and don’t go too far that it gets too personal. After the interview, send a handwritten note to each member of the search committee thanking them for meeting. Note your appreciation for the chance to answer a particular question they asked on the thank-you card. That attention to detail will set you apart from the pack.
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, lecturer and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 11 years. He has been a long-standing member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals where he was previously named the AFP Indiana Chapter Fundraising Executive of the Year and has held the CFRE designation for many years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.