Creating an interview process that provides a positive experience for everyone involved takes forethought and intentional design. This includes responding to applicants in a timely manner, even those not invited to interview. Making a good impression on all applicants is important. The applicants not selected will still become part of your nonprofit’s larger community and you want continued good relations even if they are not right for your team now.

Planning the Interview Process

Remember, the first significant interaction with the applicant you may hire is the interview. Spend time planning, preparing, and shaping a deliberate interview process. When you complete your interviews, it is important to thank everyone interviewed for the position by phone, email, or letter. To help you start your planning process, review the following important steps for your team to consider and download the Interview Planning Tool.

Planning Steps

1. Plan for the Interview:

  • Review the job requirements
  • Identify core skills needed for performing the job
  • Setup a clear process for applicant review
  • Assemble a diverse interview team

2. Prepare for the Interview:

  • Craft open-ended, job-related questions that allow applicants to give examples
  • Write out your questions and assign to interview team members
  • Ensure interview team members have materials needed (e.g. applicant cover letter and resume, interview questions, and assessment rubric)

3. Shape your interview space

  • Find a place where you will not be interrupted
  • For videoconference interviews, make sure everyone’s audio and video are working well before starting with questions
  • Allow enough time, including time for the applicant to ask questions

4. Hold the Interview

  • Build rapport with applicant
  • Be okay with silence
  • Ask follow-up questions to gain more information and to clarify

5. Assess the Applicant

  • Determine if you have enough information to assess the applicant
  • Allow time to discuss each applicant as an interview team

Remember, the first significant interaction with the applicant you may hire is the interview. To help you start your planning process, download the Interview Planning Tool and review important steps for your team to consider.

Interview Planning Tool

Activity to help plan your interview process


Minimizing Bias

Unconscious or implicit bias is inescapable in the interview process, and your goal will be to minimize this as much as possible. During the interview planning process, you should assemble a diverse interview team of people connected to your nonprofit (you may also refer to this team as a hiring committee). Think about the interview team size – a few people provides more perspectives to the process, but too many interviewers can also be intimidating for the applicant. Setup a standard assessment or evaluation format that is transparent and explainable. Before you begin reviewing applications, take time as a team to discuss and question your implicit biases, and consider touching base again prior to the interviews.

Employers may be influenced by factors like dress, manners, age, and even makeup in their initial impression of an applicant. Let go of snap judgements and dig deeper to make sure you are hiring the best person for the job. Stay skills-focused and consider how the applicant’s experience and temperament fits the position and larger team. During interviews, ensure you ask the same questions of each applicant.

Maintaining a Strong Team

Before you invite candidates from outside your organization to interview, have you considered an internal transfer or promotion? Is there a volunteer or someone already involved with your nonprofit’s work who would be ideal for the job opportunity? If you find yourself facing consistent staff turnover, take time to work on staff retention strategies to reduce the hiring need, especially for ongoing positions.

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