If you’re looking for a volunteer position with a church, hospital, youth organization, or another charitable establishment, there’s a very good chance you’ll be interviewed before being offered the role.
You might be thinking, “it’s not a job, why would I be interviewed to volunteer?” but, nowadays, it’s a widely used practice by organizations in almost every industry. Interviewing volunteer applicants allows hiring managers to narrow down the pool of applicants and only bring on people whose values align most closely with the organization’s mission.
Today, people look to volunteer positions to help them meet their career goals, find personal fulfillment, and add an impressive charitable position to their resume, making them more desirable and well-rounded employees.
Volunteering can help you land your dream job, especially if the volunteer work is in a field related to the industry in which you work. Adding volunteer work to your resume can help make you a more competitive candidate, fill gaps in employment, and supplement your professional experience and leadership skills.
No matter what industry you work in, having valuable volunteer experiences will help you boost your job application and ace professional interviews. It’s even more important if you’re applying for a position in academia or in the non-profit sector, where volunteer experiences could be the difference between landing your dream job and getting a rejection letter.
You should prepare for an interview for a volunteer role the same as you would prepare for an important job interview. Although the nature of the meeting may be slightly different, the structure of a volunteer interview is almost identical to that of a job interview.
You’ll probably still be asked a few of the most common interview questions for paying jobs. Sometimes volunteer position interviews can even be structured as group interviews, a growing interview trend that features multiple candidates being interviewed at once by a hiring manager or a panel of interviewers.
Just as you would if you were being interviewed for your dream job, you should do your research on the organization, learn about their company culture and policies, figure out their mission and determine how that aligns with your values, and rehearse the key points you hope to make during the interview.
It’s always a good idea to do a mock interview beforehand by reviewing the most commonly asked interview questions and answers. Think about how you want to structure your answers to these questions so you can avoid any awkward responses and focus on explaining how you’re the best fit for this position.
When preparing for a professional interview, set yourself up for success by getting a good night’s sleep the day before the interview, having a filling breakfast, getting together an appropriate job interview outfit, and, of course, arriving at the interview on time. You don’t want to find out you didn’t get the position because you didn’t use proper interview etiquette.
Right before the interview, you should also be ready to engage in professional small talk with the interviewer.
Informal chats and small talk is especially important during volunteer interviews because it helps applicants build rapport and find common interests with the hiring manager. Having a positive and pleasant chat before the actual interviewing begins will help you stand-out among your peers and set you apart from other candidates.
Interviews are an important step in securing rewarding work as a volunteer in an industry that closely aligns with your personal beliefs, professional goals, and life values. Make a good impression at your first volunteer interview by highlighting your skills and illustrating why you're a great fit for the position.
Here are some of the most common interview questions for volunteers:
Why do you want to work as a volunteer? “Why do you want this job?” is probably the most commonly asked interview question. You’re not off the hook here when it comes to volunteer interviews. When applying for a volunteer role hiring managers want to know why you’re so interested in the position.
It’s important to frame your answer to this common volunteer interview question in a way that shows that you’re motivated to volunteer with the company, you’re dedicated to the cause or charity, and you have what it takes to help bring the organization to the next level.
I’ve always wanted to give back. I grew up in the foster care system so volunteering for a youth service organization is really important to me. I’d like to work as a volunteer because some of my best childhood memories and experiences are with volunteers from the youth group I was involved with.
Why do you want to volunteer for this organization? Volunteers can expect to be asked this question since hiring managers are interested in knowing why applicants are interested in volunteering for their organization in particular instead of a competing charity.
I’m excited to use my professional skills as an environmental scientist to help build the Wildlife Refuge. The first thing that caught my eye about the organization is that you’re so committed to educating the public and promoting environmental sustainability. I want to volunteer here because these are all values that are highly important to me.
What experience do you have volunteering? This question is pretty straightforward. This is your chance to sum up your volunteering experience and related skills, just as you would walk a job recruiter through your resume during an employment interview.
It’s important to highlight your most relevant volunteer experience when answering this question. If you don’t yet have any experience volunteering, you can instead focus on the skills you have and how you think they’ll help you to succeed as a volunteer.
I volunteered my time at the public library while I was in high school and I participated in a mission trip to Peru in college. That was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I spent six months fundraising with a group of students and then we went to Peru for three weeks to help build an orphanage.
Our best volunteers are forward-thinkers who come to us with new ideas to help further our mission and save money. Tell me about an idea you’ve implemented. Non-profit organizations are after volunteers who are proactive and multi-talented. Successful volunteers notice areas for improvement and take action to make positive changes.
In my current position as an executive assistant, I noticed that our fundraising efforts were falling behind. I had the idea to restructure our fundraising program. I strategically delegated tasks, implemented weekly meetings to review our appeal for funds, contacted potential donors, and helped plan new charity events.
What keeps you motivated at work? If you think it’s important to show enthusiasm during job interviews, it’s even more important when interviewing for a volunteer position. “What motivates you?” is one of the most common job interview questions.
