Important Questions to Consider When Interviewing in a Non-Profit or Public Service Field

Are you interested in working in the non-profit or public service field? There are many non-profits out there including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Susan G Komen for the Cure, and Planned Parenthood. However some organizations are non-profits, but most people don’t realize it, like the NFL (National Football League) or the Girl Scouts of America. It’s important to be familiar with the missions and business environment of the nonprofits or public service organizations you are interested in applying to and interviewing with. Here are some of the concepts and topics that you should be comfortable talking about in an interview for nonprofits organizations.

First of all, you should be familiar with the differences between non-profit work and for-profit areas. The main difference is that non-profits are not created to make money, rather, they focus on charitable, educational, scientific, or literary additions to their community or society in general. Along those same lines, you should be familiar with what their goal or mission statement is. Make sure you are able to speak about their mission and how it connects to your beliefs, mottos, and goals.

Not only should you feel a connection between your personal beliefs and the organization’s mission, but you should also understand the business environment you are applying for. As I mentioned earlier, the NFL is a nonprofit, but their environment is more formal than other smaller charities. Be aware of the general environment of the organization you are interested in and make sure to dress accordingly for the interview.

Non-profits may also offer a lower salary or hourly wage because their ultimate goal isn’t to make a profit. Be prepared to talk about the possible downsides to working in this field, like your comfort working with a low budget. The interviewer may ask you a question about limited funds, but make sure to speak about this topic with care. If it is your first interview, don’t ask directly about salary, but be ready to answer a question, if they do ask. The time to ask directly about salary is later on in the hiring process. For more information on how to discuss this delicate topic, check out our Negotiating the Job Offer Supplement.

The format of the interview will affect your preparation as well. Group or panel interviews are very common because most nonprofits are a collaborative environment. Group interviews are when you interview with other candidates whereas a panel interview has multiple interviewers and one candidate. When hired you will be expected to work well with others, so group interviews help show the interviewer(s) how you function within a group. Take a look at our Group Interview Supplement for more information on interviewing in groups.

Within your panel interview, you may have multiple interviewers from different areas of the nonprofit, so you must be ready to answer a large variety of questions. For example, you may interview with someone from finance and they could ask you questions on budgeting, but you could also interview with a marketing employee who might ask you about your experience campaigning.

Still feel like you need some more help preparing? The Center for Career Development has many resources to give you more information on career advice in general as well as interviewing techniques. If you would like to practice your interviewing skills the Center for Career Development also offers Practice Interviews. These appointments include an interview simulation and a conversation with a Career Coach about ways to strengthen your responses. At the Center for Career Development, we are always here to help so, schedule a practice interview today!

By Melissa Nowak
Melissa Nowak