Volunteering in a non-profit organization is an amazing experience. You will meet new people, you will help to change something to better, either in the local community or even in the world.
What’s more, you will get your first real working experience, something you can put on your resume. Such an experience will make a lot of difference later on, when you apply for your first paid job.
But volunteering is not for everyone. The fact that they won’t pay you any salary does not mean that they will automatically hire you. Just like in any other interview, you will compete with other people for the job. The more interesting the locality or the work, the more people will try to get there.
If you want to improve your chances of succeeding, you should prepare for the questions you may get. We will look at 10 such questions right now. Enjoy!
Why do you want to work as a volunteer?
You can refer to several reasons at this point. One is gaining experience and learning new skills. You are young and just starting in your professional career, and that is definitely the best time to try different things and broaden your mind and horizon. You do not need to earn money yet–you are looking for experiences.
Second reason is the meaningful purpose of the job. Volunteers typically work in non-profit organizations. Such organizations typically follow some worthy goals with their work–helping the poor, caring for the sick, preserving natural habitats or cultural heritage, and so on.
Third reason can be location and language. That’s actually the reason why I volunteered back in the day. I wanted to learn a foreign language, visit new countries, meet interesting people from all around the world. Such experiences are priceless when you are young (and maybe even later :)).
Why do you want to volunteer for our organization (hostel, project, community, government)?
One can find hundreds if not thousands of volunteering opportunities online, in almost every major country. So why did you choose them?
In an ideal case you should say that their project, or goals they try to achieve with their work, resonate with you. Because that’s the reason why they run the entire operation and look for volunteers–they want to change something in their community, or in a life of someone. Once you share their enthusiasm, everything will be easier.
You can also say that you read the job description carefully, and believe to have the skills (or the mindset and attitude) to handle the working duties. They should get an impression that you studied their offer carefully, and did not blindly apply for dozens of volunteering opportunities in any given area.
You can also refer to location–perhaps you always wanted to visit their city or area, and this a great opportunity how to spend some quality time in the place, paying nothing (as a volunteer you’ll typically get a bed and meals for free).
How do you imagine your typical day in our place?
The most important thing is to show realistic expectations. And to be able to show such expectations, you should do a good research about their place. Perhaps you can also message some volunteers who worked there before, and left some reviews on the place. Try to find out more about their daily routines.
Volunteers typically work for only five or six hours a day. It is important to describe also activities you’d do once you are not working. Your future employer wants to see that you won’t be bored, that you can entertain yourself. This is true especially if you volunteer in a remote location, or in a place where you’ll be the only volunteer.
Ensure them that you have your ideas–perhaps you plan to do sports, hike, read books, meditate, work on your own projects, or study while you won’t be volunteering etc. Of course, if you share the workplace with other volunteers, you can always say that you hope to have a good time together…
Do you have any experience with this or that type of work?
They may ask about particular working duties. It can be cleaning, working with people, cooking, anything. Try to be honest about your experiences. Motivation and honesty are highly valued qualities in most places where they hire volunteers.
This is no programming or nuclear physics. If you did not do the type of work before, you will easily learn how to do it, in a day or two. Of course this is true only as long as you are willing to learn, and humble to admit that you need to learn your duties first.
Show the right attitude in your volunteering interview, and ensure the interviewers that they can trust you.
How long do you want to volunteer for us?
Read the description of their volunteering opportunity carefully, and check the minimum and also the maximum stay allowed by the organization. This can range from a few days to few months, or even for longer.
In 90% of cases, the longer you can stay the better for the organization. You will need to learn your new job, and you will need some practice before you become efficient in your work.
Staying just for a week or two is rarely effective for your employer, and they may not give you a chance unless you plan to stay longer. Of course, at the end of the day this is a volunteering opportunity. You are always venturing into the unknown, and in reality things may look different than advertised. You can leave after few days or after a week. Remember that you are a volunteer, not a slave :).
Once you interview with them, however, you should ensure them that you plan to stay long enough to learn the job and to truly help them.
Five other interview questions for volunteers
- What do you consider the toughest aspect of this volunteering opportunity? (Can be the living conditions, especially in rural location or extreme climate, strange working hours, steep learning curve, different culture, foreign language, anything. Ensure them that you see the job realistically, with both good and bad things.)
- How would you describe an ideal roommate? (In many places you will share a room with other volunteer(s). Try not to be picky about your preferences.)
- Do you have any allergies or special dietary requirements? (Be honest with them, it makes no sense to travel there unless they can meet your diet.)
- When can you start the work? (Self explanatory, you do not have to say asap. Organization typically cooperate with many volunteers, so you just explain when you can come and how will you arrive, and you will arrange the details together. If they suggest moving your day of arrival a few days earlier or later, try to show some flexibility.)
- Do you have any questions?
Interviewing for a volunteering job on Skype
Many interviews with volunteers are conducted online. Not much changes when you interview for a job on Skype. You should wear the same clothes you’d wear to the face to face interview for this volunteering opportunity, and you should prepare some questions for your prospective employer upfront.
However, you should also check your equipment (microphone, headphones, webcam), to ensure that everything works properly, they will hear you and you will hear them. Check our 7 Skype interview tips to ensure you won’t make any mistakes, and won’t neglect anything.
Conclusion and next steps
Volunteering is a fantastic concept for both the employers and the volunteers. It became extremely popular during the recent years, which means that you may compete with many people for a volunteering opportunity with your dream organization, or in some amazing location.
Try to learn as much as you can about your prospective employer, and about the job. Prepare for the questions from this article, and try to make a good connection with your interviewers. That’s the most you can do to succeed. And do not be sad if it doesn’t pan out in your first interview. You will get another chance, and you will get better with each new interview. I wish you good luck!
May also help you prepare for your volunteer interview
- Guide on how to overcome interview nerves – Do not let your anxiety to kill your chances in an interview.
- What are your weaknesses? – Learn how to answer the most dreaded interview question.
- Are you a team player? – Teamwork is extremely important in a typical volunteering opportunity. Convince the interviewers of your ability to work in a team.