Tag Archives: InterviewPreparation

Questions to Help Land Your Dream Job

Our clients are employers — organizations that are looking to hire people. For the most part, the articles I have written in the past year have been to strengthen their process and procedures.

But that does not mean we are not concerned about prospective employees. We work closely with candidates throughout the recruitment and interview process and are deeply invested in their success. We help them understand the nature of the job, organization, and the people whom they are about to meet during an interview. We seek to ensure they are well prepared, and counsel them regarding what they should know and expect in the process of applying for a particular position.

We know that if the interviewee does well, our clients will be well led, well served, raise more money, retain more donors, and deliver more and better on their respective missions.

Among the things we emphasize when preparing candidates for the people they will meet and the range of interviews they will have, is the importance of asking — not just answering — questions.

Indeed, while most job applicants (in fact, virtually all people) assume they are in control when speaking, the opposite is true. The person asking the questions controls the flow and direction of the conversation; successful candidates understand this and make sure they are not simply passive responders.

How to Use Questions as a Candidate

Often, near the end of an interview, the hiring officer will say, “Our time is nearly up, do you have any questions for me?” That’s fine, however I believe a better approach is to engage the interviewer with relevant questions throughout the conversation.

For example, perhaps the interviewer asks how you go about preparing for a major gift solicitation. Once you have responded with a specific example (e.g., how you used a team approach that led to an eight-figure result), you might ask, “In relation to major gifts here, tell me a little about the board’s involvement in the identification, engagement, solicitation, and stewardship of donors.”

An interview should not be an interrogation; it’s a conversation. In addition to demonstrating your value, you are conducting an evaluation of your own — of the organization, the position, and those with whom you would be working.

It’s a two-way street, so plan on asking a question each time you conclude an answer, so that you may gather the information you need to make your own assessment.

More Examples…

The interviewer asks, “Tell me about your management style. Are you a team player or a lone wolf?”

There is no right answer — either may be of value to the organization. But as you conclude your answer, you might ask, “Tell me a bit about your own leadership style.” As you listen to the response, think about whether this is the kind of person you might want as manager, mentor, or teammate.

The interviewer asks, “What do you plan to accomplish in your first 30, 60, or 90 days?”

It’s a common question. So rather than waiting to be asked, maybe you should preempt it by asking, “What goals would you have for me in the first 30, 60, or 90 days?”

The interviewer asks, “What has been your greatest professional success or failure?”

You will want to have a prepared answer for this question, as it is also quite common. In fact, we advise all candidates to have prepared answers for every conceivable question they might be asked.

Your answer might conclude with a question such as, “What was yourgreatest success or failure? What did you learn from it and how did you leverage it in your personal and professional development?” Or, “What was the organization’s greatest success or failure? How did that change the nonprofit’s goals or (development) strategies?”

True conversations involve two (or more) active participants who share a back and forth on equal footing. The more you, the interviewee, can get the interviewer to talk, the more you will learn. Further, as you follow-up the other person’s responses, you come across as engaging, prepared, and eager to learn, all traits that every quality organization should value.

Is it Okay for Me to Ask So Many Questions?

Of course, there is an appropriate balance between answering and asking questions. You need to listen with your eyes as much as your ears to sense if the interviewer is feeling uncomfortable with yielding some control over the conversation.

But that in itself may suggest a red flag worth paying attention to. If they are not open, flexible, and willing to engage with you, consider whether this is the kind of person and organization with whom you can see yourself working.

By being prepared to both answer and ask substantive questions, you are showcasing your capabilities while simultaneously conducting the due diligence necessary to ensure you have found a good fit.