Interview Questions Explained by A Nonprofit Executive Search Firm

As a nonprofit executive search firm, we work with many executive directors and board members to find the ideal candidate for their organizations.  We guide them on how to create a process designed to attract the best candidates, review potential candidates, understand best practices for interviews and engagement of applicants, compare and analyze results of contact with prospective employees, negotiate an offer that benefits the nonprofit and the candidate, and develop procedures to on-board new executive leadership.  In each case, we adopt a unique approach driven by the characteristics of the organization and the community it serves.

Mersky, Jaffe & Associates has been providing executive search services for more than twenty-five years, which is why we found the article in Inc., “The 1 Question Every Job Interviewer Should Ask to Hire the Perfect Candidate,” a great aid in our process.  It circulated around the office thanks to my colleague, Larry Sternberg.

Conversation during the interview process is an ideal way to get to know the person who could be a member of your team for years to come. 

Jeff Haden wisely recommends that interviewers move beyond the standard questions, looking for a specific answer.  That is akin to a candidate who tailors a resume to hit the high points of a job description, knowing that the ‘bot scanning the site will give it high marks. Both get results but not necessarily the quality you are looking for.  Instead, you want to find someone with appropriate skills who will fit in with your culture and  environment.

But, the only way to know if someone will fit is to engage them beyond the standard cookie cutter questions. 

When I was first interviewing for jobs (many moons ago), there were questions that were asked to test your critical thinking skills and determine how you would figure something out if you didn’t know the answer.  These seemingly absurd inquiries ranged a bit but included, “how would you find a needle in a haystack?” and “how many gas stations are there in the United States.” I understood why they were asking these types of questions, even if, as a 22-year-old I was completely scared that I would be stumped on the spot.

The Inc. question about how you will impact the bottom line may stop you in your tracks if you are a candidate who is not really interested in that specific nonprofit but simply a nonprofit job. But, if you have done your due diligence and understand the organization, you should be able to talk to the screener at the executive search firm, the interviewer, and your future colleagues about what you bring to the table.  And that will help everyone understand whether this i s a good fit.

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