Without a work of volunteers it won’t be possible to organize countless non-profit events all around the world. Sporting events for general public, music festivals, public gatherings, events for children–volunteers are often the heart and soul of these occasions.
On the other hand, most volunteers are young and inexperienced people. Without proper supervision and coordination, they would struggle to handle their duties.
What’s more, not every volunteer is necessarily a responsible person. Volunteer coordinators are responsible for coordinating their activities and ensuring that order rules in the event (or in a hostel, camp, or any other place where most employees are volunteers). They may also recruit new volunteers and lead interviews with them.
Let’s have a look at some questions you may get while interviewing for this interesting job.
Why do you want to work as a volunteer coordinator?
You can refer to three things in your answer:
- The meaningful purpose of the activities volunteers do in the organization. This can be anything from helping people or animals to promoting good cause or idea. You found their projects interesting, and that’s why you applied for a job with them.
- Your skills that make from you a good candidate for the position–leadership, communication skills, attention to detail, time management; or a similar experience you had before, leading a group of volunteers in some other organization, or doing similar volunteering work and understanding the ins and outs.
- Motivation to learn something new, and to help a good cause.
Your goal is to find five new volunteers for our project. How will you proceed?
Start with some sensible sourcing strategies. If you apply with a renowned non-profit organization, you can leverage the power of their social media channels, or even work with their internal database of former volunteers.
If you apply with a smaller organization, you can talk about running a targeted campaign on social media, or registering with websites like WorkAway, where you can gain direct access to tens of thousands of volunteers from all around the world.
Obviously you should talk about describing the offer in the appropriate way, one that is motivating for applicants, and at least somehow unique. Otherwise it would get lost among hundreds of other offers, and nobody would apply.
You can continue talking about interviews (on Skype, online, or even face to face if you recruit locally), and from there on the process is straightforward. Choosing the best applicants you provide them with some training, explain them their role and they are ready to go–with your supervision, of course.
Imagine that you lead a diverse group of fifty volunteers, from different cities. How will you communicate?
You can talk about modern technologies, conference calls, and other communication techniques that internet and social media made possible in the recent years. For example you will create a What’s up group, or a Facebook group, and leverage the possibilities each platform offers to its users.
However, you should emphasize the importance of face to face communication, even if irregular. For many people volunteering is about new connections and friendships. At least from time to time you’d organize a team building event, or you’d do it during regular event, when there is time for human face to face communication.
You can also say that you will have individual talks and one on one meetings with volunteers anytime it is necessary, becasue group meeting or What’s up group isn’t the place to discuss sensitive topics…
Two volunteers argue and refuse to work together on a team during an event. What will you do?
You can start by ensuring your interviewers that conflicts belong to each team, and that you count with experiencing them while coordinating your volunteers.
Then you can suggest several ways of addressing the situation. If you manage a large group of volunteers and need to address the issue quickly, you may simply split them and assign each one to a different team. That’s a short term solution, of course, but if the argument takes place during the event and you need volunteers working immediately, not arguing, it’s the best solution.
When you are not under pressure, you can suggest having a one on one with each conflict party, trying to understand their view, and address the situation accordingly. You can emphasize individual approach, since each conflict and each person is different, and what works with one volunteer may not work with another one.
How will you motivate the volunteers to try their best each day in work?
In a normal job one can use financial incentives to motivate people, or to reward them when a workload is heavy. You won’t have this luxury as a volunteer coordinator. But you still have several options.
One is trying to create a positive and motivating atmosphere in the team. People should feel responsible for each other, and enjoy their time in work. In such atmosphere it is much easier to overcome any crisis of motivation and work hard.
Another idea is reminding them about the meaningful purpose of their work often. This can be done with memos, t-shirts, daily briefings, anything. Once they feel a part of something bigger, once they believe to follow some worthy goals with their volunteering work, they will try harder.
Another thing is introducing the concept of a game into the work of volunteers. This is possible in some occasions. Instead of working, they should feel as if they were playing. For example, if your volunteers collect rubbish in green areas of the city, you can announce an internal competition. The team that collects most sackfuls of rubbish will win a small prize (and recognition of their peers).
Describe your most successful managerial or coordinating experience.
At this point you are limited with your experiences. But perhaps you led a team, at least once, perhaps a small one. Maybe it was a sports team, or just a group of your classmates. Think about it for a moment. Interviewers do not care about the scope of the project you led, they care about attitudes you showed while leading the team.
Did you manage to motivate the people? Did you allocated roles and responsibilities? And what about empowering your team members to make decisions, allowing them to grow? Did you do proper planning? And did you always have the final goal on your mind, the purpose you tried to achieve?
Try to address at least some of these things while you narrate a successful coordinating experience. As I already said, it is not about the size of your team or scope of the project. It’s about your attitude…
Imagine that you coordinate a small team of five volunteers who are responsible for delivering important leaflets to mailboxes around the city. But two of them did not come, you can’t reach them and you are understaffed. What will you do?
Another test of your attitude. Coordinating five people is easier than coordinating fifty. Therefor in this case, you should say that you will give instructions to the remaining three volunteers, and then you’ll participate on delivering the leaflets. Show the hiring managers that you are not afraid to take on manual labor, if someone doesn’t show up (which can often happen with volunteers, since they aren’t paid for their work).
On the other hand, you should always think about the most sensible action. In this example there were only five volunteers and the task was relatively simple, so you could afford replacing the missing person.
If they asked about a different situation, however, for example one in which you coordinated 100 volunteers during a music festival, replacing one of them would be out of question… In such instance you should suggest either contacting some people from your database, who can show up quickly and replace the missing volunteers, or making some organizational changes, ensuring that the most important spots (for example ticket check) are covered.
Other questions you may face in your volunteer coordinator interview
- What software programs do you use in your work? Do you have experience with online databases?
- How would you uncover strengths and weaknesses of various volunteers in your team?
- What’s your experience with employee training?
- What is your personal experience with volunteering, and how did it prepare you for a job of volunteer coordinator?
- What are your salary expectations?
- After everything we discussed in this interview, do you have any questions, or is there anything more you’d like to say?
Conclusion, next steps
Interview for a job of a volunteer coordinator belongs to difficult job interviews. People love to manage volunteers, and you will always compete with many other candidates for the job. What’s more, you will have to prove your readiness for the job, and demonstrate right attitude to work and to fellow human beings.
Try to prepare for all behavioral and situation questions I outlined in this article. And do not forget to do an extensive research about your future employer–what they try to achieve with their activities, how many volunteers they have, what the role of coordinators (managers) is, and so on. It is not easy to succeed in this interview, but I believe you can do it, and wish you good luck!
May also help you to succeed on the big day: