Volunteer organizations should be as serious about accepting volunteers as businesses are about hiring new employees. For one thing, you rely on volunteers to get the work of your organization done. If you accept unqualified or unreliable volunteers, you will not be able to accomplish the goals of your group. For another, you and your board of directors are liable for anything a volunteer does as a representative of your organization. Because of this, it is crucial to thoroughly interview potential volunteers.
Prepare for the Interview
Look over the job description before the interview as a refresher about the basics of the position. Then look over the potential volunteer’s application to familiarize yourself with the person you will be interviewing. Based on the requirements of the position and the candidate’s application, write down any questions that come to mind. Set aside any distractions, and ask that phone calls be redirected to avoid any interruptions.
Develop Interview Questions
In addition to the questions that you put together while reviewing the position description and the candidate’s application, make a list of other core questions. Consider questions that address specific categories, including leadership skills, interpersonal skills, organizational skills, adaptability, dependability and communication skills. You might also ask them questions about what they hope to achieve as a volunteer with your organization, about past volunteer experience and about prior work experience. The same federal and state laws preventing discriminatory hiring in the work place also apply to volunteer organizations, so you cannot legally ask about race, color, gender, religion, national origin, birthplace, age, disability, marital status or family status.
Perform the Interview
Smile and put the applicant at ease by introducing yourself and anyone else who may be part of the interview. Clarify the intent of the interview. Let the candidate know this is a conversation between you and him, and it is an opportunity for everyone to learn from and about each other. Give the volunteer candidate a brief overview of your organization and the specific area in which they would be working. Ask the applicant to give a brief overview of his or her own background and to tell you why they are interested in volunteering with your program. Move into questions directly related to the position and the role the volunteer will be playing. Ask the same basic questions to every applicant and follow-up with specific questions based on their responses. Close the interview by asking whether the potential volunteer has any more questions about the organization or position.
Close the Interview
Stand and thank the applicant for being there and for showing interest in your organization. Let the potential volunteer know you will take their application and interview into consideration and make a decision. They will hear, in writing, what your decision is. Give them a time to expect your decision, if at all possible. Never tell the applicant immediately whether they have or have not been accepted. You need to make sure you have taken the time to carefully consider the candidate.
Jeff Jones has been a writer since 1995 after a career in corporate marketing. His writing covers a range of business topics including marketing, corporate culture and human resources. More recently, he has written on topics of spirituality and life in the church. He has a degree in journalism/marketing from Texas A&M University and a master's in Christian education from Perkins School of Theology.