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NGO Interview: Questions and Answers

Landing an interview for a job at an NGO is a big accomplishment! These jobs are often competitive, so you probably feel a bit nervous. While interviews for an NGO aren’t radically different from any other job interview, there are certain questions you should prepare for. You want to build and expand on your resume, show that you’re well-spoken and professional, and demonstrate that you’re passionate about the job. Here are some of the questions you’re likely to get and how to answer them:

“Tell me about yourself.”

This is often the first question you’re asked. Interviewers ask this question to get a first impression of you, but they also want to help ease both of you into the interview. If you don’t have an answer prepared, it’s easy to lose track of your thoughts and show your nerves right off the bat. It’s helpful to divide your answer into three parts: the present, past, and future. Talk about your current role, what led you to that role, and how the job you’re applying for fits into the future you want. You can start with the past if it’s easier, but you will want to end with the future, as it brings you back to the job you’re applying for. Keep your answer focused on your professional life. However, if a personal experience inspired your desire to work in the NGO space, this is a great time to briefly touch on it. As a general rule, you can talk about your life outside work if it ties back into your career in some way.

“Why do you want to work for this NGO?”

Interviewers ask this question to see how much research you’ve done on the NGO. They want to be sure that all candidates know what the NGO does and what their values are. Your answer also shows how passionate you are. When tackling this question, you are not going to present the history of the organization. Your research should focus on how your previous experiences and interests fit into the NGO’s programs and values. Be specific about what the NGO does as opposed to general human rights work. The interviewer already knows that you want to work with NGOs – they want to know why this one.

“How do you integrate your values into your work?”

With this question, the interviewer wants to know if your values align with the NGO. While you’re doing your research beforehand, read through everything that has to do with the NGO’s values, such as the mission statement, goals and mandate. You’ll see principles like social justice, human rights, accountability, equity, and so on. Identify times in your professional life where you worked toward these values or similar ones. The key to this question is showing that you walk the walk. Anyone can talk about their values all day, but if they don’t have specific examples of how they put those values into action, it’s hard to take them seriously. Most jobs want employees with strong ethics and integrity, but it’s especially valuable to NGOs.

“How does your past work experience apply to this job?”

This is a crucial question to get right. NGOs want to hire people they know can handle the job’s responsibilities. The interviewer may break this question into smaller pieces to get more specific answers. Consider everything you’ve done in your professional life and compare it to the new job description. You may be a perfect fit, but more likely than not, you’ll need to think a bit outside the box. How do your experiences and skills translate to different situations? Let’s say you’re new to the NGO field, but you have experience in the high-stress environment of a corporate job. NGO work is often stressful, too, so you can highlight how you managed corporate stress and remained a productive member of the team.

“Are you able to work well with a multicultural team?”

Many NGOs have programs all over the world and employ a diverse workforce. Research shows that diversity is great for team productivity and creativity, but there are challenges, as well. An interviewer might ask you this question to assess your view on diversity and if you have experience working with people from different backgrounds. If you have any job history that includes multicultural teams (or clients), this is the time to talk about it. Describe how the team learned from each other and managed any conflict. If you don’t have experience working with a multicultural team, think about experiences outside of work that could fit. As always, keep it professional and focused on how diversity benefits a team. Express your commitment to inclusion.

What to remember

An NGO interview will include other questions, so here’s the most important thing to remember: be specific. Examples and stories should support anything you claim about your skills. When you’re specific and relate to your experiences (even if it sometimes feels like a bit of a stretch), you’re showing instead of telling. This will impress any interviewer and increase your chances of an offer.

About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.