marathon interview
September 29, 2009 9:36 AM   Subscribe

I got called in for a second, in person interview after the first phone interview went well. GREAT! However, the followup interview is going to be intense and I need tips. Read on if you can offer tips about development in non-profits and surviving marathon interviews.

So, I am one of the three or four candidates being called in. I was told that I would be speaking with the entire staff of the non-profit and to expect to be there for 2 1/2 hours, becuase they really want to get to know me. The interview will be broken into three sections: The woman I spoke with on the phone, the general secretary, and then the entire staff. I am a bit nervous when it comes to interviewing and the idea of spending all that being in interview mode intimidates me. This is for an entry-level development position with a fairly small pseudo-religious (read: very liberal christian sect) non-profit. Should I be expecting to field questions about my spirituality as well as work experience? How do I keep calm for 2.5 hours?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Don't know about the specifics, but I will tell you the best interview advice anyone ever gave me: at the end of the interview, when they ask you 'Do you have any questions?', ask them 'What have I not convinced you about today?'. Works like a dream.
posted by momentofmagnus at 9:41 AM on September 29, 2009 [25 favorites]

in my experience, the boards that control these groups are one of two ways, seldom anything else. 1, they micromanage and climb up your ass. 2, they leave you alone and let you swim or sink on your own.

Be yourself. Be professional. Be happy, relaxed, and calm. Be prepared to answer questions about specific fundraising opportunities, past times you've excelled organizing incoming funds programs, experience you have with quickbooks/tax reporting/UBIT/fun things like that.

People will tell you that they can't ask your spiritual inclinations, and they're absolutely wrong. Depending on the organization, it might be more or less important. Depending on their funding pools, it might be VERY important that you can walk the bible-walk and talk the bible-talk or you're going to fail abjectly at the position.

Bring in a bottle of water so you've got something to keep in your hands.

Most importantly, be friendly. As a development officer your job is going to involve shaking a lot of hands, talking to a lot of people of a dizzying array of backgrounds. Eye contact, easy smiles, you'll be great.
posted by TomMelee at 9:45 AM on September 29, 2009

Oh, wait, one more thing I totally forgot.

Pull the last 3 years or so of their 990 if you haven't already. Learn it. Refer to it. Scour their website/any media you can find to learn as much as you can about the org. Refer to it when they talk to you. "At last years triathlon it seems like you had a great turnout, I'm interested in seeing what can be done to increase capacity...", that sort of thing.

I've never worked for anything BUT non profits, and I can tell you that boards like it when you know the financial status of the organization heading into the position.
posted by TomMelee at 9:47 AM on September 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I recently had a marathon interview (different industry) and one thing I found helpful was to know who you would speak with in advance and what they do and from that make a list of 5 questions for each and general "talking points" you want to hit with all of them. I think people appreciate that level of preparedness and engagement with the opportunity and it makes life easy if conversation dwindles since you have topics ready to go.
posted by zennoshinjou at 9:53 AM on September 29, 2009

TomMelee told you about everything I would have told you, and I work for a major international mildly-religious non-profit.

Try and get your rest the night before, and eat a large, healthy breakfast the morning of - it will give you energy and staying power for the lengthy experience. I try to avoid coffee and have lots of water - the having a bottle in-hand is an excellent suggestion, but don't fidget with it. Your hands should be actively taking notes or calmly folded.

Be confident and remember the interview is (or should be, from your perspective) as much about you interviewing them - whether *they* are a good fit for *you,* as it is them finding out if you fit them. I've written about this in more detail previously.

You have AskMe in your back pocket and its safe money the other 2-3 applicants don't. I'm betting on you.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:01 AM on September 29, 2009

I would not bring in a bottle of water, but that's just me. To me, it looks sloppy, like you've just come in from a run or something, or simply can't go a few hours without water. Usually for long interviews, someone will start by asking if you'd like water or coffee or something. I've read that you should say yes to that (something about them doing something for you, and the psychology behind that). I don't remember why that's supposed to work, but I always turn down fluids just because I'm afraid that I'd knock it over or be klutzy in some way.

Everyone will ask if you have any questions. If the well runs dry on that one (and it might, if there's been a lot of conversation back-and-forth, with lots of people), you can always ask, "What do you like best about working for Company?" This gets some interesting responses. One time, I asked that of 3 different people and each told me they hated working there -- good to know!

Another question is, "What will be my first tasks?" This is good, because it leads you into a conversation about how you can do those things amazingly well, and in fact do it all the time, or whatever. But it also forces them to actually picture you doing those first tasks, which is good.

I also like to mentally line up a few stories that I will tell. The story is how I solved a problem. All jobs have problems you must solve, and most straight-forward questions will be ultimately about problem solving. So, getting a few stories in my head that address that succinctly helps me.

