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  • Writer's pictureNonprofit Learning Lab

The Ultimate Guide to Interviewing for a Nonprofit Job

Entering the nonprofit sector can be a fulfilling career choice, driven by a desire to make a positive impact on society. However, securing a position in this competitive field requires careful preparation and understanding of both the organization and the role you are applying for. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you ace your nonprofit job interview.

Three people looking at papers on a desk while conducting an interview.

Preparing for the Nonprofit Job Interview

1. Where to Find Nonprofit Jobs

Before diving into interview preparation, you need to find suitable job opportunities in the nonprofit sector. There are several avenues you can explore:

2. Use Your Connections to Find Jobs

Using connections to find a job can be highly effective. 

  • Reach out to your network: Start by reaching out to your network, including former colleagues, mentors, and friends, to let them know you are seeking opportunities. If you find a connection to an organization that has a job opening, craft an email to your colleague and see if they would be willing to put in a good word.

  • Industry Events: Attend industry-specific events and join professional organizations related to your field to expand your network. Networks such as Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) or a local United Way such as the United Way of Hastings can be a great resource. 

  • Volunteer: Volunteering with nonprofits can help you build relationships and gain insights into potential job openings. Additionally it is great to add to your resume!

  • LinkedIn: Additionally, leveraging platforms like LinkedIn to connect with nonprofit professionals and participate in relevant discussions can open doors to job opportunities and provide valuable recommendations.

  • Alumni Associations: Utilize any alumni associations and connections you may have from former schools or organizations to build connections and relationships in the nonprofit sector.

3. Research the Organization

Understanding the nonprofit organization you are applying to is crucial. Here’s how you can effectively research:

  • Mission and Values: Familiarize yourself with the organization’s mission statement and core values. Reflect on how these align with your own principles and goals.

  • History and Impact: Dive into the organization’s history, past programs, and notable achievements. Understand its impact on the community it serves.

  • Current Events: Stay updated on recent news and initiatives in the type of field you are seeking to work in. Follow the organization’s activities in the media to grasp its current projects and challenges.

4. Understand the Role

To effectively prepare for the interview, you must understand the specifics of the job you’re applying for:

  • Job Description Analysis: Break down the job description to identify key responsibilities and required skills. This will help you tailor your responses during the interview. Identify how your experience and skills match the role. 

  • Skill Alignment: Highlight relevant skills and experiences from your background that match the job requirements. Prepare concrete examples that showcase your abilities and achievements.

5. You got the interview! 

  • First Interview Format: It's crucial to start by understanding the format of the first interview. Whether it's in-person, online, or via phone, clarity on the format will help tailor your preparation effectively. 

  • For an in-person interview, focus on dressing professionally and planning your route to arrive on time. 

  • Online interviews require testing your technology beforehand and choosing a quiet, well-lit space. 

  • Phone interviews necessitate a clear, confident voice and minimizing distractions. 

  • Start Preparing No Matter the Format: Researching the company and practicing common interview questions will also boost your confidence regardless of the format. By adapting your preparation to fit the interview style, you'll be well-equipped to make a strong impression.

6. Prepare Documents for the Job Interview

Your resume, cover letter, and portfolio (if applicable) should be carefully crafted to highlight your suitability for the nonprofit role:

  • Resume and Cover Letter: Tailor these documents to emphasize your relevant experience, skills, and accomplishments in the nonprofit sector. Consider using resources like ChatGPT for personalized guidance and utilize the nonprofit’s website for specific insights. 

  • Portfolio: Compile work samples or case studies that demonstrate your impact and expertise in previous roles. Keep in mind, this may not be applicable to every role. 

7. Practice and Mock Interviews

Prepare thoroughly for the interview process:

  • Common Interview Questions: Anticipate questions about your motivation, experience, and how you handle specific nonprofit challenges. Practice answering using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result).

