So You Want a Successful Nonprofit Fundraising Job Interview?
I recently spent one day interviewing a number of candidates for two open positions in my office. The interview process is what you make of it, but having a proper interview process is critical if you desire a highly performing team.
To be fair, I had a number of uniform questions I asked each candidate. I also went with the flow depending upon the direction of each interview. These were first-round interviews. I had time constraints with the process.
I actually had a headache at the end of the day. To make matters more complicated, I was interviewing candidates that day for two different positions. In one case, an applicant who applied for one position was actually a better candidate for the other open position. The age range of candidates was from the 20s to the late 50s. These candidates came from all walks of life and circumstances. Since I enjoy meeting new people, I was totally engaged in the process.
Hiring someone is vital to the long-term success of your organization. You need to put the time in the process to make it achieve positive results.
When I interview someone for a position in the not-for-profit arena, I first look for the obvious technical skills to see if there is a match for the position. If people assume the résumé provides this information they are wrong. Even if someone does not have a long work history, that person must have either the tools to be successful, work experience being successful or ability to learn on the job through best-of-class practices. If the candidate passes the technical side of the equation, I then look for the intangibles:
- How do the candidates look, act and speak?
- Do they seem interested in the position or just need a job?
- Did they do their homework on your organization?
- Do they seem like a cultural fit for the organization?
- Do they have the drive and hunger for success?
- Do they listen well and fit with your ideal candidate profile?
- How will they blend with others on your team?
- How do you think they will work directly with you?
- Is this someone that will be with your organization one year or less or five years or more?
You go with your gut and try to determine win-win scenarios. I actually provide a grade on their overall presentation.
I spend a great deal of time trying to determine what motivates candidates. I want to find out if they have a value system. I determine if they take pride in their work or view work as just a job. I ask where they see themselves several years down the line. I inquire if they volunteer for other organizations. I want to know if they cared enough about the job interview to do research on my organization and even on me as the team leader. I look for separation between the candidate and other candidates.
You would be surprised how many candidates do not do their homework and just go through the motions. They come to the interview unprepared. Those who exceed expectations score points as you would think they would in an actual job situation. I also try to find out who inspires them. I ask if the importance of family plays a role in their lives.
The job interview, if done well, is very complex. It is like dating in the sense that you determine quickly if there is chemistry in the room. Then, ascertain if the chemistry coming from the candidate can be applied to others on my team.
Human nature as it is, I ultimately look for the "take me home country roads" factor. I came from a loving West Virginia family that valued hard work, ethics, honesty, trust, transparency and giving 100 percent in every endeavor. My relatives also took pride in themselves and installed a servant leadership personality in me.
When interviewing others I look for those traits. I think to myself, can this employee be motivated by me and does he or she have personal motivation that inspires them? I hope candidates are doing the same analysis! If they are, the element of surprise will be significantly less down the road.
Duke Haddad, Ed.D., CFRE, is currently associate director of development, director of capital campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis. He also serves as president of Duke Haddad and Associates LLC and is a freelance instructor for Nonprofit Web Advisor.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO since 2008.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis on education administration plus a dissertation on donor characteristics. He received a master’s degree from Marshall University with an emphasis on public administration plus a thesis on annual fund analysis. He secured a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) with an emphasis on marketing/management. He has done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
Duke has received the Fundraising Executive of the Year Award, from the Association of Fundraising Professionals Indiana Chapter. He also was given the Outstanding West Virginian Award, Kentucky Colonel Award and Sagamore of the Wabash Award from the governors of West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, respectively, for his many career contributions in the field of philanthropy. He has maintained a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) designation for three decades.