When I started out, I was a terrible interview. My first boss told me she hired me despite the interview!
What I learned over the years was that to interview strong you need to know – going in – what points you want to make.
Then you make them! No matter what questions are asked of you.
This takes preparation and practice. But it’s easy to do once you get the knack of it.
You simply need a game plan.
And this plan begins with crafting your own passionate “Case for Support!”
When interviewing for a job, the essential elements you must include in this “case” are:
- What is the employer’s need?
- How will you address this need?
- Why you?
The secret to getting the job offer is to craft an offer that someone just can’t refuse.
Sound familiar? It’s just like…
I like to approach a job interview like I approach a major gift solicitation.
9 Keys to Success (Major Donor or Employer Interview): Mind Your ‘P’s!
What will success look like? For you? For your potential employer? Just like a meeting with a major donor prospect, for the outcome to be successful it’s got to work for both of you. With a prospective donor you try to determine how you can meet their needs and help them fulfill their desires. With a potential employer, as much as you can, try to figure out how you can solve their problems.
You wouldn’t walk into a major donor solicitation without doing background research on your donor’s interests and capacity. Don’t do that with your interview either. Research the organization. Research yourself! Assess your strengths and weaknesses. I like to use the Gallup Strengths Finder as a starting point for self-assessment. Another way is to ask a friend or family member which three adjectives they would use to describe you. If you have one area where you could improve, ask them what that is. Don’t take “no” for an answer. We all have areas for improvement. This is your opportunity to learn, so don’t get defensive.
Pitch your ‘Case for Support’
- Keep it simple and pointed. That’s how you’ll be remembered.
- Know going in the top 3 – 5 points you want to make.
- Commit to making those points.
- Tell your interviewer what points you’re going to make.
- Make your points.
- Remind the interviewer what you told them.
Flip interview questions around so you can make your key points. For example:
“If by asking me what supervision experience I’ve had you want to know how I manage interactions with subordinates, I can tell you this: I’m a parent. I’m head of my neighborhood association. I’m an employee who works with volunteers. Even though I’ve never had a department to manage up to this point, I’ve lots of experience managing people and both gently, and strongly, encouraging them to do what I want.”
The ability to listen and learn to build a relationship is key to major donor fundraising. It’s part and parcel of being what we call ‘donor-centered.’ You must bring exactly the same facility to a job interview.
Listening well happens to be one of the most important traits you can have – for any job. So model this trait. Trust me; it will be noticed. (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve written in the margins of my notes, while interviewing a candidate, “doesn’t listen.”). Pay attention to what your interviewer (or major donor prospect) says and how they say it. Listen for tone of voice. Watch body language. Try to get a feel for what’s underlying what they say.
Stay attuned; get a conversation going. Ask questions that demonstrate you ‘get it.’ Show your potential employer you know them. For example:
“I noticed on your website that you recently participated in a major research study. I wonder if you could tell me more about that, and how you think that might boost our ability to raise money?“
And don’t forget this is also your opportunity to assess whether this is a good fit. Try to assess the culture and the preconditions for fundraising that are/are not in place. Find out how planning gets done, how much development staff are involved and who else is on the development team.
I always tell fundraisers that passion is the #1 thing they need to be successful at asking. What you say is often not as important as how you say it. The same holds true when asking for a job. Passion is contagious. The converse is also true. Lack of passion is draining. Think about the real reason you’re applying to the position and be thoughtful about communicating that. Describing volunteer work can be a great way. Or talking about family/friends affected by the issue the organization addresses.
While hard skills are very important, a positive, upbeat ‘can do’ attitude and personality is just as, if not more, important. Skills can be taught. Attitude cannot. Smile. Lean forward. Don’t cross your arms. Appear “open’ and flexible. Body language is an important technique for communicating interest and engagement. And just as you would never trash one donor in front of another, don’t badmouth a past employer. It may identify you as someone who is neither discreet nor easy to work with.
Just as you would with a donor, say thank you as you leave. The last impression you make is as important as the first one. Reiterate how very interested you are in the job (assuming it’s true). Try to keep ball in your court:
- Ask what next steps are in their process.
- Tell them what you will do next (e.g., send additional information; get answers to questions).
- Ask if there’s anything they’d like you to do to help them reach a decision.
THANK YOU is a must. Email right away and attach anything extra you said you’d provide. Then also send a hand-written thank-you to make yourself stand out. Use notes you made right after your visit (you made notes, didn’t you?) to reference points made that you’ve had time to reflect on. And if you don’t hear back within the time they said they’d take to decide, inquire politely to get an update on their time frame. Express interest; not desperation.
If you heed these 9 ‘P’s you’ll likely succeed – both in getting the job and securing the major gift.
In both cases, never forget your end goal. You’re looking for love. They’re looking for love. This is something you want to enjoy! And I happen to think enjoying what you’re doing is one of the most important traits you can have to be a successful fundraiser. If you don’t love doing it, then you should do something else.
It’s worth persevering to find your match made in heaven.
If you have interview tips to add, please do so in the comments section below.
Want More Interview Tips?
Want some quick one-on-one mentoring to help you advance in your career? I’ve got a few coaching slots open right now. Grab up to 4 sessions – while they last — at a discounted rate.Your success is my success.
I’m also pleased to present How to Interview Strong for a Fundraising Job as part of this year’s Fundraising Career Conference April 17 – 21. I will include examples of interviewing behavior and questions/answers to illustrate how to best prepare so you get the successful outcome you seek. Joining me — for nine additional presentations! — will be a host of other experts who will cover a range of topics that will be helpful to you in your career. My friend Mazarine Treyz of Wildwoman Fundraising, host of the Conference, is kindly offering a generous discount to members of the Clairification community. Email me for the discount code!