Ask Amber: How to handle tough interview questions

By Amber Alarid, JVA Consulting

These days, with the hiring process becoming more and more competitive, employers are taking extra steps to find the best applicant for the position. With this increased scrutiny, it is important for young professionals to be prepared for the tough questions. Take these steps and you are likely to make a good impression on the person interviewing you.

Be Honest

This theme will come up again and again throughout the other steps, but it cannot be stressed enough. Honesty demonstrates respect and is the foundation for any professional relationship.

Prepare answers

While there are always wildcards, there are some questions and topics you can predict in an interview and be prepared for. If you recently graduated or are still in school, you may have to answer for your inexperience. Hopefully, you are already active in the nonprofit community and can highlight previous volunteer or internship experiences; if this is your first brush with the nonprofit field, it is important to prepare an answer that shares your transferable skills and why you want to put those to use in nonprofit work. Questions about your strengths and weaknesses will likely be part of any interview you ever participate in, so know what those strengths and weaknesses are (especially those relevant to the work you will be doing). It is important to be honest about your weaknesses—because everyone has them—without dwelling on them. You don’t want to talk the interviewer out of hiring you, you want to show them that you are a work in progress with room to grow. Focus on how you are growing and want to grow (i.e., what you are doing to turn your weaknesses into strengths).

Remain positive

Any answer you give should have a positive twist. If a potential project is not in your area of expertise, or a work environment is not what you are used to, show your enthusiasm for stepping out of your comfort zone by talking about past times in which you had to quickly learn or adapt to something new (however, if the idea of a project or work style makes you really uncomfortable, you should consider whether this job is right for you in the long run). There may be times you can think of when you didn’t meet goals or deadlines, but hopefully you learned something valuable from the experience that you are carrying into your work now and can share with a potential employer. No applicant will be perfect, but you can make yourself much more attractive to prospective employers by showing them from the first interview that you will bring that “can do” attitude everyone wants on their team.

Stay up to date on the sector

Being able to tie in your knowledge of trends in the sector implies that you have a real interest in the nonprofit field and that you follow the news even when you are off the clock. Weave your knowledge into answers when you are asked to share what you would like to learn. The more specific your answers are the better, and if you can tie in not just personal examples but examples from current events as well, you will have a competitive advantage.

While interviews can be intimidating, if you look at them as your chance to shine, you will feel more prepared. If you have earned an interview, the employer is already interested, so use the time to justify their interest by winning them over with your poise and sincerity. Do you have interview advice for your fellow young professionals? Share it in the comments section below. For more nterview resources and advice, join us on June 6 for our Nonprofit Job Networking Club.


This entry was posted in College graduates and nonprofits, Gen Xers, Human resources, Jobs/economic development, Millenials and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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