  • Mock Interviews: Conduct practice interviews with friends, family, or mentors to refine your responses and boost your confidence. Try recording and reviewing your performance to identify areas for improvement. 

During the Interview

Make a positive impression during your interview:

  • First Impressions: Dress professionally to align with the organization’s culture. Arrive on time or slightly early to show respect for the interviewer’s time.

  • Effective Communication: Maintain good body language such as good posture, eye contact, and a friendly demeanor. Listen attentively to the interviewer and provide clear, concise, and thoughtful answers to questions. Use the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure responses.

  • Showcase Your Passion: Articulate why you are drawn to the nonprofit sector and demonstrate your knowledge of the organization’s mission and work. Share personal stories or experiences that highlight your passion. 

  • Understand the Organization: Demonstrate your knowledge of the organization’s mission, values, and work. Explain how you can contribute to their goals. 

  • Ask Thoughtful Questions: Try to ask about the organization’s current goals and challenges. Inquire about the team you’ll be working with and the organizational culture. Ask about opportunities for professional development and growth. 

How to Handle Project Requests From an Interviewer 

Handling requests for projects during an interview can indeed offer insights into the organization's culture and expectations. 

  • Pros: On the positive side, such tasks can showcase your skills and creativity, giving you an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities beyond the resume. It also indicates that the company values practical skills and may be looking for proactive candidates who can hit the ground running.

  • Cons: There are potential drawbacks to consider. Requesting projects during an interview process might suggest a lack of respect for candidates' time and expertise, especially if these tasks are overly time-consuming or unrelated to the role. It could also indicate a culture of expecting free work or testing candidates' willingness without compensation.

  • When faced with such a request, it's important to assess the nature of the project and its relevance to the position. Politely inquire about the purpose and scope of the project to understand how it aligns with the job responsibilities. If uncomfortable or unsure about the request, it's acceptable to express concerns diplomatically or propose alternative ways to showcase your skills. Ultimately, while projects can provide valuable insights and opportunities, candidates should approach them thoughtfully and consider how they reflect on the organization's values and work culture.

Ask Questions for Fit: 

When assessing if an organization is the right fit for you, delve into its culture and values. Understanding the company's culture involves researching its mission, values, and employee testimonials. 

  • Culture: During interviews, observe interactions and ask about team dynamics, communication styles, and how decisions are made. These inquiries help gauge alignment with your career goals and personal values, ensuring a harmonious fit with the organization. See example questions to ask below. 

  • How does the company support employee growth and development?

  • What initiatives are in place to promote diversity and inclusion? 

  • What communication tools or platforms does the company use to keep employees informed?

  • How would you describe the team dynamics within the department I would be joining?

  • Benefits: Benefits are another critical aspect; inquire about healthcare, retirement plans, professional development opportunities, and work-life balance policies. Ask questions about any and all benefits the organization offers. 

  • What retirement plans are available, such as 401(k) or pension plans?

  • Can you tell me about the healthcare benefits offered by the company?

  • Are there opportunities for professional development or continuing education?

  • What is the company's policy regarding parental leave or other family-related benefits?

After the Interview

After the interview, follow up to express gratitude and maintain engagement:

  • Sending a Thank You Note: Send a thank you email within 24 hours. Be sure to express gratitude for the opportunity, summarizing key points discussed during the interview, and reiterating your enthusiasm for the role and organization.

  • Reflect on the Interview: Evaluate your performance, identify any strengths, and learn from any feedback received to improve for future opportunities.

  • Stay Engaged: Stay connected with the organization by following their updates and expressing continued interest. Politely inquire about the status of your application if you haven’t heard back within the expected timeframe


By following these steps, we hope you can effectively prepare for your next nonprofit job interview and increase your chances of securing a meaningful role in the nonprofit sector. 

Looking for a job in the nonprofit sector? For a comprehensive listing of nonprofit job opportunities, visit our Nonprofit Learning Lab Job Board. Browse through a variety of nonprofit job listing boards across the country. 


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