Nonprofit executive director interview questions

Boards needs to know what to ask candidates. Prospective Executive Directors must recognize how to prepare for their interviews. Here’s some advice for both.

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In 1997, I became the Executive Director of GLAAD. When I think ago to my job intersee, I kind of have to laugh.

Some EDs acquire the project after years functioning as a senior fundraiser or in some other nonprofit management place. Not me.

I concerned it from corporate America. While I was strong on strategy, communications, and also managing people, I had no fundelevating experience whatsoever. Somejust how the board overlooked that. The staff wasn’t so thrilled, but that’s a different story.

Like the majority of interviews, there were 2 primary parts.

First, the board asked a bunch of good questions, which I answered as finest I might. Then, I had actually an chance to ask them concerns. I choose to think I additionally asked some good ones.

It was a strong intersee. Executive Director interviews much better be. After all, you are hiring for the a lot of important position at your nonprofit! You need to acquire this appropriate.

To be clear, once I say Executive Director, I intend the staff leader. You can call that perchild the CEO or President or Head of Schools or whatever.

Over the previous year, I’ve coached a number of gifted individuals that interviewed for ED positions and also I have the right to tell you that many type of nonrevenues manage these interviews poorly. They don’t ask the ideal inquiries or they don’t really know what they’re looking for.

Frankly, it’s not surpclimbing. Typically board members conduct ED interviews however a lot of of them aren’t professional HR world and have never obtained training. How need to they understand what to ask?

And so it’s likewise not surprising that 2 inquiries I get asked a lot are:

From boards: What are good interwatch inquiries for Executive Directors?From candidates: Can you assist me acquire ready for an Executive Director interview?

Let’s tackle both.


This first section is to assist candidates get prepared. If you’re the one doing the interviewing, feel cost-free to skip listed below straight to the inquiries you need to be asking.

If you’re still via me, there are 2 points I want you to execute in development of your intersee.

1. Write the Announcement of Your Hire

This will aid you number out exactly how you desire to position yourself in the context of what will certainly please the board.

Think around it. Hiring an Executive Director is the the majority of crucial decision a board provides. And when your hire is announced, the board desires to look great. They desire the area your company serves, its volunteers and also donors to see that they rocked the search.

So draft the statement they will certainly send out. It doesn’t have to be perfect (and in fact it won’t be.) Tright here will certainly be holes. That’s fine.

Don’t forgain to include a quote you would love to view in your announcement from the board chair or possibly also the previous ED.

After you draft, make some notes. What made you smile? What made you proud? What execute you wish was stronger? What carry out you check out as gaps?

2. Figure Out Your Key Messaging

I’ve had actually the benefit of media training (something I would extremely recommfinish for any type of nonprofit leader – and you deserve to frequently discover someone in your neighborhood who will carry out it pro bono or has been trained that have the right to spfinish a couple of hrs through you.)

As you prepare for any kind of intersee, regardmuch less of size and regardmuch less of what concerns you are asked, what are the 3-4 major things you desire the listener to remember about you?

Yes – regardless of the questions asked.

You have to manage the interwatch and also the crucial messages you desire the search committee to remember.

What perform you desire them to remember? To know? To feel? To think?


Now we get to the heart of it – the concerns themselves. These are the 10 questions eincredibly search committee must ask Executive Director candidates — and the 10 concerns every candiday have to be prepared to answer.

So initially the question, and also then my advice on just how to prepare for the answer… 

1. Tell us why you desire to lead this organization.

How to answer:

Well, you better nail this one. It’s the single the majority of important question. Take the announcement exercise from over and also construct on that. It should mirror the core messperiods from your cover letter – the ones that gained you to the interwatch.

Here’s what you want that search committee to feel:


2. Offer your assessment of the programs and services of our company.

How to answer:

Here you must show strategic and also important reasoning and occupational ethic.

As an interviewer, I want to recognize that you job-related difficult and also did a LOT of homeoccupational about the organization – and even more than just looking with the website (though you’d much better perform that also.)

How you answer will tell me around how you method strategy and also just how you will certainly talk around feasible routine fregulations. We all understand nopoint is perfect – I’d prefer to watch if you have the chutzpah to suggest somepoint out.

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Quick advice here: don’t be entirely sold on your very own assessment. That can be check out as arrogance. Sometimes using inquiries have the right to be a helpful gadget here. Instead, you deserve to attempt, “Maybe this isn’t the ideal allude in the intersee to ask yet I did uncover myself wondering….”

3. What carry out you believe is the vital to successful fundraising? Tell us a story from your suffer that represents that.

How to answer:

Let me remind you that once I was hired as an ED I had zero fundelevating suffer. It doesn’t matter.

The method to manage this question whether you are competent with fundincreasing or not is to actually answer a slightly different question:

What perform you believe fundraising is all about?

I answered this question with humor. I sassist it’s about storyinforming and also relationship building and also commitment. Tie those together with something from your past. Being blunt, if you can’t come up with one or more examples, you can not be reduced out for this task.