I also think it's a good idea to wear an outfit that you've worn before, not a new outfit. With a new outfit, you're still trying to figure out how to wear it (it has a tricky button, or the shirt comes untucked at the corner, or the pants/skirt creases, or the shoes are slippery, whatever). Being comfortable in the outfit means you don't have to worry about it.

Good luck!
posted by Houstonian at 10:10 AM on September 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

The only thing I would add to TomMelee, allkidsoftime and Houstonian is that 2.5 hours sounds like a long time now, but the time will fly when you are there. Do not let the time worry you. If it seems as if it is going slowly, you probably don't want to work with such a bunch of bores. And I agree with Houstonian about nor bringing in the water. Looks sloppy to me too. They will offer and you can say yes then if need be.

Good luck. Godspeed.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:27 AM on September 29, 2009

I went through the academic job market last year where interviews were as long as two DAYS and where I’d talk to so many people that it was nearly impossible to keep everyone straight. Here are a few things that helped me.

1. Instead of thinking of it as “interview mode” (which is often filled with tension and uncertainty), think of it as “meeting new people at work mode.” This moves the balance of power slightly and may put you more at ease. Don’t go so far as to be cocky, but thinking of the people as “people who may be colleagues” instead of “interviewers” really helped me relax, be myself, and not overthink my answers. I asked people a lot of questions about what they did and what roles they had in their university (organization in your case). People often like to talk about themselves, so having them ramble a bit about their responsibilities lessened the amount of time I had to talk.

2. Make sure you are comfortable in your clothes, especially underwear and shoes. You don’t want a wedgie you can’t do anything about for an hour. Related, know that if the restrooms have more than one stall, people may follow you into the bathroom on a break. It happened to me (female) almost every single interview.

3. I carried a professional-looking shoulder bag with me so I could have water, cough drops, a small notebook, an extra pen, an emergency snack (can eat in the bathroom if they don’t follow you in), a portfolio of my work (just in case it might come in handy), and whatever else I thought I could need. That way I could have everything with me but not have to have something like a water bottle in my hands when I’d meet others and have to shake their hands.

4. Remember that you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you, and that may take some of the pressure off.
Good luck!
posted by BlooPen at 11:52 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

In line with what ToMelee said, review the job flyer and think about situations from your past where you demonstrated x skill so that you have specific concrete examples to help fill the 2.5 hours. For instance, if they say, "Do you know QuickBooks", don't say, "Yes." Instead say, "Yes, I used QuickBooks at job x and did this (special project demonstrating that I am very adept at using QuickBooks.) " Have these scenarios all thought out and in your head so you can bring them out sometime during the job interview. Go through the entire flyer and where ever you think to yourself, "Sure, I can do that", think about it in more detail until you have that story in your head.
posted by eleslie at 12:24 PM on September 29, 2009

With a new outfit, you're still trying to figure out how to wear it (it has a tricky button, or the shirt comes untucked at the corner, or the pants/skirt creases, or the shoes are slippery, whatever).

Heh. On my way to my first interview for the nonprofit job I have now, a button came off my (new) suit jacket in the car. I had to sew it on while I was sitting in stop-and-go traffic. I recommend keeping a sewing kit in your glove box.

I'm in complete agreement with TomMelee's suggestion about the website and 501(c)(3) research. That helped me a great deal, and I was impressed by a candidate that I group-interviewed recently who'd clearly done something similar (especially because the other candidate we interviewed had done little homework, and it showed).

I think asking the folks who are interviewing you about their jobs and how yours would interact with them is always a good tactic. (We asked them about that in the group interviews--the point was really more if they could visualize and articulate AN answer, rather than whether they could give a completely correct one!)
posted by dlugoczaj at 12:50 PM on September 29, 2009

Have a goal in mind. TomMelee is spot on with the research. Start with the 990s, check the website, scour the organization for information about what they are currently working on. Identify areas that look important to you from the outside. You offer a fresh perspective, and while you should be careful about how you offer it, it is a valuable thing to the right organization. Once you have seen what they are doing and what they are focusing on, ask them what their next big projects are. Mention the ones that you identified, and ask them where they are in the cycle of development.

I like to ask what a typical day looks like in the office. Remember: you're interviewing them as much as they're interviewing you. Is it the type of organization where everyone is kept on call while the Executive Director decides what to do next? Does everyone have very rigorous roles that they perform autonomously? Do people like it there? What is their turnover like? Those are all fair questions, and ones that you SHOULD have the answer to before you decide whether to accept an offer there. You don't have to be condescending about it. But they're there to answer your questions as much as they you are there to answer yours.

Also, be ready to offer some personal information. I call this the "it puts the lotion on its skin" philosophy of interviews. It's easier to murder/reject a candidate if the candidate isn't humanized. So be human.
posted by greekphilosophy at 12:59 PM on September 29, 2009

Facebook/internet-stalk the crap out of each of them before the interview. Know everything about them. EVERYTHING.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:42 PM on September 29, 2009

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