The volunteer interview: It’s an important component of any program’s volunteer recruitment and screening process.
What’s the key to a successful volunteer interview?
Asking the right volunteer interview questions.
So, we’ve compiled best practices and a mega-list of volunteer interview questions to help you find the best and brightest volunteers for your program.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Ask the right questions and record answers with our Volunteer Interview Outline.
Why Volunteer Interviews Are Important
The volunteer interview is part of the volunteer recruitment and screening process. The interview allows you to get to know more about your interested volunteers and ensure that they are the right fit for your organization.
While the primary goal of a volunteer interview is to determine whether your volunteers are right for the position, you can also take this opportunity to glean information from candidates that help inform your volunteer recruitment, engagement, and retention strategies.
Ask the right volunteer interview questions, and learn more about:
Learn about what matters most to your volunteers to aid retention and engagement efforts. An example of a volunteer motivation question may be:
What do you hope to gain from this experience?
Understand how volunteers are learning about your organization to direct recruitment and engagement efforts. An example of a volunteer recruitment question may be:
How did you learn about our organization?
Determine whether volunteers have the competency, knowledge, or skills to carry out the assigned task. Place applicants based on their volunteer interests and qualifications to boost retention efforts. An example of a volunteer placement question may be:
What experience do you have teaching children?
How to Conduct a Volunteer Interview
The volunteer interview is your opportunity to engage in conversation with prospective volunteers to understand more about them before placing them within your program. Before you begin to interview volunteer candidates, you’ll want to prepare some initial processes, like volunteer registration and background checks.
Typically, a volunteer will submit the following prior to the interview:
This is often the first step in recruiting volunteers. During volunteer registration, interested volunteers provide basic metrics like full name, email address, and phone number.
Once a volunteer finds an opportunity they’re interested in, they should be asked to fill in an application or interest form. During this time, gather information about the candidate’s schedule and availability, missing contact details, any relevant qualifications they may have, and the role they wish to apply for. The purpose of the application is to make an initial judgement as to whether the applicant meets the minimum criteria for the position. Some organizations ask their volunteers to complete a quick, simple self-assessment to help inform the interview and placement process.
A volunteer background check serves to keep your community safe and safeguard your organization against negligence. The background check may not be necessary for all your volunteers. However, if they’re working with children or at-risk individuals, volunteers should meet background check requirements before moving forward.
Once you have approved the application and background check, your volunteer is ready to move forward with the volunteer interview.
Conducting the Volunteer Interview
Your volunteers have made it this far. Now it’s time to conduct the interview.
When possible, we recommend that you interview in person. It’s the most natural way of communicating, and you’re more likely to make a fair judgement about the applicant when they’re standing before you (of course in-person interviews may not be possible in all situations).
But before you ask your volunteer interview questions:
You don’t need to jump right into your Q&A. Instead, take some time to introduce yourself and your organization. Clarify your program’s mission and describe the role and responsibilities of the volunteer. Then, discuss the benefits of volunteering with your organization. Remember, the interview is also a chance for the candidate to decide whether the volunteer opportunity is right for them. In fact, many candidates will make this decision during or immediately following the interview process.
What’s the bottom line?
The volunteer interview should be a conversation, not an interrogation. Invite candidates to elaborate and ask questions in return, so that you can come to a collaborative decision about the best course of action moving forward.
You’re probably still wondering:
What about the volunteer interview questions? How do I ask the right ones?
Asking the Right Volunteer Interview Questions
What kinds of questions should you ask your volunteers? The direction of the interview depends on your goal for the interview and what you’re hoping to learn from your volunteers. To determine the questions you should ask, you’ll want to clarify your goals for the interview.
What’s your goal for the volunteer interview?
- To determine if the candidate’s values align with yours
- To determine if the candidate has the skills and abilities necessary to perform tasks required of them
- To learn more about the candidate’s background and personality
- To learn more about the candidate’s passions and interests to better match them with the right volunteer opportunity
- To learn more about what motivates your volunteers
Once you’ve established your goal(s) for the interview, you can make a list of the questions that will help you achieve your objectives. Use the list of sample volunteer interview questions to inspire your next interview.
Sample Volunteer Interview Questions and Answers
Here are some volunteer interview questions to ask, as well as guidance on answers to listen out for. Every volunteer will have a unique answer, so we’ve provided some tips on the types of answers of a successful volunteer. We have also included specific to some types of organizations, like hospitals and mentorship programs, to help you better formulate questions that work for your organization.
General Volunteer Interview Questions and Answers
Why do you want to work with our organization?
What makes you a good fit for this position?
What makes you feel appreciated?
