A black and white dart board explaining nonprofit interview questions

Nonprofit Interview Questions You Should Ask Every Candidate

Asking the right non profit interview questions is key to identifying the best candidate for your organization. The perfect mix of nonprofit interview questions can give you all the information you need to make a decision about a candidate.

On the other hand, it’s easy to turn a good question into a bad one by the way it’s phrased; doing so can result in loose ends in the candidate evaluation process. There are small changes you can make to your standard interview questions that will result in more useful candidate background knowledge.

Whether hiring a full time employee or freelance worker, it’s important to find out a few key pieces of information.

Best Nonprofit Interview Questions to Ask

First, get out of the mindset of “what nonprofit interview questions should I ask?”

Start thinking, “what information do I want to find out?”

The latter will revolutionize your candidate interviewing process. It will give you better insight into your candidate pool and make you think more creatively about the hiring process. Additionally, it will humanize the interview process.

Identify the backbone qualifications of the position in question. Next, write out what an ideal candidate persona for the job. Finally, shape the questions around whatever information your team has deemed necessary to find out.

Discover More About the Candidate’s Background

Timeline, consistency and a career track record that somewhat matches your preferred qualifications.

These are what you want to find out about you non profit candidate’s past experience.


“I went through your resume and want to hear more about the story of your career. Can you walk me through your professional history?”

You can find a great deal of info about a candidate’s career timeline by their resume. Asking them to walk you their professional history is a best practice and should be addressed early on.

Here’s what you should pay attention to when a candidate walks you through their resume:

  1. When and why they became involved in nonprofit or association work
  2. If they have a gap in their resume and whether or not they address it without being asked
  3. Listen for career milestones and how the candidate describes them

You should further inquire about work history if the candidate left anything out. Be careful not to be redundant; asking questions you can easily find out by reading their resume or cover letter will give the impression you’re not listening.

Look for Passion, Past Success and Personality

Or as I like to call it, the 3 P’s that make a great employee.


Nonprofit and association professionals are typically driven by their passion, an organizational mission and/or a specific cause.

Passion is an indicator of commitment and follow through with projects for your organization.

Start with inquiring about volunteer work.

“Jesse, I’m curious about your volunteer experiences – can you tell me about some of your volunteer involvement?”

This should give you an idea of why a candidate is following a nonprofit career path. If they work for one, they better be willing to volunteer for one too.

Another great indicator of passion why and how a candidate started their nonprofit career.

“You mentioned you started working for a nonprofit in [insert year], could you elaborate on why you chose that career path/made that career transition?

Past Success (and Failure)

Success comes in many different forms. To find out theirs, ask these questions:

“Tell me about your greatest professional accomplishment” 

“Can you walk me through one of your biggest successes in your current/last position?”

Failure is the key to learning and is almost as important as success. You’ll want to dig deeper into how a candidate views failure and what they’ve learned through past experiences.

Can you tell me a time when you failed and what you did yo overcome the failure?”

“What’s the most important failure you’ve had in your career and why?”


Your nonprofit team will be spending 30-40 hours a week together. Meaning while interviewing every candidate, you need to ask yourself if they will be able to work with your team for 8 hours a day.

Here are a few nonprofit interview questions you can ask to dig up how a candidate works as part of a team:

“Describe a professional relationship in your current (or previous) role and why it made an impact on your career?”

“Tell me about a time you had to work as a team in a volunteer position. What was the result?”

“Give me a rundown of the last project you either led or were a part of.”

Find Out if They Did Their Homework

“Describe to me your motivation to pursue this opportunity… in other words, why did you want to have this conversation with me today?”

Ask this interview question to understand their motivation for talking to you. Listen for responses that show they read your company blog and/or researched organizational culture/values/mission.

Others types of questions you can ask to see if a candidate did their research:

“What do you like about [insert organization name] so far?”

“Did you get a chance to check our our values/mission?

Inquire About Present Situation and Future Goals

What job-search stage a candidate is in is a critical piece of information to understand.

“Tell me about your current job search”

You’ll need to get them to open up about where they are in their career. Are they passively looking? Putting out a few feelers? Or are they actively seeking a new position?

“Are you actively seeking a new role with a different organization?

Knowing what stage they’re in will help you narrow down your pipeline to fill a position. Along with their current situation, it’s important to get an idea of their future aspirations.

Here are some solid future career goal inquiries:

“Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”

“Tell me about your long term career aspirations”

“Can you elaborate on what you hope to accomplish in your nonprofit career?”

How to Ask Nonprofit Interview Questions The Right Way

Asking the right questions is important, however they need to be asked in the right way. You can get a lot more out of an interview question by making a small tweak to how it’s phrased.

Replacing Why, What, and How in Nonprofit Interview Questions

You may have noticed most of the example questions in this article don’t start with “what, why or how”.

In fact, some are not even questions at all.

The reason for this is because framing questions way can make an interview seem more conversational. On top of that, the words you use can make you sound more attentive and relate-able.

Instead of starting a sentence with why how or what, use these:

  • “tell me about”
  • “can you please elaborate”
  • “I’m curious about”
  • “Describe to me a time…”
  • “Give me an example of…”
  • “Give an overview of…?”

Ask the Right Nonprofit Interview Questions the Right Way

At the end of the day, associations and nonprofits need passionate, mission driven individuals to drive the organization’s forward.Asking the best questions in the right way will help identify the highest quality candidates for the job.

Please share your thoughts in the comments below with more interviewing best practices!


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