The Most Important Interview Question

When interviewing for a job, the most difficult question to answer is often the final one: “Do you have any questions?” The question is good for interviewers to truly see what type of preparation the candidate has done prior to the interview. It can also be a great opportunity to discover what the priorities of the candidate truly are.

interviewFirst and foremost, as a candidate, you should NEVER say that you do not have questions. Prior to the interview, it is a good idea to do your research on the organization. An obvious first place to look is the nonprofit’s website. Review the mission statement, staff structure, programs/events, and any other pertinent information.

Next, see if you can find the organization’s 990 through Guidestar. You will get an understanding of where money comes from and what types of expenses face the organization. Write down a series of questions to reference at the end of the interview. It is fine to read off the list of questions, but have an idea of what your questions are ahead of time – you’ll want to show that you’re prepared.

Of course, there are some questions to avoid.

  • “What is the salary range of this position?” While this is undoubtedly a reasonable question to ask, this may not be the right time to do so, particularly if this is a first interview.
  • “How much vacation/benefits do I get?” Save this for the negotiation process. The interviewer may begin to think you are more concerned with what you are getting from the job, rather than what is being put in.

The more appropriate questions should be concerned with the organization’s mission, culture, and the future path of the nonprofit. Some examples of these questions include:

  • “How can new employees become familiar with, and begin to contribute to, the culture that has been developed?”
  • “What’s the most important way that your company differentiates itself from competitors?”
  • “What might I do to add the greatest value to the business?”
  • “What kinds of things can I do to prepare myself for the job?”

As a candidate for a job, it is important to not only know this final question will be asked, but also be as prepared for it as possible. As this is normally the end of the interview, it is the final opportunity to show those involved that you are serious about wanting the position. If you are confident in answering this question, you can leave a very positive impression. While this may not guarantee that you get the job, you may have a good opportunity to move forward in the search process.

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Categories: Career, Leadership & Careers, Nonprofit


Patton McDowell & Associates is a consulting firm dedicated to helping nonprofits and charitable foundations achieve their goals. We maximize an organization’s resources and help it achieve strategic efficiency.


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