Since volunteers donate their time to organizations and do not receive any monetary compensation in return, it’s important that they’re dedicated to the charity’s mission and motivated to do their work.
Success motivates me at work. Seeing my hard work pay off and lead to achievements for both myself and the company I work for inspires me to do my best work every day. I find that I’m most motivated when working for mission-oriented companies, where I can learn new things and implement creative ideas.
Working at a hospital, medical facility, or charitable healthcare organization is perhaps the most popular type of volunteer opportunity. Today, as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic, more and more professionals are looking to volunteer in this industry.
Interview questions to get a position volunteering in a hospital might look something like this:
What experience do you have in a hospital or medical facility? Volunteer hiring managers typically place people in positions that match their experiences. Reviewing your experience with the interviewer will help them determine the best role for you.
While it’s not always required to have previous experience working in a hospital, it’s important, to be honest when answering this question since certain skill sets and prior experience can be necessary for certain departments.
I volunteered on and off, for about a year, at my local hospital. I was usually responsible for restocking supplies and interacting with patients. After I rounded patient’s rooms I normally helped the nurses with discharges, answering calls, and charting medical records.
What would you do if you encountered an unhappy patient? Volunteering at a hospital or medical facility comes with big responsibilities. If you’re asked a situational interview question like this, make sure to highlight your commitment to patient satisfaction and describe how you would handle the situation.
The reason I love volunteering at hospitals is seeing patients smile. They have so much going on already, I hate seeing them unhappy. If I did encounter an unhappy patient I would stay positive and have a friendly interaction with them where I’d try to understand why they were upset and figure out how I could help.
Why do you want to volunteer with this hospital? Recruiters are almost always interested in knowing why you want to volunteer with their hospital instead of another one nearby. To answer this question successfully, you’ll need to do your research and be specific in your reason.
I am a huge advocate of medical research, and I’ve been making annual donations to the hospital’s cancer research center for the past several years. I feel that this hospital in particular values innovation and I want to get behind that and do what I can to help find a cure for cancer.
If you’re looking to volunteer with a church, temple, mosque, or other religious organization, the interview questions may be a bit different. In addition to being a well-rounded and ambitious candidate, applicants looking to volunteer with faith-based organizations should also hold similar beliefs to those valued by the organization they’re interviewing with.
Here are the top interview questions asked to candidates applying for faith-based volunteer positions:
What role does faith play in your life? Whether you’re looking to volunteer at a church, temple, or mosque, you’ll be asked about your faith. Your ambition to volunteer should be very closely aligned with your faith.
I’ve always been very religious. I’ve attended Sunday school my entire childhood and was an active church member as a young adult. Now, I’m hoping to deepen my faith and connection with the church through volunteering.
How do your beliefs influence your decision-making? If you’re interested in volunteering with a religious organization, your faith and beliefs will be the main topic of discussion during the interview. Learning how your beliefs influence your decision-making will help recruiters better understand you and your values.
My faith and my beliefs are extremely important to me. They shape my behavior and how I think. I always look to my faith when faced with tough decisions and I try my best to reach a rational and moral solution that aligns with my religious beliefs.
Why do you want to volunteer with our organization? Hiring managers always want to know what caught your eye about their organization. This is especially important when applying for faith-based volunteer positions. When answering this question you should highlight how your beliefs and values align with those of the organization.
I’ve been coming to this temple since I was a child. I’m deeply committed to the Rabbi's mission and I feel that my values and beliefs are almost identical to those of this Synagogue.
Volunteer opportunities with youth organizations and mentorship programs are quickly becoming more and more popular among volunteer seekers. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions during volunteer interviews for positions with youth organizations:
What experience do you have working with children or teens? This is one of the most common interview questions volunteers are asked when applying for positions with youth organizations. The best way to answer this is by discussing your most relevant and recent experience working with children or teenagers.
As a graduate student, I volunteered at a tutoring center where I worked closely with students between the ages of 8 and 18. I found the work extremely rewarding and I loved teaching and interacting with the kids.
Why do you want to volunteer with a youth organization? If you’re aiming to volunteer at a youth organization, you’ll probably be asked what motivated you to apply. Showing enthusiasm for the position will help you stand-out among applicants.
To put it simply, I love kids! I want to do what I can to help those who are less fortunate or going through a hard time. It’s always been a dream of mine to volunteer with children and help make our community a happier place. Having the opportunity to help kids smile and succeed seems like something I can’t pass up.
How would you handle a conflict involving a volunteer and a child receiving services through our organization? Conflict-resolution is a highly sought-after skill set for individuals volunteering with youth organizations. Answers to this question should highlight a candidate's problem-solving and decision-making skills.
A child’s physical and mental wellbeing is of the utmost importance to me. If a volunteer were to compromise a child's wellbeing I would immediately separate them from the children and report the incident to a manager.
If the incident could be resolved through conflict-resolution I would counsel the pair until an agreeable solution was met. By doing this, I would turn the incident into a learning opportunity.