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This guide aims to cover the most common questions asked at NGO jobs interviews and help applicants with ways they can create strong answers. Although every interview is different and NGOs will ask a range of questions, especially relating to their area of programming, there are some questions that are almost certain to be asked. This guide lists the key NGO interview questions you need to prepare answers for.
NGO jobs are competitive, but getting to the interview stage is a great first step! The most important thing to do to prepare for an NGO interview is to research the job you are interviewing for and the NGO it’s at. Linking your interview answers to both will definitely make you a strong candidate for the NGO.
When answering interview questions for an NGO job make sure your answers are practical examples from your previous professional experiences that link to the job you’re interviewing for. Before the interview, prepare some examples of times you achieved successes that can be used as examples for the questions you are most likely to be asked.
Below is a breakdown of the most common NGO job interview questions, and ways you can construct strong answers to each:
Why Do You Want to Work for This NGO?
This is likely to be one of the first questions you’re asked at a job interview for an NGO job. There are several reasons NGO job interviews often open with this question. Firstly, the NGO wants to know the candidate has researched the organisation. NGO’s are proud of their work and history, and want staff that understand where they come from, their aims and values, as well as their programmes.
The second reason why an NGO job interviewer is almost certain to lead with this question is to see if the candidate has a passion for the work of the NGO. NGO’s look for staff that have enthusiasm for their area of programming and show a dedication to the work the NGO does. NGO’s often open interviews with this question as a way to see a candidates strong wish to work specifically for them.
How to Answer
Be sure to have well researched the NGO before the interview. Definitely get a good understanding of the work the NGO does. What are their specialisms? What makes them different to over NGOs? Highlighting these areas in your interview answer shows you have understood the NGO’s work. Also be sure of the history of the NGO, as well as the core values of the organisation.
Your answer to this interview question should also show your enthusiasm and dedication to the NGO’s work. Highlight previous experiences you’ve had that relate to their programming. Also explain why the work the NGO does interests you and why you think it is important work. Make sure your answers are specific to the NGO you’re interviewing at, rather than broader answers about NGO pr humanitarian work in general.
Why Did You Apply for This Job?
This is also very likely to be one of the first questions at an NGO job interview. NGOs ask this question at interviews for two main reasons. The first is to check the job applicant has researched and understands the job they are interviewing for. NGOs want to be sure the candidate knows the role they are applying for well and grasps the specifics of the job they will be doing if hired.
The second reason NGO’s ask this question early in job interviews is to allow candidates a chance to explain their relevant experience for the job. NGO’s also ask this question so that interviewees can explain why they think they would be good at the job, as well as what parts of the job interest them most.
How to Answer
It’s important you’ve researched the job you are interviewing thoroughly. When applying for a job, be sure to save the job description as this can be taken down after the job advert has expired. Review the job description before the interview and highlight the main parts of the role that really interest you, as well as the parts that relate strongly to your previous work experience.
Definitely be specific about the job you’re interviewing for when answering this question. Show enthusiasm for the job and let the interviewer know you understand the position and what it requires. The better the you can convey you have researched the job and know the details, the stronger candidate you will be for the NGO.
How Do You Align with The NGOs Value?
NGO’s have core values that drive their work. Often rooted in their founding and history, an NGO’s values shape their programming and underpin all aspects of the NGO as an organisation. NGO’s want staff that align with their core values. It is important for NGO’s that all staff understand the NGO’s values and are able to work towards them.
An NGO’s value can include principles such as accountability, collaboration, social justice, empowerment or independence. NGO’s are likely to ask applicants at interviews about how they work towards their values and how their personal and professional experiences can be linked to them. Even if this is question isn’t asked specifically, NGO’s will expect candidates at interviews to link some their answers to the NGOs values.
How to Answer
Definitely research an NGO’s core values and principles before the interview. Link some of your answers to these even if the interviewer doesn’t specifically ask a question about the NGO’s values. Ideally describe a time you worked to achieve the values of the NGO. Try to give practical answers from previous work experience that relates directly to some of the core principles of the NGO.
It can also be good to describe why you think these values are important to the NGO and how you will work in the job you’re interviewing for to achieve them. An NGO’s values can usually be found on their website. If they’re not clearly described, try looking at the NGO’s history or current programming to work out what values underpin the work they do.
