Writing about the mismatch between the interview and the actual duties of my first nonprofit job the other week reminded me that it happened again more recently!

A few years ago, a local chapter of a national nonprofit was looking for a couple new board members. I applied and was invited to interview with two existing board members.

I was already a volunteer, and I did some deeper research on the organization in preparation for the interview. I also came up with a list of questions I wanted to ask them (with help from this post from Joan Garry Consulting). I felt very prepared.

Now, I’ve interviewed for two Executive Director positions in my career. When I tell you that this interview, for a board position, was just as intense as those interviews, I am not kidding. I was so caught off guard, I don’t think I did very well. The preparation wasn’t the same; and I don’t think it should have been.

I can appreciate their desire to be thorough and put forward quality candidates, but holy moly. I know that in many industries, being on a board is a paid position. That is not the case for most nonprofits, and certainly not this one. I’m not saying that you should give everyone who wants to join a seat at the boardroom table, but do consider that if someone has applied and agreed to an interview for a volunteer position—one that will require more free time and effort from them over time—they’ve already demonstrated a certain level of commitment to your cause.

I ended up not getting the offer to join the board. I thought they made a mistake (I was a very good fit), but I didn’t take it personally. In fact, had they offered me a seat, I would have been conflicted about whether to accept it because I wondered if their board meetings were anything like the interview!
I think a lot of organizations (across sectors) forget that the interview goes both ways.

Sure, you can grill your candidates, but keep in mind that they are assessing you and making inferences about your organizational culture as you do so. And they might not like what you put out there.

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