Interview Questions for Volunteers

Some events call for specialized volunteer positions. You may need someone with a background in the medical field, experience with children, or strong communication skills. If you are coordinating an event with positions like these, you may consider holding interviews for your volunteers.

Before getting started planning for these interviews, first identify why you may need them:

  1. Required, specialized skills. Working with children, aiding in medical work, and handling money are a few examples. 
  1. Limited positions. Sometimes you can just do an announcement for when your site opens for sign ups, but you might need to interview for any leadership roles.  
  1. Working with a small team. It is important that team dynamics and expectations are understood by new volunteers. Interviewing candidates ensures you are doing that. 
  1. Higher level of commitment needed. If this is not your average volunteer shift, it is good to make sure expectations are clear right from the start so you don’t end up short-handed.  

Here are 10 questions and tips to find out if your candidate is good fit:

  1. Why are you interested in this position?
    • This is a fairly basic question, so if they can’t answer it, that’s not a great sign. Make sure to know what kind of answer you are looking for. Is it enough if it looks good on college resumes? Or do candidates need to show more heart than that?
  1. Describe a time you would change a decision you made.
    • No one is perfect, and it is important that everyone on your team is able to be conscientious, self-reflective, and honest about their work.
  1. What is your past volunteer/job experience?
    • Even if you have resumes to look at, it’s always best to hear it from the candidate directly. This helps you better understand their attitudes toward their history of work experience, as well as their aspirations.
  1. What are your 3 best qualities?
    • This can give you good insight into what the candidate thinks is important. Maybe you need someone that is a people person, or good under pressure.
  1. What amount of time are you able to commit to the position?
    • This is just logistics. Know the dates, times, and hours weekly you’ll expect from them. Then, ask what they’re able to commit to.
  1. Pose a situational question.
    • The actually question will depend on what position you are interviewing them for. You could ask about a time they had to work with a difficult child or parent, or were short in their cashier drawer. It will help determine how they will handle tricky situations on the job. 
  1.   How would you describe your communication style? 
    • You may already have some ideas of their communication strengths and weaknesses, based on the interview itself. However, give them a chance to express it in their own words. You may discover something insightful!
  1. Confirm they have the certifications, or other requirements needed. 
    • Do they need to be bilingual? CPR certified? If so, take the time to verify that information.
  1. Identify a handful of their volunteer interests. 
    • Maybe they are applying to volunteer in one department, but they are better suited for another department. The interview process allows you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, then place them in the role best suited for their strengths and preferences.
  1. Save time for the candidate to ask you questions. 
    • The interview process really goes both ways. This lets them get a feel for if the position is really the right thing for them too! 

It is very important not to ask questions that could be considered discriminatory. Do not ask about a potential volunteer’s gender, race, political beliefs, relationship status, financial status, or religion. That includes asking where they were born, where their parents were born, if they own a home, or if they have children. Although some of those questions may seem innocuous, or like you are just trying to make a connection, the interview process is meant to see if they meet the qualifications you are looking for. Save the more personal chit-chat for later on.

Read More

Telling Your Volunteers’ Stories

Volunteers crave community, and they want to share their experiences. We’re all for creating a community among volunteers – it helps with retention and just makes everyone feel a little more welcome. One of our favorite ways to get out volunteer stories is with a simple interview published on your website, blog or printed in your newsletter. It will make them feel like they’re an important part of your organization, and it will help to showcase your organization’s mission at the same time.

While an organic conversation with a volunteer will lead to the most interesting interview, we also understand that volunteer coordinators don’t always have that much time on their hands. To save time and streamline your interview process, we always suggest a list of simple, go-to questions for your volunteers. A mix of fun personal questions as well as questions pertaining specifically to their volunteer life is a great way to give your team a glimpse into the people they work with.

Below are some of our go-to questions for volunteers, but personalizing them to your volunteer and organization will always lead to a more interesting interview.

1)     How long have you been a volunteer?

2)     Why did you begin volunteering with our organization?

3)     What part of our mission statement do you identify with the most?

4)     What’s your favorite way to volunteer with our organization?

5)     When you’re not volunteering with us, what are you most likely to be doing?

So there you have it, a simple list of questions to get the conversation going with your volunteers. Keep interviews brief and interesting to give your volunteers just a glimpse into the people who make up your team.

Read More

Dress for Success: the Job You Want

Photo cred:

Interviews can be scary. Even if your resume is polished, you’ve packed three clean notebooks (and four pens) in your binder, and you’ve recited how your-biggest-mistake-turned-into-a-learning-moment six times to your bathroom mirror–you’ll probably still wake up on the morning of the big day feeling about as under prepared as Ashlee Simpson on Saturday Night Live.

The only thing that could possibly add even more stress to that crucial juncture between the shower and the front door is putting together the perfect outfit.

You know what I’m talking about. That moment you open your closet doors only to realize the full extent of your impending fashion crisis. You were sure you had plenty of trendy fare in stock, but you were wrong. You’ve got nothing. No slacks, no blazers. You only have one pair of heels and they look like they belong to someone in the cast of Chicago. Huge hit on the dance floor, huge flop in the corner office.

Dress for Success Des Moines

Meet Jody White, one of the founding partners and the current Executive Director at Dress for Success Des Moines, a nonprofit that aims to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.

Photo cred:

Jody White is one of many in this business who believe that every woman deserves to own at least one professional outfit that makes her feel as fabulous as she looks. That’s why Dress for Success suits women applicants in business attire for free. Everything from blouses to heels to jewelry–even make-up application tutorials.

“When a client arrives in our office, she is given one-on-one attention,” says White. “She is our number one priority.”

But they don’t stop there. Dress for Success provides a six-week class in conjunction with the Going Places Network to help women craft resumes, write cover letters and learn to apply old skills to new jobs. “Even the suiting itself serves as a kind of interview prep,” says White. “If they arrive late, or even sometimes too early, we’ll tell them the interviewer won’t respond positively to that.”

Moving to an automated volunteer registration system was an easy transition for Dress for Success. “Having a tool, as basic as that sounds, just having a tool for volunteers to sign up for our upcoming orientations and events is so wonderful,” White says. “VolunteerLocal is super easy to use and compatible with other users–because we have three or four people managing the events at a time–and it’s consistent and helpful.”

Clients are accepted at Dress for Success on a referral basis by partner agencies, listed here. Look sharp, Des Moines–Dress for Success is in town, and they’re keeping it fashion-forward with a hip new volunteer management software, VolunteerLocal.

Read More