Preparing for interview? Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

By Fidelis Navas: Founder and MD, Gamma Talent: Responsible Recruitment for the Third Sector

I was recently reminded of a time that I went for an interview. I was rushing to get there on time because I couldn’t find anywhere to park. I wasn’t happy about my clothing choice, which for me, matters. But what was of most significance here, was that I wasn’t really that convinced about the charity and the job, and I think all the above just rolled into one big warning sign.

That I chose to ignore!

The job I was being interviewed for was a sideways move for me at the time, the kind of challenge that I was used to. I didn’t get a sense that we were a good fit – but it was a good option for me for personal reasons, so I decided to go for it.

One of the reasons I was unsure about the job came when I was invited to interview. They asked me to prepare a presentation about how I would increase income from £x to £y in 3 years (it was a fundraising role).  But by my reckoning, I presumed they had just picked figures out of the air rather than actually based these on a potential projection of growth.

So what I should have done is rung them up beforehand and talked through why they had suggested these particular financial projections. But I didn’t, I was too nervous to speak to them in case I came across as clueless.

If I had rung them, it would have been a prime opportunity for some general due diligence – to have a chat with the fundraising manager, ask some general questions and gained a better insight into the charity and expectations of the role. And would have saved a lot of time for me and the charity subsequently by not going to the interview.

Needless to say, the interview was a total disaster. I did not gel with the interviewees, I made a mistake on my presentation and I thought their questions were really basic so ended up giving over complicated answers. Oh, it was horrible!

In my current role as a recruiter, one of my most important tasks is to generate these conversations, enabling a flow of conversation between both sides. But if you’re a charity and not using a recruiter, I would really recommend a telephone interview as stage one in your process for exactly these types of conversations. It only needs to be 20-30 minutes talking through the candidate’s experience, finding out the extent of their interest in the role, and of course their ability to communicate. This can save you time later down the line as it eliminates the less able candidates and you are providing an opportunity for the candidate to ask questions, helping you to gain an understanding of their suitability. It should also help with nerves, building up a rapport on the telephone before you meet face to face.

And if you’re job-hunting and applying for a role directly to a charity I would urge you to ring up the recruiting manager. You’ll get more of an idea of the role plus an insight into the recruiting manager’s requirements and personality. Prepare some questions for them which don’t need to be complicated but it will be an opportunity for you to prove you do know the job.

Now…..anyone else got any disaster interview stories?

Fidelis Navas is founder and MD of Gamma Talent: Responsible Recruitment for the Third Sector