Interviewing potential volunteers

Establish an Interview Process

Be professional, but create an atmosphere that will put volunteers at ease. Ensure that you have no interruptions. You are showing the candidate how important volunteers are to you and your organisation. Determine a time frame and be consistent.

Pertinent Information

Make sure you have all pertinent information available at your fingertips (application form, references, role profiles, training information, etc). Be prepared to clarify any information and to discuss and define facts about the organisation. Be prepared to discuss the role opportunities available at length.

Be Gentle

Some potential volunteers are terrified of the interview process. If the volunteer is a senior citizen or homemaker, they may not have had an interview for many years. Take time in the beginning to explain the process to make them feel more comfortable. Start the interview with a little small talk to put the potential volunteer at ease before you discuss their personal circumstances.

Let the Volunteer Talk

A good interview is a discussion, not a cross-examination. Get the volunteer’s viewpoint before you offer your own. People like to talk about themselves, so let the applicant tell you his/her story. Then probe into areas you feel need a fuller explanation. Be prepared to balance listening with speaking. Volunteer should be talking for approximately 75% – 80% of the interview. Ask open-ended questions that give the volunteer a chance to talk. Any questions that can be answered by a simple ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ will kill your interview.

Record Interview Discussion

Taking simple notes or using a prepared interview sheet can be extremely useful. The interview notes serve as a documentation of discussion and can be filed in the volunteer folder for reference. This form can also be used to keep your interview on course.

Keep Objectives in Mind

Unless the interviewer directs conscious attention towards the objective, the interview can become lengthy and valuable information may not be covered. Do not get sidetracked

Questions to Ask

Think carefully about the questions you need to ask in order to judge the volunteer’s qualifications. Ask specific questions if the answers are pertinent to the role the volunteer will be doing at your organisation.

Make sure the volunteer understands the goals and objectives of the organisation, the volunteer opportunities available, the training requirements, expectations and the time commitment required. At the end of the interview you will want to know:

* What motivated the applicant to volunteer?
* Do his goals and needs match those of the organisation?
* Does he have any relevant experience or qualifications ?
* What level of communication and interpersonal skills does he possess?
* Are there any medical limitations, time restraints, or personal commitments, which might limit the potential volunteer’s availability?

Be Honest with the Volunteer

In an effort to fill a much-needed volunteer role, it is easy to emphasize the favourable aspects of a role and gloss over the unfavourable. This habit leads to high turnover, absenteeism, and/or requests for reassignment. It can also reflect badly on your personal credibility and your organisation.

Allow the Volunteer a Decision

Make sure the volunteer understands the opportunities available and allow him to make a choice if possible. Make the volunteer’s next step a definite one. Avoid vague statements such as, “We’ll let you know.”

If you will not be able to use their services, tell them so frankly. If you expect to include them in your next induction or training session, make sure they know in writing the time and date of the venue.

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