Dream Builder Q&A with Precious Woods, nonprofit recruiter

Winning Interviews: 6 Things Nonprofits LOVE When Hiring

Living and working as a nonprofit staffing recruiter in San Francisco—Precious Woods works directly with some of the sector’s leading nonprofits and associations. She’s placed top nonprofit professionals with California 501(c)(3)’s such as: GLIDE, Californians for Safety & Justice, Lycee Francais de San Francisco, and the Eviction Defense Collaborative.


Prepare one or two mission-based questions

Here, your goal is to show your interviewer how diligently you’ve researched the organization’s mission and core values.

You’d be surprised by how easily this gets overlooked. Remember to focus your questions around positive attributes of the organization. Give your interviewer an opportunity to feel good about what they’ve accomplished, and let them know you’d like to be a part of it.


Communicate how this position fits into your own professional narrative

It’s equally important you convey your professional narrative along with your personal aspirations. Specifically, how you see yourself continuing to contribute in the nonprofit sector. Ask yourself: how does the cause you’re hoping to work for connect with your life experiences? How does your skillset reflect who are you, and what you believe?

Answering these questions—while aligning both your professional and personal stories genuinely with meaning—will make a powerful impression.



Smiling can save you

Sometimes we forget that this can make a difference.

I’ve had clients come back to me and not offer the role to someone because of this. Many times the candidates in question had stronger skills, but the interviewers didn’t believe that the applicant was actually interested in them. “They answered our questions but didn’t show any excitement.”

It’s easy to forget, but please, please, please—remember to smile. A good way to do this is to use a sticky note on your monitor somewhere that simply says, “smile”.


Be Tech Prepared

 Let’s face it—most interviews now are happening on Zoom or some form of video.

But before diving into tech—know that dress for success is alive and well. As a matter of fact, dressing well will separate you from an aspect of interviewing that has taken a step back during the Pandemic.

Having said that: video technology wasn’t invented to crush your hopes and dreams. Follow this checklist below to make sure that on your big day—tech is on your side.

The night before:

1. Make sure video software is downloaded (and running successfully)
2. Find a clean, professional interview background and preview your screen
3. Look at your lighting. The brighter the better
4. Make sure your audio connects to software, then soundcheck your mic
5. Fully charged means fully confident. Don’t let your interview falter because of a battery



If you’re transitioning from corporate to nonprofit—or even looking to explore a new cause or space within the sector—this is essential.

There are plenty of organizations that are weary of hiring corporate folks. One way to stand out and show you’re wholeheartedly interested in nonprofit employment is by adding volunteer service to your resume. It can be a great speaking point for you and show that you are serious about the nonprofit sector.

If you don’t have any, start searching.  You may even make some career-building connections along the way.


Write a brief—2-4 sentence—thank you email

Show appreciation for your interviewer and the time they gave to you.

Express excitement. But, be sure to have someone you trust proofread your message before sending it over. An objective pair of eyes are not to be underestimated with so much at stake.



First come, first served 

One story always reminds me why you need to choose the first available interview time.

I once had a client meet with a candidate for a temp role, and needing to hire immediately, gave four time slots across two days. My client was scheduled to meet with three candidates (one on the first day and two on the next day). After meeting with the first candidate, she called me and cancelled the following two interviews. The candidate that interviewed first started the next day. The same day those two other candidates waited to interview.

Don’t miss out on opportunity—take the earliest available interview time slot.


News, Nonprofit Staffing