Nonprofit Hiring Interview Questions For CEO Position are NOT yes/no queries. The 15 questions that follow have been developed to reveal a candidate’s qualifications and experiences. These recommendations are made by National Association of Nonprofit Organization’s co-founder, Jimmy LaRose. Writing and asking the right nonprofit hiring interview questions can be tougher than you think. Let’s start with interview question number one.
Question #1: Why do you want to lead our organization?
Answer: The aim of this question is to determine what the candidate knows about your organization and assess their motivation for working with you. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I recently heard about your organization from a family friend. She was struggling with her pregnancy as a single mother and received aid from your nonprofit. I went through a similar situation as her ten years ago and could have benefited from an organization like yours. I want to be your Chief Executive Officer so I can help women like my friend and I find the help they need so they don’t feel as alone as I did.”
Question #2: What experience do you have coaching, mentoring, or training someone in a similar position?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s leadership abilities. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I was a CEO at a smaller organization for five years. When I was there, I hired and trained 15 people over the years. As the organization was small, we all worked closely together, which helped me mentor them whenever they needed help. I also learned a lot from them, so it was a mutually beneficial working relationship.”
Question #3: What do you think the main responsibilities of a Chief Executive Officer are?
A: The aim of this question is to gauge the candidate’s understanding of the role. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I think the main responsibilities of a CEO are to create strategic, financially beneficial strategies for the future, market the organization to gain funding, and make decisions about whether an investment is worth the risk. Overall, an Executive Director’s main duty is to help the organization excel.”
Question #4: What is the first thing you would do if we hired you tomorrow?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s thought process when making decisions for an organization. What to look for in a successful answer:
“If you hired me tomorrow, the first thing I would do is meet with the management team. In this meeting, I would discuss any questions or concerns they have and come up with solutions to solve them. I would then try to meet as many members of my team as possible. Both of these tasks will help me build a strong working relationship with my team, which is necessary for a CEO’s success.”
Question #5: How can you improve our organization over other candidates?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s skills to see if they meet your needs. What to look for in a successful answer:
“As I have five years of experience as a CEO for a smaller organization, I believe I would be a great fit here. I have looked at your organization’s public records and believe I could bring in at least $1,000,000 more a year through fundraisers and marketing. This would give you more disposable income to put towards helping the homeless community.”
Question #6: What is the biggest challenge you faced in your previous role, and how did you overcome it?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s problem-solving skills and ability to learn from past challenges. What to look for in a successful answer:
“The nonprofit organization I worked at for the last three years was almost bankrupt when I first joined them. I was hesitant to become the Executive Director of an organization that was having financial trouble, but I saw their potential. I took the role and put all my energy towards marketing the organization through social media campaigns and fundraisers. Within a few months, we made enough to pay off our debts and start offering our services again.”
Question #7: How would you describe your leadership style?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s leadership style to see if it fits your needs. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I have worked in a number of leadership positions and always adapt my management style to suit the company’s culture and employees. Typically, I like to adopt a transformational leadership style as I enjoy encouraging and motivating my team members to help the organization grow. I don’t like to micromanage anyone, so I give my team the space they need to be creative and offer help whenever they ask for it.”
Question #8: What is the most successful project you’ve worked on and what did you contribute?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s experience. What to look for in a successful answer:
“When I was the Executive Director for my previous company, my team and I ran a yearly fundraising event. Each year, the event got bigger and bigger. In my final year with the organization, we earned more than triple the amount we earned in my first year. I contributed to the fundraiser by organizing it and inviting a handful of big investors.”
Question #9: What is the most unsuccessful project you’ve worked on? What happened?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s experience and ability to admit their mistakes. What to look for in a successful answer:
“In my first year as CEO for my previous company, I organized a fundraiser that earned next to nothing. We only made enough money to pay for the costs of the fundraiser. I take responsibility for the fundraiser’s failure, as I organized it in a rush instead of pushing it to a later date. I didn’t take the time to ensure everything would run smoothly and didn’t give people enough notice to attend. Going forward, I always planned fundraisers months in advance.”
Question #10: If someone on your team wasn’t performing the way you want, what would you do?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s communication skills and ability to handle tough situations. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I had a new employee that was always finishing her work early. When I checked it, it wasn’t up to our organization’s standards. After a week or so of weak work, I scheduled a one-on-one meeting with the employee. She explained she wanted to finish everything early to show me she could handle all the work I assigned. I explained my issue with her work and told her I prefer quality over quantity and would rather she do less work if what she produces is strong. After the talk, she was producing excellent work. We just had to cut back on some of her assignments.”
Question #11: What makes a successful fundraising campaign?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s understanding of fundraising campaigns and the importance of them. What to look for in a successful answer:
“There are a number of ways to measure a fundraiser’s success beyond the amount of money you earn. While fundraisers are important for nonprofits to earn the necessary funds, a successful one should also create and strengthen relationships with investors to have long-term success. So, a successful fundraising event should make attendees comfortable and excited about working with us well into the future.”
Question #12: What experience do you have with planning and executing a budget?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s experience with budget planning and execution. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I was planning and executing the budget for my old company for over ten years. When I first started, the organization was small, so I created all budgets by hand after thoroughly researching and brainstorming our current finances and financial goals. As we grew, I used budgeting software to streamline the process. I used Scoro, Centage, and Prophix, but I am happy to learn how to use any other software.”
Question #13: What do you think of our organization’s current image? How would you change it?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s knowledge of your organization and their public relations skills. What to look for in a successful answer:
“I think your organization has a powerful image of being a place single moms can find solace. I would change the image to be geared towards single dads as well, so everyone feels welcome.”
Question #14: What is your decision-making process?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s ability to make informed decisions to benefit your organization. What to look for in a successful answer:
“Before I make any decision, I thoroughly research the pros and cons of it to weigh the risk. If we have time, I will meet with other managers to discuss the decision and consider different points of view. If I think the decision will ultimately benefit the organization, I will make it.”
Question #15: How do you manage your relationship with a board of directors and shareholders?
A: The aim of this question is to assess the candidate’s interpersonal and communication skills. What to look for in a successful answer:
“To build and strengthen relationships with my board of directors and shareholders, I keep an open line of communication. I update them constantly and make myself available for meetings or to answer questions. I also encourage them to provide their own input. Communicating with them shows them I value their contributions and opinions, allowing us to all work well together.”
I used this series of nonprofit hiring interview questions earlier this week. Using these queries allowed me to screen CEO candidates in a way that really worked. Feel free to apply them at your nonprofit.
Warmly, Jimmy LaRose, CNE, CDE, CNC
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