Your volunteer should talk about what motivates them. Volunteerism is selfless work. While every candidate can benefit from volunteering (like gaining new skills, community connections, or career experience), the candidate should also express a strong drive to help others.
Encourage candidates to share personal experiences and anecdotes here. You’ll learn a lot about their background and the experiences that have shaped who they are and why they want to help others.
Do you prefer to work independently or collaboratively?
Would you consider yourself a leader?
Determine the appropriate answer based on the type of work you’re asking your volunteer to do. If you’re asking your volunteer to complete administrative work, for example, an independent worker may be the best fit. Other positions may require that your volunteer works well with others.
Can you tell me about a time when you dealt with a difficult situation?
The candidate’s answer should highlight a strength, like their reasoning skills, resilience, or empathy. With careful listening, the interviewer can extract these strengths based on the volunteer’s response. This question will also help you understand how your volunteer reacts to challenges, which they may face when volunteering.
More General Non Profit Volunteer Interview Questions:
Tell me your story.
What causes are you passionate about?
What is your greatest strength? How does it help you volunteer?
How much time can you dedicate each week/month/year to volunteering with our organization?
What interests you about the position you have applied for?
What questions do you have?
What barriers to volunteering do you anticipate? How can we help?
Are there any physical restrictions you may have? If so, how can we help?
Hospital Volunteer Interview Questions and Answers
Here are some typical hospital volunteer interview questions and answers to ensure you’re finding the most qualified, responsible volunteers:
What would you do if faced with an unhappy patient?
Provide your candidate with a scenario that may happen while volunteering with your organization. Based on their response, you can better gauge whether the candidate is prepared to take on the responsibilities of volunteering with your organization.
Which department do you feel most comfortable? Why?
What can you tell me about the volunteer role you’re interested in?
What experience do you have in a hospital or medical setting?
It’s especially important for hospitals and other medical institutions to place volunteers appropriately, especially if the roles require technical knowledge or specific qualifications. Make sure the volunteer understands the requirements of the department you’re asking them to work in, and make sure the volunteer understands their responsibilities before moving forward. If you feel good about the candidate, don’t be afraid to suggest a different role or department where you’d think they would be better suited.
More Hospital Volunteer Interview Questions:
Why do you want to volunteer with this hospital?
Are you willing and able to abide by HIPPA and other privacy regulations?
Children’s Hospital Volunteer Interview Questions:
What experience do you have working with children?
What experience do you have working with sick children?
Describe a time when you made a child smile.
Faith-Based Organization Volunteer Interview Questions
It’s important for faith-based organizations to look for volunteers who align with their values and beliefs.
Note: these church volunteer interview questions work for any faith-based organization!
How do your beliefs shape your daily decision making?
How does faith play a role in your life?
Why do you want to volunteer with our church/temple/mosque?
In what ways are you currently involved in our organization?
How do you communicate your goals for this organization?
Explain the type of work culture in which you best perform.
Victim Support Volunteer Interview Questions
The right volunteer for your organization should have more than a clean background check. Volunteers working in victim support should be empathic and considerate. These qualities are best determined during a face-to-face interview. Here are some questions you can ask your candidates:
What experience do you have with victims of [domestic abuse]?
Describe a time where you expressed empathy toward another person.
Describe a time where someone expressed empathy toward you.
These questions can also help when interviewing volunteers for a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) position.
Youth Organization Volunteer Interview Questions
We gathered examples from the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America interview process to help inspire your youth organization. Big Brothers Big Sisters incorporates a substantial, multi-stage interview process and home visit to ensure the safety of the children and teens they serve. Here are some Big Brother Big Sister interview questions that will also work for any youth organization or mentorship program:
Describe your relationship with your parents.
What does poverty mean to you?
How do you handle difficult situations between a volunteer and a child?
Do you have experience working with children or teens?
Red Cross Volunteer Interview Questions
Organizations like the Red Cross must ensure that volunteers have the certifications and skills available to work on technical tasks. These Red Cross volunteering interview questions also work for other relief and response organizations:
What is your ability to work on an as-needed basis?
Are you able to work on short notice?
How do you handle high-stress situations?
Do you have any certifications relevant to the area you are volunteering for?
Describe a time when you had to act quickly.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
From libraries to zoos, any type of organization can use these sample volunteer interview questions to help find the volunteers they need.
The volunteer interview is just one way to help your organization find the right volunteer for the job. After the interview, it’s important to maintain communication with the candidate and answer any questions they may have afterward. Provide a welcoming environment for new volunteers as well as the appropriate volunteer orientation and onboarding to help them succeed in their new role.