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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

How to Prepare for a Nonprofit Job Interview: 4 Insider Tips

Updated: Jun 13

Whether you’re being recruited or looking for new opportunities, finding a job in the nonprofit sector can be challenging, especially if you haven’t done it before. Plus, with research finding that nonprofits are increasingly looking for value over quantity, selling yourself as the right fit in your interview is now more important than ever. 

Even if you have experience interviewing in the for-profit world, there are special considerations you should be aware of when interviewing at a nonprofit. In this guide, we’ll review the most important tips and tricks for nonprofit interviewees so you can get the job and start making a difference in your community.

An interviewer shaking an interviewee’s hand.

1. Understand what nonprofits value in candidates.

As previously mentioned, nonprofits have different motivations and goals than most for-profit businesses—namely, the profit they raise fuels a charitable cause instead of business growth. Therefore, they look for candidates with different skill sets, personality traits, and passions as well, such as:

  • Communication skills. For roles in fields like marketing and grant writing, nonprofits might require candidates to have advanced writing capabilities. However, for any role, candidates must be able to communicate clearly with other team members and external stakeholders.

  • Experience with charitable causes. Even if candidates don’t have experience with the nonprofit’s specific sector, it helps for them to understand why charitable causes matter through firsthand experience.

  • Adaptability and resilience. Nonprofits’ financial stability relies greatly on the generosity of donors and community members, meaning they can get hit extra hard by economic downturns and recessions. The right team members will be flexible in the face of hardship and help see the nonprofit through to the other side.

  • Connection with the nonprofit’s specific mission. One of your interviewer’s talent acquisition strategies is to find and engage with candidates who will become long-term employees, and those who have a strong tie to their mission are more likely to stay loyal to the organization.

  • Empathy and compassion. Regardless of the nonprofit’s mission statement or niche, a kind and welcoming demeanor is crucial when interfacing with donors, board members, volunteers, and beneficiaries.

  • Knowledge of nonprofit technology. Between constituent relationship management systems (CRMs), website management platforms, and fundraising databases, nonprofits have many software solutions that require specialized knowledge. Candidates with technological experience require less training to get up and running. 

With these considerations in mind, you can start preparing your interview approach. Research common interview questions for nonprofit roles to prepare properly. You could even reverse-engineer questions you think your interviewer might ask to gauge these common characteristics.

Also, it helps to know why recruitment is so important to nonprofits. According to NXUnite’s guide to employee recruitment, nonprofits create strategic hiring plans to fuel innovation, adapt to workforce trends, find better matches for roles, and reduce hiring costs. When crafting your answers, cater them to these common recruitment goals.

2. Review the job description carefully.

No two nonprofit job descriptions are the same, even if they have similar titles. Nonprofits typically use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to create job descriptions based on prompts, which might impact which details are included and highlighted. So, the nuances in each job description are crucial for you to review. Look for elements like:

  • Explanation of daily role expectations. Pay attention to what you’ll be expected to accomplish daily. For example, a grant writing job description might say that in a typical day, you’ll spend three hours researching grant opportunities, one hour in internal meetings, and four hours writing.

  • Long-term career expectations. In addition to daily responsibilities, explore what the typical career path looks like at the nonprofit. Research elements like internal mobility to visualize how your potential position may grow and change.

  • The nonprofit’s employer brand. Lever’s guide to recruitment marketing recommends paying attention to the nonprofit’s employer brand elements, such as tone and mission, to see if they’ll be a good fit for your preferences. 

Read the fine print of the job posting so you can pick out any red flags or unique perks you can ask about. The listing might even lead you to the nonprofit’s social media pages so you can collect further insights about their current initiatives, reputation, and community impact before the interview.

3. Prepare questions specific to the nonprofit.

Remember, the interview stages are as much an opportunity for you to learn about your potential employer as it is for them to get to know you. Asking questions during the interview gives you access to insights that aren’t available elsewhere and allows you to tailor your interview to fit your priorities. Here are some specific questions you might ask your interviewer:

  • How does your nonprofit value diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)? Studies show that employers who accept unique perspectives are more likely to value you as a team member, make better decisions, and innovate over time. 

  • How does your nonprofit support employee personal wellness? Nonprofit work can be exhausting, so it’s important to support employees emotionally. Ask about different programs the nonprofit has in place to promote mental and physical wellness, such as insurance-covered mental health care or subsidized gym memberships.

  • How does your nonprofit support professional development? The most fulfilling employers actively work to help you become the best contributor you can be. Inquire about internal mobility within the nonprofit, professional development opportunities, and the company culture, which is ideally learning- and growth-oriented

Don’t shy away from asking difficult questions. For instance, if you have any lingering concerns after reading reviews from existing employees, feel free to bring them up to gauge the employer’s thoughts. 

As you gear up for your nonprofit interview, remember to keep the same general principles of typical business interview etiquette in mind. Send thank-you notes, arrive on time, and dress professionally to make a stellar first impression. Ultimately, as long as you show your unique value proposition as a candidate, you’ll find promising opportunities to make yourself known professionally in the nonprofit sector.


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