A job interview is a negotiation, just like any other business transaction. It’s the best opportunity for two parties to develop knowledge and understanding about each other. What it is NOT is a one-sided negotiation, with one side having all the power and the other side playing the role of supplicant. These guidelines apply just as readily to interviews with prospective board members and other volunteers, who will have an important role to play in your organization.
The interviewer has to be looking for the right fit, which includes the right skills and the right outlook, so that the successful candidate will be appropriate for the new organization both in terms of providing the needed services and in terms of fitting into the existing culture.
The interviewee is essentially looking for the same: they want to make sure they’ve got the required expertise–and can grow their skills–and that they’ll feel comfortable in their new position.
For both parties, behavior before, during, and after the interview is telling–and should not be ignored. Pay attention to:
Communication: Are both parties timely in their communications? Thank-you notes tell you a lot, particularly in a nonprofit, about how the individual or organization will treat its staff and its volunteers. Organizations should keep candidates apprised of the progress of the search, and candidates should let organizations know immediately if they want to withdraw from the process.
Listening: It’s important for both sides, and important to read between the lines of the answers given.
Courtesy: Do both parties speak with respect, or with a tone that seems arrogant or patronizing? Is the interviewee offered hospitality, or made to feel uncomfortable in any way?
Truthfulness: Is either party trying to sell itself, downplaying or discounting challenges that have been faced? Every organization and every individual has and is facing both opportunities and threats; the most successful will be transparent in disclosure, face the issues head on, and find solutions.
We’ve all been on both sides of the table. The best interviews, I hope you’ll agree, are the ones where everyone walks away feeling as though they’ve learned a lot and want to learn more.