NGO Online Courses
If you are looking to work for an NGO, we highly recommend the online course International Humanitarian and Development Careers. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the NGO sector and gives a clear breakdown of the skills needed to get an NGO job. It also provides valuable information on how to successfully apply for positions within NGOs. Click the link to be taken to the course’s page.
We also think the online course Introduction to NGO Management is a must for anyone wanting to work for an NGO. It goes over how NGOs operate and introduces students to the unique aspects of the NGO sector they will need to know in order to land a job. Follow the link for more information.
Another online course we highly recommend for those wanting to join the NGO sector is How To Design and Fund International Development NGO Projects. Anyone working for an NGO needs a basic understanding of how NGO projects are set-up, and how to input to funding proposals. This course is a must for those wanting to work for an NGO. Click the link to get more information on the course.
How Does Your Professional Experience Link to This Role?
This question may be phrased in several different ways at an NGO job interview. It also may be split into several different questions that ask you to link your previous work experiences to specific aspects of the job you’re interviewing for. NGO’s ask this question to test a candidate has the correct skills and experiences to do the job.
NGO’s generally look for staff who are highly qualified in the areas they need. NGO’s require a range of skills and look for a combination of relevant academic qualifications and previous work experience. As NGO works is highly varied, they are not only looking for staff with NGO experience, but often for experiences in the private and public sector as well, and this interview question can allow candidates to explain how their experience will help them do this job.
How to Answer
To answer this question well at an NGO job interview you need to directly link your previous work experiences to the job description of the role you are interviewing for. Be sure to research the job and look over the job description extensively before the interview, and then think of good examples from your previous professional experiences that link to each of the major parts of the job.
It’s important when answering questions about how your previous work experience relates to the job you interviewing for that you’re able to show positive outcomes. Focus your answer on the things you achieved and successes that were had, and say how the experience these gave you will help you succeed in the job you are interviewing for.
Tell us About a Time You Worked Well in a Team
This is one of the most common questions asked at an NGO interview. All roles work within teams and it is important for NGO’s that teams are able to work well together to achieve the objectives. The NGO will want to know at the interview that the applicant is a good team player and understands the importance of team work.
NGO’s also ask this question at job interviews to make sure the applicant knows how the job they are applying for sits within a team. NGO’s want to hire someone who they can be sure will be an active part of the team and will work in collaboration with other staff. NGO’s want staff who can work well in their immediate team as well as across the wider organisation.
How to Answer
To answer this question well you should link back to professional experiences you had where working well in a team achieved a result. It can also be good to describe how team work helped you to overcome a challenge in a professional role. Try and link the examples you give as closely as you can to the role you are interviewing for.
When answering an NGO interview question on team work it is also good to explain why you think team work is important. Link this to the role you are interviewing for and explain how you think working well in a team will help you achieve the objectives of the job. Also explain how you build a strong team and what you have done in the past to ensure a team works well together.
Describe a Time You Overcame a Problem
Problem solving is key to being successful in NGO work. NGO’s operate to meet challenges within societies and often work in difficult environments. NGO’s also work in places that alter frequently and often need to adapt their work to changes. NGO’s need staff they know can problem solve and overcome challenges in order to be successful in their job.
This is a very common NGO interview question as it allows the applicant to show they have problem solving skills. NGO’s ask this question at interviews to ensure the candidate can overcome the issues that will arise as part of doing NGO work. They also need to know that the person they hire can work independently to solve problems and will not needlessly drain resources when problems arise.
How to Answer
This interview question should be answered by describing an example from a previous professional experience. Plan before the interview a short story that shows what problems arose and what you did overcome that problem. It is also important to describe what the successful outcome of your problem solving was and the key factors you think made it possible to overcome the challenge.
When answering this question at an NGO interview it is also good to link your example to the kind of problems you expect to be faced with in the job you are interviewing for. Also explain what factors you think will be important to solving the problems in the role you are interviewing for. Try to link the example you give from your previous work experience as closely as you can to the expected problems in the job.
What Challenges Do You Except There to Be in This Role?
This is another very common NGO interview question. Although similar to the question about problem solving, NGO interviewers asking this want the candidate to project the issues they expect to come in the job they are applying for. NGO’s can be faced with many challenges in their work and so NGO’s need staff they know can predict issues before they arise.
