Things to Avoid Saying in a Charity Interview
So you’ve applied for a job and you’ve managed to get through to the interview stage. Excellent! You now have the chance to show why you, above all others, are the right candidate for the role. But creating a good impression is equally about knowing what to say and what to avoid mentioning.
We’ve put together a list of the five top tips you should never say during an interview, which we hope will help you in your preparation.
1. Don’t bad-mouth your past employers
It may be tempting, but it’s important to avoid bad-mouthing your previous employer. This shows your ability to remain professional and positive and won’t cast doubt on whether your attitude is right for the position you’re applying for.
So what’s a good way to answer this question? Ideally focus on what your prospective employer is able to offer, and which wasn’t available to you in your past role. Does this position give you new training opportunities? The chance to enter a new sector? Perhaps it allows you to use your skills to support a cause that you were always passionate about?
Example: “I feel like I’ve learnt a lot in my current role, but there are few training and development opportunities left for me here. I believe this role will give me the chance to further expand my account management skills and take my career to the next level. I would also be working with a broader range of donors, which is something that appeals to me.”
2. Don’t ignore the importance of research
As the adage goes, ‘Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.’ If you haven’t done your research about the charity you’re applying to, the recruiter will cotton on very quickly. It may be tempting to just have a quick flick through their website if you’re preparing for a short phone interview. But even then, the more you know about your future employer, the better chance you have at getting through to the next round.
Make sure that you take the time to carefully read through their website. Take in some of the recent initiatives and campaigns, understand the charity’s values and the different donor groups that they work with. It’s always impressive if you delve deeper into the area of work that pertains to your role. If you’re a digital fundraiser, take a look at recent event landing pages and social media posts. Is there anything that you’re particularly impressed by? You can then ask about it during the interview.
Example: “I was particularly interested in the hybrid event that you recently ran which combined both a live half-marathon and an online fundraiser. I wondered whether this setup is something that you’re looking to continue?”
3. Don’t use clichés when speaking about your weaknesses
Many recruiters like to ask about your greatest weakness to see how well you respond to negative feedback—are you teachable and easy to line manage? Now’s not the time to pretend that you’re perfect or pay yourself a thinly-veiled compliment (“perfectionists” and “workaholics,” I’m looking at you).
Candidates who provide these types of answers reveal they are unwilling to admit to their natural weaknesses and to work on them. Be honest but make sure any weakness you mention doesn’t create serious doubt about your willingness or ability to carry out the role. Instead, think about feedback that you’ve received from a past line manager and focus on the steps you’ve taken to improve on that area.
Example: “In my past role, my colleagues fed back to me that while I was very efficient, I sometimes made typos or other small errors in my copy. It’s something I’ve really worked to improve by slowing down my work and making sure that I sense-check everything before submitting it.”
4. Don’t lead with questions about benefits
Hopefully perks will not have been the main reason you applied for a position. It’s totally valid to ask about work/life balance, flexible working, health insurance, training budgets and any other benefits that your prospective employer might offer. However, it’s important to ask this question at the right time. You certainly shouldn’t lead with it.
In most scenarios, a question about benefits should be left until the final interview and should be asked after you’ve demonstrated a genuine interest in the core role and a passion for the charity’s work. You should phrase it in a polite way.
Example: “Could I ask about what your remote work policy is?” / “Would you be able to tell me a little more about the benefits you offer employees?”
5. Don’t fall back on your application
You might have spent some time filling out an application form and you’re frustrated about having to go over the same ground in an interview. But a recruiter wants to hear you speak about your motivation. That’s why answering, “It’s all in my application,” is never the right way to go. It risks making you sound impatient at best, and at worst, lazy or impolite. So try to always be as enthusiastic as possible and give full answers to every question.
When asked, “Why should we hire you?” think about your unique selling points. If there’s something that you’ve been praised for in past feedback, be sure to bring it up. Then go through some of the key aspects of the role covered in the job description and match them to your past experience. Where you’re lacking a particular skill, such as knowledge of a tool or program, demonstrate your willingness to learn it.
Example: “I can see that you’re looking for somebody with experience across the full marketing mix. I’ve worked on a number of integrated campaigns, which included digital marketing, emails, social media and direct mail. “One of these was Campaign X, which raised £130,000 for our charity. We exceeded our fundraising target, largely driven through doing X tip in our email campaign and it personally taught me a lot about X lesson.”
Show yourself in the best possible light
Having the worst possible answers at your fingertips, it is now easier for you to come up with some top interview responses. Remember that the key is to be honest and demonstrate your skills and passion. Good luck!