Most volunteer organisations have some sort of process in place through which they recruit new volunteers. How do you decide if it’s worth the effort of interviewing your applicants as part of that process?
In this post we check out 9 different reasons that can help your organization decide if interviewing your applicants is something you should be doing.
1. IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU TO GET TO KNOW YOUR PROSPECTIVE VOLUNTEER
‘Getting to know your applicant’ is a theme that you should be striving to have in place through your entire volunteer recruitment process; and there’s no better time to do so than when you can sit down face to face and have a conversation with your applicant. Application forms can only tell you so much; what they can’t often convey is the enthusiasm, personality traits and people skills that sometimes can only come to the fore when you meet somebody face to face.
2. IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUR PROSPECTIVE VOLUNTEER TO GET TO KNOW YOUR ORGANISATION
And as all good conversationalists know and understand, a conversation is exactly that: a two way sharing of views, thoughts, feelings, ideas, plans, vision, hopes and dreams. So while all good volunteer managers look at the type of people they would see as a good fit for their organization, and tailor their volunteer adverts and application forms accordingly; what’s critical to remember is that your applicants are also looking back at your organization and judging the extent to which it is a good fit for them too. The questions that you can be asked by an applicant in an interview can surprise you, and help you understand better how your organization is perceived outside of the 4 walls of your day to day business.
3. IT'S A CHANCE TO SEE HOW APPLICANTS RESPOND TO YOUR TEMPLATE QUESTIONS
Having a suite of template questions is an important part of running a fair interview. What’s a template question, you ask? Well it’s simply another way of saying that you have a set number of questions that you ask in your interviews. Regardless of the number of people applying for a particular position in your organization, you should be approaching each person in the same way, with the same questions, thereby affording each person the courtesy of competing on a level playing field when it comes to an organisation’s assessment of the suitability of applicants to the position in question.
4. YOU CAN ONLY COMMUNICATE 'SO MUCH' IN A FORM; NOT MERELY ANSWERS - EYE CONTACT, BODY LANGUAGE ETC
It’s a commonly accepted view that only 7% of an interview’s communication comes across through words, and that the balance is through facial and body language. Having an awareness of the importance of understanding body language and facial language can help a volunteer manager in an interview process. At the same time, research from Princeton University indicates that there can be more ambiguity than is commonly accepted in the interpretation of facial expressions. The lesson here is to be careful on interpreting too much on facial expressions and body language: that’s why you have your template questions.
5. CHECKS AND BALANCES - INTERVIEWING 'TWO DEEP'
We all know two people can have completely different views of the same person; one person finds someone slightly boring and not someone to choose to be around; another person finds that same person interesting, cultivated and stimulating company! Different strokes for different folks as they say.
Recognising the implicit biases and views in oneself as a volunteer manager is half the battle in allowing oneself to make as objective an assessment as possible of the applicant. The notion of interviewing ‘two deep’ simply suggests that having a colleague join you in your interviews of applicants can only serve to complement your abilities as a volunteer manager, give your organisation a second opinion of the applicant, and reinforce to both applicants and interviewers that it’s ultimately the decision of an organization, and not an interviewer alone, as to the suitability of any particular person’s application to volunteer with them.
6. IT'S NOT PERSONAL - YOUR HANDS ARE TIED BY YOUR ORGANISATION'S POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
Even if you should happen to know the applicant already - and this can be fairly common in smaller community-based organisations, where applicants tend to be drawn from the local area – having an interview process for all applicants demonstrates that your organization approaches all applications without fear or favour. It also communicates that not only are there standard policies and procedures in your organization; but, and more importantly, that those policies and procedures are acted upon and implemented.
7. A CHANCE TO EXPLORE THE ORGANISATION'S AIMS, ROLE DESCRIPTION, EXPECTATIONS, TIME CONSTRAINTS, RESOURCES AVAILABLE
Having clearly understood expectations about a particular volunteer role is part of the key to have a successful and engaged team of volunteers. Responsibility for that lies with the volunteer manager, and the extent to which that person clearly and articulately communicates those expectations, both in a role description and at interview, is the extent to which you can judge the engagement of your volunteers. Clearly delineating a summary of the voluntary role being in question; the jobs required on that role; the guideline commitment of time; the location of the role; what experience or relevant skills is preferred; what benefits can accrue to the volunteer; and what training (if any) will be offered – all of these bring to the life the dry words on an application form.
8. GIVING APPLICANTS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES, NOT JUST YOU TALKING ABOUT YOUR ORGANISATION
Informality in a volunteer interview is important. A volunteer isn’t a paid staff member, and there are different skills required to attract, motivate and encourage both applicants and volunteers. Remembering that the interview is a two way conversation will help a volunteer manager to draw out of the applicant the different motivations, excitement, passion and skills that the applicant brings to the interview. Think of the interview more as a get-to-know-you session.
9. CLARITY OF YOUR COMMUNICATIONS AFTER INTERVIEW
Not all applicants are suited to the role that they apply for. An important part of treating your applicants fairly is to communicate clearly, and in a timely manner, whether or not you’ll be accepting their application to your organization. How you do so can differ from organization to organization; an email, letter, face to face meeting or phone call are all different ways of achieving the same net result. Explain briefly why and make suggestions of where to build experience and skills, and possibly point them in the direction of alternative opportunities to volunteer. Treat applicants in the same manner in which you would like to be treated if you were on the other side of the table.