Be Sure To Shine In Your Next Not-For-Profit Job Interview

You want to make the world a better place. You've got your heart set on working in the non-profit sector so that you can make a difference. Working with a not-for-profit organization may very well offer you the opportunity to shine and put your skills to use. How then to get your foot in the door? The non-profit job market, just like any other, can be a tough nut to crack.

We reached out to dozens of the top non-profit job search professionals and distilled all that knowledge into the eight talking points below. Thanks to our contributors for all their valuable tips!

1. Let Your Passion Shine Through

“You can stand out from the crowd by having a real passion for what that non-profit is doing. Know their mission statement and their program so you can explain how you would add value to the organization.

Share examples of how you are friendly but have boundaries with people so they have concrete examples of how you would up hold the rules of the program. Also share statistics about the population they serve and why you have compassion for them. This gives the employer a clear understanding how you can help them accomplish their mission.

Share a personal story of how their mission has touched your life and how you want to support their mission in other ways, such as volunteering at their annual fund raiser.”

By Cindy L. Smith of Living Hope for Today

2. The Bottom Line is the Bottom Line

“Non-profits have to do many of the same things profit-making organizations do. Specifically, they need to make money and save money to stay in business. In other words, job candidates should demonstrate how they make money for non-profits at the box office, for example, at theaters, museums, or performing arts schools. What did you do to increase revenue through board fundraising efforts or through grant writing? What did you do that saved meney in operating programs?”

By Frank Grossman of Resumes That Shine

3. Network By Volunteering

“Getting to know a non profit through volunteering is a great way to meet the staff and other professionals who can see your work ethic and passion. They get to know you on a personal level so it is a very natural way to network through the joint mission. I am on the boards of several non profits and have gotten to know people I have hired or recommended to others. It helps you stand out by rolling up your sleeves and showing up, not just talking about what you read online but have experienced and seen first hand with the group. You may also be able to add value by creating an opportunity for an unmet need you see there or expand the job because of your inside knowledge and experience with the group.”

By Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls

4. Another Vote for Volunteering (Hint: It's Important)

“The most important things you can do as a job hunter is to engage as a volunteer with a not for profit organisation. By gaining experience with a not-for-profit as a volunteer you will add value to your resume, gain valuable experience in that sector and you can use it as a networking tool. If you can get volunteer experience with an organisation that you think that you might like to work for you, then you will be able to gain a unique insight into the organisation and they will get to know you; the perfect foundation for a future job application.”

By Helen Garland of My Time To Shine and Progress Personnel

5. Showcase Your Soft Skills

“Showcase your Soft Skills – Have a special emphasis on the soft skills like empathy, compassion, readiness to work with lesser pay, and mindfulness primarily you should be able to say why you are being driven by passion and not money. Your passion towards serving the society must look supreme in your resume, pitch, or interview through your interests, hobbies, and motivation. You have to have a certain degree of passion in your beliefs about servant leadership and must be driven by a higher purpose.

Examples of Earlier Such Work – You won’t be able to convince someone that you have it in you to go beyond the call of money and chase your passions of doing something for a higher purpose. It will sound too rhetoric and unbelievable. The best way to show this is to illustrate your passion through specific examples that you might have worked in non-profit dimensions like any service schemes, charity projects, financial assistance program, or any welfare or aid campaign that you might have worked on in your school or college duration.”

By Gargi Rajan of Mercer-Mettl

6. Promote Your Non-Traditional Background

“As the founder and CEO of a nonprofit, I have several tips for working in the sector. Your nontraditional background can be a huge asset. My science degree has helped me approach nonprofits in a more analytical context that has given me a unique perspective in leadership.”

By Ellice Patterson of Abilities Dance Boston

7. Get A Referral or an Introduction

“Ask your network for help! Reach out to your friends, past colleagues and contacts on LinkedIn, and let them know you're looking for a new role. If they have a mutual connection at the non-profit you want to work for, they can introduce you! This also shows your determination and networking abilities, two skills particularly valuable in the non-profit sector.”

By Rohan Mahtani of Resume Worded

8. Effective Communication

“The most critical skill in the job search is communication, from the resume submission / application process all the way through to negotiating your offer. Most of the candidates will have similar skills required to do the job. But being able to effectively convey who you are, the results you are able to deliver, and why the company would be missing out should they choose another candidate will truly set you apart. ‘It's not what you know, it's how good you can make it sound.'”

By Julia Rock of Rock Career Development


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