Interviewing Candidates for Social Sector Jobs: Four Tips for Interviewers

Embodying your company’s culture is crucial for recruiting. These four tips are designed to help interviewers in the social sector attract young talent.

Interviewing Candidates for Social Sector Jobs: Four Tips for Interviewers

Ratna Gill and Megan McGlinchey joined the Living Cities staff in June 2016 as recent college graduates. In this mini-series, they reflect on their experience entering the workforce, with a focus on the aspects of Living Cities’ organizational culture that are crucial for attracting, hiring and retaining talent.

In an earlier post in this series, we described the importance of embodying your organization’s culture and values while interviewing candidates for entry-level jobs at your company. This piece provides four actionable tips for interviewers to keep in mind to reflect their organizations as faithfully as possible in order to attract young talent.

Four Tips for Interviewing Entry-Level Candidates in the Social Sector

1. Be compassionate.

The interview process is as much for the candidate to determine whether she chooses you as for you to decide whether you choose her. The organizational culture that you project in an interview (and that exists at your company) can have a huge impact on the talent that you are able to attract and retain. The objective of all social sector firms, at their core, should be to produce human wellbeing and success. Despite deadlines, budgets, and capacity constraints, it’s important not to lose sight of that core goal during the interview process.

The objective of all social sector firms should be to produce human wellbeing and success.

And while there is nothing wrong with being nice for the sake of being nice—especially since we as a sector understand a broad array of challenges that humans may be facing—it’s also important to consider the impact that a lack of empathy during the interview process can have on how a candidate perceives the credibility of your organization.

2. Rethink your concept of “professional.”

Remember that “professionalism” is a construct that can be counterproductive when it unintentionally embeds inequity in your interview process. There is a cultural component to many of the behaviors that we think of as “professional” in a society pervaded by white culture, and it’s important to check your biases around this as an interviewer.

Could the candidate who joins a phone call late and surrounded by background noise be babysitting her younger siblings because her single mother is working? Does the candidate whom you can’t seem to get ahold of have to share one cell phone with his father? These are two abstract examples, but it is important that—especially as actors in the social sector—we remain cognizant of the micro-instances of implicit bias that we all are subject to. It’s also important to remember that experience and expertise come in a host of different forms; they speak in different ways and they attend a wide array of alma maters.

3. Remember that wooing a candidate doesn’t have to cost anything.

In our last post, we discussed the luxuries that many private sector firms have in their arsenal, and can use to complement the often harsh and competitive tone of their interview process. Remember that while you may not be able to treat candidates to “fancy things” in the same way that private sector firms often do, kindness is a tool you possess that can set your firm apart from other companies. And it doesn’t cost you anything! So as an interviewer, don’t be afraid of being genuine and vulnerable, describing what brought you to the work you do in the first place, and giving your candidate a full flavor of the culture of your company.

4. Promptly notify candidates who will not be hired.

Letting someone know that they weren’t selected to a position is just common courtesy, and not doing so is rude. Think about the personal agony of waiting for any individual or firm that you’re excited about to “text you back.” All too often, the trend (particularly in the private sector) is that a candidate knows she didn’t make it to a position if she doesn’t hear back at all. Life is busy and folks at social sector firms can be especially overworked, but that’s no excuse for not sending an email, even if it’s a stock email notifying candidates who were not selected to the position that they can stop waiting.

Do you have interview tips for students interested in social change? Share them here or email your story to!


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