Friday, April 8, 2011

What Not to Say at a Nonprofit Job Interview

Today we're going to things a little differently.  Usually, the articles on this blog are focused on things you should do in order to get a non-profit job.  Today, I'm going to focus on things you could do that could potentially sabotage any chance to land that goal.  Specifically, I'm going to focus on a tragic disease that affects millions of job-seeking Americans everyday: foot-in-mouth disease. 

Picture this: you've finally landed that job interview at a fabulous nonprofit organization.  You've done all the preparation needed; you're pretty confident about this.  But then the first interview question comes: "So why did you leave your last job?"  Thinking you're just being honest, you say "My last boss was horrible, and he never listened to anything I said."  Congratulations, you've more than likely sank any chance of landing the job!

It may not seem like it, but employers listen very carefully to the interview answers you give.  In fact, one in artful answer is all it takes to hurt your chances of starting your nonprofit career.  I will now list a few job interview questions you might hear, and answers that you should not under any circumstances give:

Question: I see you have had a lot of different jobs in your career.  Why is this?

Answer: Most of the jobs I worked at bored me. 

Why this is a bad answer: You should always accentuate the positive in a job interview.  Maybe this answer is true, but it's not something that a nonprofit organization (or any company, for that matter) wants to hear.  Say something like your goals had been changing, but that you are now ready for a permanent career.

Question: What is your biggest weakness.

Answer: You proceed to rattle off  long list of all the things you are bad at.

Why this is a bad answer: All you need to do for this question is admit one, minor weakness and what you are doing to improve in that area.  We are all human, and we all have a lot of problems; there is no need to give a laundry list of your problems.

Question: What are your career goals?

Answer: I want to earn as much money as possible.

Why this is a bad answer: Simply put, no organization is going to hire someone who is just in it for the money.  This is a common question, because employers want to see whether the individual's goals match up with their company, so you want to give an answer that will satisfy them in this regard.

So those are the examples I have for you today.  I think the one pattern you can see with these bad job interview answers is that they are all brutally honest.  Obviously you don't want to lie to an interviewer, but you also shouldn't say anything that would hurt your chances for the job.  Yes, you might really need the money, but truthfully that shouldn't be the only reason you want to work at a nonprofit anyway, so there are much better answers to give that will be both truthful and helpful to your career chances.


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  2. Tks very much for your post.

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