charities, managing volunteers, NGO, non-profit, volunteer, volunteer coordinator, volunteer management, volunteer manager, volunteers
You are in the midst of job hunting. You figure that if you’re going to go to work, you probably want a job where you make a difference. You imagine that you want to work for a non-profit because really nice people work there and in between patting each other on the back they play with puppies, while sipping salted caramel lattes, right?
You notice a job for a volunteer manager and you think, “there’s a way to get in and hey, how hard can that be, I mean I trained my three cats to come when I tap the cat food can with a spoon, right?”
You apply and have an interview scheduled. And you want to know what questions will be asked and how to answer them. Well, my friend, you’ve come to the right place. I want to help you get that job.
Below you will find some sample interview questions (Q). After each question is a detailed explanation of what that question is really about, followed by the answer (A) you should give. I personally guarantee if you follow this guide, you’ll ace that interview.
So, here we go with are some pretty typical questions:
Q: Do you believe in our mission?
This will be the easiest question asked. Don’t bother memorizing stats like, “you were founded by dedicated volunteers in 1973,” or “last year you on-boarded 32 new volunteers.” Don’t even bother with “I see you had 2,000 volunteer hours, this past month, a record for you.” Nah. Nobody really reads or understands those stats anyway. There are pictures of those statistics in the “Real Non-Profit Dictionary” next to the entry “Busy Work.”
A: I believe in unicorns, fairy dust and most importantly, blindly following directions. Mainly, I’ll believe anything you tell me to believe.
Q: How do you feel about directing people who are older than you?
Fair question, but more than likely, the interviewer has no idea how old the volunteers are, or even how many there are or what they really do. This perception is actually from something the interviewer heard from another non-profit administrator who knows a CEO who knows a fundraiser who went to a conference ten years ago where she met a volunteer manager who happened to bring her grandmother with her.
A: I work well with everyone, especially people who love to do menial tasks and are really good at blindly following directions. Kinda like me.
Q: Are you good at multi-tasking?
Ahhh, the multi-tasking question. Actually the interviewer probably knows very little about the tasks you will need to do. (hint: more than you can imagine, but you can worry about that later) The interviewer just assumes that you pretty much will chat, answer phones, think up excuses as to why volunteers don’t want to clean out the junk closet, make cute posters with scented markers (that you’ll have to buy yourself) and have little impromptu parties with happy volunteers who have nothing else in their lives but the desire to give back. And just so you know, “give back” translates to “don’t ask questions.”
A: I once cut out all the silver cardboard stars, gosh, hundreds of them for my high school prom and attached each one individually to the overhead streamers while consoling Jaime Green who was crying about her breakup with Hugo Carreras. I didn’t drop one star, not one. And besides, (you wink here) I make a mean cup of Earl Grey.
Q: How do you feel about working occasional weekends and holidays?
Ok, listen carefully. This is code for every time we forget to ask for volunteer involvement and then remember at the last-minute, we expect you to either a) stay extra late and get volunteers or b) do the job yourself.
A: When I was in college, I was always the designated driver. And I never was bitter about it. I actually considered it an honor. I once even held the most popular girl in my college, Bitsy Blake’s, hair while she threw up in the Cozy Lantern’s parking lot. (give a satisfied sigh)
Q: Can you plan and work with a budget?
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Sorry. Just so you know, there will be no budget.
A: I steal internet access from my neighbor.
Q: What is your concept of team?
Ok, this is one of those mumbo jumbo psychology type questions they have to ask. They got it from one of their philosophy of management courses where they had to read such books as “The Theory of Employee Motivation in Two Words” and “Workroom Break-time, a Descent Into Anarchy.” So, the only way to answer one of these questions is to out-abstract the abstract.
A: (with both hands, draw a large invisible heart in the air. Both hands should move in perfect unison, ending at the bottom point. With a flourish, pull your hands to your chest) In a reverent voice, say, “there is no i in team, but there is a u in volunteer.”
Q: Where do you see yourself in five years?
Be careful here. This question is meant to flesh out the overly ambitious candidate. Once you become the volunteer manager, it will be hard for them to see you as anything else, aka, anything more. It’s kind of like thinking of your Mom dating. You know what I mean. EWWWWWW.
A: I see myself as a productive member who supports the mission. And, if I may be so bold, someone who is a bit of a risk taker, like maybe serving Chamomile instead of Earl Grey or using glitter pens instead of scented markers.
Well, there you have it. Be confident that if you reply to these questions with the foolproof answers above, you will definitely be offered the job.
Welcome to Volunteer Management.
Funny! And sadly, actually true…:)
Hi Tracy! Sometimes I find absurdity the way to cope with challenges. Doesn’t mean giving up though. We can change these perceptions, it’s just going to take some effort. Thank you for weighing in, I appreciate it!
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