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Five Interview Questions to Ask Volunteers

Interviewing volunteer candidates is an important opportunity for you to make sure they’ll be a good fit with your organization. It’s also a chance for you to share information about your organization and volunteering needs so your applicant can make an informed decision about whether the work will be a good match for them. We review five essential questions to ask during interviews to help you find talented and dedicated volunteers for your organization.

1. Why would you like to be a volunteer at our organization?

This simple question can yield valuable information about your applicant’s motives and interests for seeking work with your organization. Listen for alignment to your mission as well as what your applicant hopes to gain from volunteering. For example, if your applicant expresses an interest in finding full-time work at your organization down the line, and you often make future hires from your current volunteers, it’s a great time to name that as an opportunity for growth. If that’s not the case, it’s important to name that those opportunities will be limited. This allows you and volunteer to be informed and have shared expectations for the experience.

2. Can you tell me about an aspect of a volunteer experience that you’ve really enjoyed, and a part that you wish had been different?

Like hiring for full-time roles, the experience you are looking for from volunteer applicants may vary according to the kind of work you’re looking for them to support. With this question, you can learn more about the kind of volunteering your applicant has done and get a sense of what kinds of volunteer commitments they’ve made in the past. It may be useful to hear if they’ve done work within the sector before or if volunteering with your organization will be a shift for them to help determine what kind of training and onboarding will be most useful. It can also help to hear their reflections on what they wished might have have been different as you prepare for your working relationship with them.

3. Why do you think this volunteer opportunity is a good match for you?

You will have a sense of a volunteer’s skills and experiences based on their resume but it can be helpful to hear an applicant articulate the strengths and abilities they bring to your opportunity specifically. There may also be experiences that didn’t make their resume but nonetheless set them up for success as a volunteer with your organization. Hearing about their strengths may also help you brainstorm additional projects they could help support.

4. How much time would you like to volunteer?

It may be most useful to phrase this question alongside your expectations for volunteer time commitment. For example, something like: “We’re looking for a commitment of X hours a week and would value having volunteers able to work one weekend day. Is that something that would work for you and your schedule?” It’s important to make sure the time they are able to contribute align with and meet your organizational needs.

5. Tell me about a time your responsibilities got a little overwhelming and you weren’t able to get everything on your to-do list done. What did you do?

The ability to adapt to changing work demands is an important quality for volunteers. Asking about a time your applicant faced a challenging situation allows you to learn about how they encounter instances when things don’t go as planned. Following up with questions like, “what would you do differently if this situation happened again?” can help you assess your applicant’s ability to reflect and grow from their experiences.

With these questions as a basis, keep in mind that you may need to adjust slightly depending on the candidate. For example, a high schooler may need a different prompt to help them answer the experience question because they may not recognize that volunteering for clean-up after the school dance is a “volunteer” opportunity. Relatedly, a candidate may have been a “class parent” at their child’s school but not have seen it as formal volunteer experience. Depending on your applicant, consider asking these questions with a couple examples to stimulate their thinking.

Have other interview questions you like to ask volunteer candidates? Share them with us at idealistorgs@idealist.org.

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