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Volunteer Paid-Staff Positions

Preparation for the Job Interview

The most important decision we make in managing volunteers is hiring our paid staff. The following two steps will help you develop your questions. In addition I have included 20 sample behavior based questions that you can modify for your situation and a sample interview outline.

Step One: Identify the Needed Skills for the Volunteer Position

Understand the position
  • Does the person manage others?
  • Does the position involve making decisions relating to policy and/or procedure?
  • What specific technical skills does the position involve?
  • Does the position involve direct contact with organization members (customers)?
With what departments does the position relate?

Is there anything else important about this position?

Identify the technical skills the position requires (hard skills-measurable)
  • Specific machines
  • Specific computer hardware and software
  • Specific tools in prescribe and precise ways
Identify the performance skills needed for the position (soft skills—difficult to measure)
  • Managing other employees
  • Making and being responsible for decisions
  • Following established guidelines
  • Following policies and procedures
  • Dealing with other departments
  • Dealing with the public
  • Receiving an assignment and reporting its results when completed
Step Two: Develop specific behavior-based questions following these principles:

  1. Avoid asking questions that can be answered by a single word, usually a "yes" or "no".
    • Do you like working with people?
    • Did you like your last position?

  2. Use open-ended questions that ask for specific examples of past volunteer experience.
    • Do not use hypothetical questions about how the candidate may handle a future task.

  3. Ask focused questions.
    • Not focused: Tell me about your experience in working with volunteers.
    • Focused and behavior based: Think back to when you were dealing with a high-maintenance volunteer. Tell me exactly how you handled that situation.

  4. Ask behavior-based questions to determine the perspective's past behavior.

    Most people will perform exactly like they did in their last job. If they were late in their last position, they will be late in this job. If they had a hard time working in teams in the last job, most likely they will have a hard time working in teams in this position. Therefore, we want to ask behavior based questions that help us to understand the prospective employee's past job performance. We avoid hypothetical questions about the future. The good interviewee loves these questions because he or she can always say what they would do. We want to know what they have done.
Sample behavior based questions:

  1. Tell me about your previous experience in working with volunteers and how you feel it prepares you for this staff position.
  2. How have you handled volunteers who don't follow through?
  3. How have you increased your effectiveness with the work of volunteers?
  4. Tell me about an exciting experience you have had in working side by side with a volunteer in your past work experience.
  5. Tell me about an unsuccessful experience you had in working with a volunteer in your last job.
  6. Describe a time in working with a volunteer in which you were faced with problems or stresses which tested your coping skills. What did you do?
  7. Tell me about a time in which you had to use your spoken communication skills in order to get a point across to a volunteer that was important to you.
  8. Tell me about a job experience in which you had to speak in order to be sure that the volunteer knew what you thought or felt.
  9. Give me an example of a time in which you felt you were able to build motivation in your volunteer team.
  10. Give an example of a time in which you had to use your conflict resolution skills to solve a problem with volunteers.
  11. Give me an example of an important goal that you had set in the past and tell me about your success in reaching it.
  12. Describe the most significant project that you have ever delegated to a volunteer and it was a success.
  13. Describe a project that you have ever delegated to a volunteer and it was not a success. How did you handle it?
  14. Give me an example of a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  15. Give me an example of a time when you were able to successfully communicate with another person (volunteer, co-worker, member, customer), even when that individual may not have personally liked you.
  16. Describe a situation in which you were able to effectively "read" another person (volunteer, co-worker, member, customer, boss) and guide your actions by your understanding of their individual needs or values.
  17. Describe the most creative work-related volunteer project that you have carried out.
  18. Describe a time in which you felt it was necessary to modify or change your actions in order to respond to the needs of a volunteer.
  19. Give me an example of a time when you had to carefully analyze another person or a situation in order to be effective in guiding your action or decision.
  20. What did you do in your last job to contribute toward a teamwork environment? Be specific.
The Six Steps of the Job Interview

Step One: Establish rapport
  • Ask rapport building questions
Step Two: Ask questions about past job performance
  • Information gathering questions
  • Get more specific
  • Stay in control
Step Three: Probe to clarify understanding
  • Key phrases to use to clarify:
    Tell me about a time
    Describe a situation
    Tell me exactly how you dealt
    It will help me if you can describe in more detail
    Think of a specific time
  • Allow for silence
Step Four: Allow the candidate to ask questions

Note: be sure to take notes on what the candidate asks. Are all their questions merely about vacation, benefits and salary increase?

Step Five: Close the interview
  • Thank the candidate
  • Leave the candidate with a positive impression of your organization
  • Let the candidate know the process (summarize action steps)
  • Escort the candidate to the exit or elevator (another touch of personal professionalism)
Step Six: Review your notes and summarize your feelings
  • Review your notes
  • Evaluate the candidate's suitability, comparing the candidate's skills with previously identified technical and performance skills
  • Summarize your finding in enough detail so that you can adequately review all of the candidates