4. How will you balance the inside / external element of your role?

How to answer:

Acexpertise that it won’t be basic – that everyone will want a bite of the ED apple. As the interviewer, I want to hear about exactly how you regulate your time, exactly how you manage your calendar. I watch E.D. clients do it all the moment. The calendar controls them and also not the various other method about.

5. If I took one of your existing direct reports out for coffee to acquire the genuine skinny on you, what would s/he say?

How to answer:

Sheight the fact below. They will certainly find out, which is why I like the question.

I’m hoping to hear phrases favor, “even more prefer a thought companion than a boss.” I’d favor to hear “accessible,” “continuous meetings that are both tactical and also big image.” I am anxious to know around exactly how you provide feedback – what’s functioning and also what could be functioning better.

Personally, I also desire to hear words prefer “fun” and “joyful.” But possibly that’s simply me.

6. What carry out you view as the role and value of the board in your success as an Executive Director? Can you market us a couple of examples?

How to answer:

In order for the company to be effective, this connection should be a partnership. The best nonprofit is choose a twin engine jet and the ED and the board chair must have a co-piloting relationship expertise of course that ultimately the ED reports to the board.

I recognize that I certainly desire to hear that you obtain that you need to ‘feed’ the board in order for it to execute its job well – indevelopment, tools, access to stories, etc.

7. Executive Directors regularly uncover themselves “working the room” – at a gala, a cocktail party, or at some other type of area occasion. What is your approach?

How to answer:

It could be interesting to answer this by talking around an experience you had at a fundraiser. Maybe no one came up to you. Maybe you had an ED stare previous you while supposedly involved in conversation bereason he’s looking for the person he actually desires to be talking to.

You also desire to tell me that you find people exciting – I constantly say that everyone is amazing for at leastern 2 minutes J. Share your strategy to spfinishing the ideal amount of time via one person so you make a connection prior to you relocate on.

8. Tell me about a professional faiattract you skilled and also what you learned from it.

How to answer:

Think about this one ahead of time. It can’t be a tiny one that feels inconsequential. And the lesboy have to be pretty effective.

Go ago to the “essential messaging” you did before your interview. Ideally your answer should amplify your 3 or 4 vital messperiods.

9. As an Executive Director, you will certainly be both a leader and a manager. How carry out you check out these functions intersecting?

How to answer:

This might feel like a duplicate of #4 however I would certainly usage this question as a method to talk about the possibility — and obligation — of leadership and also what sort of leader you will certainly be.

I desire to hear the reverence you feel around the obligation. I desire to the answer to this question to be VERY eloquent. When you are finiburned talking, I desire to be ready to follow you.

10. It’s six months into your tenure. How will we know we made an excellent hire?

How to answer:

It counts a little on where the organization is on its success course as soon as you begin. Do NOT overpromise below. Shoot for some tangibles and also some intangibles. Your list can include:

Board meetings that are indevelopmental and engaging and wbelow board members’ opinions are valuedClear facility through the numbers, understanding the budgetFirst hire is proving to be a rock starYou relocated someone out of the organization without oodles of dramaYou asked and also closed X amount of giftsGreat buzz after a major donor fundraiser around your remarksAn unsolicited speak to from a crucial stakeholder just to congratulate a board member on making an excellent hireClear evidence of relationship structure in all essential stakeholder groupsSeveral suggestions for brand-new board members that would certainly add real value to the occupational of the organization

Also, suggest that you would favor to have actually a formal conversation through the board chair at the six-month note to talk about this extremely question rather than waiting for the one-year mark. A vehicle runs better for a lengthy drive through continual tune-ups. J


So those are the 10 concerns eincredibly search committee need to ask, and also my 2 cents on how eextremely candiday have to technique their answers.

But most of the time you obtain asked one last open-finished question…

What else need to we know around you?


Is there anything else you would certainly favor to tell us?

Do not screw up your answer to this. This question is a layup! If you answer through, “No, I don’t think so,” you missed out on one massive fat chance.

Your goal is to prepare and practice a cshedding statement. Clat an early stage it cannot sound either ready or rehearsed. It will be the last point they hear from you and also it should be 2-3 minutes that wraps up your core messperiods.

Do NOT include the words, “as I stated previously.” You don’t desire to remind me that you could have said this prior to.

If the messeras deserve to be wrapped into a compelling short anecdote – powerful, funny, “goosebumpy”, all the better.

It should not really be around you – not really. Rather, it need to be about what the organization and its clients and stakeholders need. What the activity demands from this company and why you are the right perkid to provide it.


Ok, so I’ve gone over the 10 inquiries. And then a bonus question.

But there’s still one more question the majority of people get asked towards the end of an interview:

Is tbelow anypoint you’d prefer to ask us about the organization? The staff? Our programs? Working here? Anything at all?

You could have actually aced the interwatch up to this suggest, yet if your answer right here is, “Not really,” you have just left a really negative last impression. Think you’ll get the job?

I have a LOT to compose on the questions candidays should ask their interviewers and also that will be the topic of an upcoming post.

I’ll educate every one of my email subscribers when the next post is publiburned. If you haven’t already joined my tribe, I’d love for you to carry out so here: