No matter what anyone says – first impressions DO count!  I’ve met countless people in their initial interviews for employment opportunities in our organization, and I am always amazed at how candidates present themselves.  It doesn’t matter if you are applying for an entry-level position or a VP, executive-level role, you want to leave a positive impression with a potential employer.

Here are some essential tips to always keep in mind when interviewing for a job and that will especially help set you apart when interviewing in the non-profit sector:

  • Arrive Early – This seems like a given but you would be surprised at how many candidates arrive late for an appointment. PLAN AHEAD and arrive 10-15 minutes early for your interview – always better to arrive early rather than late.  Account for traffic delays and map out the location beforehand.  It doesn’t matter what the excuse is, if you arrive late for the appointment, then you are already starting off with a negative impression.
  • Be a Professional – Don’t assume that because the company is a non-profit that the level of standard business practices are lower!  There are two areas where I see this happening: first, dress business professional, not just business casual like you are going to meet your friends for an afternoon lunch. You want the potential employer to see that you can present yourself in a professional manner especially if the position requires you to be a representative on behalf of the organization.  Second, avoid speaking negatively of your former supervisor or discussing what you didn’t like at your previous company and stick with speaking professionally. You want to demonstrate that you are the PRO when it comes to being an ambassador for the company and that they should have no concerns about you representing them.
  • Do Your Homework – Research the organization!  Non-profits tend to be extremely mission-oriented, and member organizations especially want to know that you will be committed to the members they serve.  Find out why the company even exists, what their mission statement is, who their customers are, and what is important to them.  It is easy to determine which candidates have just done a general overview of our company or those who have really researched about who we are as an organization.  Don’t answer the question with asking the interviewee the same question back- BE INFORMED about the potential employer that you want to work for.
  • Keep Focused – When responding to questions, actually answer the question and don’t go off on tangents.  Too many people answer in generalities or don’t give specific examples when asked.  CONNECT THE DOTS of how your experience and skills directly relate to what the position requires.

While you can assume that these tips are “no-brainers”, you would be surprised at how many candidates often forget at least one of these basic interviewing protocols. Put yourself at the top of the candidate list and leave a positive and lasting impression!