Interviewing volunteers – who knew it could be such a polarizing concept? Yet, I never know what response I will receive when I ask a group of nonprofit professionals about their volunteer interview process. Many are passionate about their commitment to interviewing every (or nearly every) individual interested in volunteering for their organization, while others are equally adamant that asking someone who is offering to donate their time and energy to undergo an interview is an insult to their generosity. Of course, many people fall somewhere in between, with a desire to interview most candidates but limited capacity to do so.
Recently, I addressed volunteer interviewing in a webinar presented through Verified Volunteers and below are some of the highlights from that session and you can read about it in more detail on the Verified Volunteers blog.
Starting With the Basics: What’s the difference between employee interviews and volunteer interviews?
Interviewing paid employees and unpaid volunteers is more similar than different, as each has a common goal: to determine whether the candidate has the skills, motivations, and expectations that make him or her a good fit for the position as well as the organization. The differences, of course, lie in their motivations and expectations for the roles.
Should the specific volunteer role dictate whether or not I conduct an interview?
While interviewing all potential volunteers would be ideal in many ways, it just isn’t realistic, especially for large-scale days of service. But volunteer positions that are skills based, that required ongoing commitments, and that involve leading projects, leading initiatives, and/or leading other volunteers certainly deserve a thorough interview process to ensure that the volunteers can be successful and that there’s a good fit between the volunteers and the organization. Although it’s usually not possible to interview volunteers who are coming for a one-time day of service, the event itself can be transformed into a screening opportunity. If you train team leaders who will be working with volunteers at that event to be effective “talent scouts” on behalf of the organization, then they can help identify volunteers who have the skills, passions, and potential to be engaged further with your organization. In this way, you can turn day of service events into a “gateway” to deeper engagement.
What if we just don’t have the time to conduct interviews?
Interviewing potential volunteers does not have to be done by staff alone. Engaging volunteers to help with interviewing is a great way to build capacity and provide a leadership opportunity for some experienced volunteers. Plus, when potential volunteers are interviewed by volunteers, they have the chance to ask different questions and meet their potential peers.