Sample Interview Questions

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Summary

Sample questions to use when interviewing a candidate for your organization.

Sample “beginning” questions:

  • Let’s open up with your interest in this role and our organization – tell me more about that and why your feel your background and experience are uniquely suited to being successful here.
  • Having read the job description, where would you see yourself able to "hit the ground running" if you were to be hired?
  • Where would you anticipate encountering the steepest learning curve in this job? What skills/experience do you hope to gain working at our organization?

Sample “track-record” questions:

  • Tell me about your current/most recent role at XYZ organization. How big is your team? Budget? How does your work fit into the organization’s overall structure?
  • Why did/would you leave [name of most recent or current organization]? (This will help you understand the arc of his/her career, and ascertain if the moves make sense. In essence, “did this person really pursue growth in each career move or is he or she on a sideways or downward career spiral?”)

Sample “results” questions:

  • What do you see as your top three achievements or legacies in your role at XYZ organization? Why?
  • What do you see as your greatest challenges/failures in your role at XYZ organization? Why?
  • Describe the role in which you have been least effective. Why?
  • Walk me through the best example of (growth, turnaround, etc.) that you led. What did it take?
  • Tell me about a time when, because of your analysis, there was a major change of strategy, operations, or key decisions in your organization.
  • How do you plan your work? Prioritize your work?
  • If your most recent manager had to characterize your strengths and weaknesses, what would he or she say?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where the goals were not clearly defined? How comfortable were you? How did you work through this?
  • Describe a typical day at your previous (or current) position.

Sample questions to understand a candidate’s ability to manage and work in teams:

  • What was the highest performing team in which you worked? What was your role? What was your contribution?
  • Give me an example that describes your working style (e.g., probe for independent versus collaborative; deadline-focused versus not, etc.)
  • What is different about the way you and your current or previous manager manage people?
  • Tell me about the best and worst direct reports you have ever managed. How did you work with them? What do you look for in colleagues you recruit?
  • Give me an example of how you have provided professional development opportunities to your team members.
  • Give me an example of persuading a colleague or team member to change his or her approach. How did you do it?
  • If your most recent manager had to characterize your ability to work in a team, what would he or she say? And those who reported to you?
  • How do you give feedback? How do you take feedback? Provide examples.
  • What is your leadership style? How has your leadership style evolved over time?

There are also some specific questions appropriate for candidates who are looking to “bridge” from the for-profit to the nonprofit world:

  • Tell me more about your volunteer experience and why you think it has prepared you for a full-time nonprofit role.
  • What (volunteer-related) results make you proud? How did that work help you refine what you’re now looking for in a nonprofit role?
  • Why do you want to work in the nonprofit sector? What do you think would be different about it compared to your role in the for-profit sector?
  • How do your experiences translate to this role at our organization?
  • Why does our mission resonate with you?
  • How do you define consensus-driven decision making? When have you seem this work? What has been your experience of the complexities of consensus decisions?

Sample “cultural fit” questions:

  • What do (or did) you enjoy most and least at your current (or previous) job?
  • If we asked your colleagues what they might want to change about you, what do you think they would say?
  • What is important to you in a workplace?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve in a workplace?
  • What qualities do you look for in a manager? In a colleague? In a direct report?

Other questions:

  • Where do you see yourself in three to five years?
  • If relocation might be necessary, “do you envision any obstacles in relocating?”
  • Are you comfortable with the compensation range for this position?
  • Is there anything at all that I haven't asked you that you want to be sure is part of this interview process?
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