NGOs ask this interview question for two main reasons. Firstly, to see how well the applicant understands the role they are applying for. Secondly, NGO interviewers ask this question to see if candidates can foresee challenges before they arise. It can also be a tough question for interviewees to answer as they are expected to describe possible negatives events.
How to Answer
There are two main ways to answer this question when asked in an NGO job interview. The first is to focus on general challenges the role will face. This means explaining problems related to the nature of the job and its tasks. Be sure to provide ways that you would overcome each challenge you describe with practical examples.
The second way to answer this question is to explain the personal challenges you may face in the role. How the NGO interviewer words the question will indicate which way is best to answer, but an answer covering both the general challenges of the job and any challenges you may personally face would be a strong answer. It’s crucial to always give ways the challenges can be overcome.
How Do You Prioritise Tasks Effectively?
NGOs implement complex projects and need staff that can work across many different workflows. NGO’s regularly ask in interviews for applicants prioritise tasks and what factors they consider when choosing which work to focus on. NGO’s ask this question to test if an applicant can prove they can manage the complex work NGO’s undertake.
Sometimes this question in an NGO interview is given as a list of tasks and the interviewee is asked to describe in which order they would do each one. NGO’s need to make sure staff they are hiring can focus on the important and urgent tasks and will be able to work effectively whilst implementing complex projects in changeable environments.
How to Answer
To answer this question well in an NGO job interview you should give an example from your previous professional experience that relates to the job you are interviewing for. You should also describe how you would prioritise the tasks listed in the job description. It is important to have researched the role you are applying for well so that you know the tasks.
A good way to describe how you will prioritise tasks is to think about tasks as ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Tasks done first are the most important and most urgent. Then the most important or most urgent, depending on the tasks. Finally, the tasks that are important but not urgent, and then the non-important tasks.
What Are Your Professional Weaknesses?
This can be a tricky question at an NGO job interview. NGO interviewers can this question for a few reasons. Sometimes it is just to through the interviewee off and give them a challenging question to answer. Often it is to gain a different view-point of the candidate who has, until this question, been focusing on their successes.
Another reason NGO’s can ask an applicant a question about what their weaknesses are is to get an understanding of what additional training they may need. All candidates have professional areas they are not as strong in and by asking this question NGO’s are able to see if those areas are critical to achieving the aims of the job, or are just areas where extra training may help.
How to Answer
There are two important things to remember when answering a question about your weaknesses in an NGO job interview. Firstly, strike the right balance between actual weaknesses and not providing good reasons for the NGO not to hire you. This can be difficult. Think about a good answer to this question before the interview and try and relate your answer to the position you’re interviewing for.
The second thing to remember when answering an NGO interview question about your professional weaknesses is to make sure you can provide ways you have overcome your weaknesses. Give a previous example of your weakness and then add the measures you’ve taken to improve it, or how extra trainings or different ways of working will mean it won’t remain a weakness for much longer.
How Will You Build Strong Relationships Remotely?
NGO’s have offices and projects spread across multiple countries. Often a staff member will work on projects across several locations, including HQs, county office and offices in the field. This means almost all NGO staff need to work well with people through emails, video calls and virtual meetings. NGO’s need staff who can work effectively even when they can’t meet the people they are working with in-person.
This question can also be phrased as ‘how do you create a team spirit remotely’, or ‘how do you work well in a team spread across multiple countries and time-zones’. The NGO is making sure that the applicant knows they will be working with people mainly through emails and online calls and the NGO needs to make sure the candidate who gets the job can work effectively across their wide organisation.
How to Answer
To answer this question well in an NGO interview, focus on two main areas. The first is formal techniques you will use to build strong relationships remotely. This can include how you will use email and video meetings effectively, how you will schedule your time, how colleagues will know how to reach you and how you will make sure you respond to requests in a timely manner.
The second area you should focus on when answering a question about working remotely in an NGO job interview is how your personality and attitude helps you in this area. Explain how working remotely doesn’t have to have negative impact on working relationships. You can also give examples of how you have built strong relationships remotely in previous jobs.
How Will You Work Well in A Multi-Cultural Team?
NGO’s work across multiple countries and recruit people from all over the world. This means NGO teams can be highly diverse and made of people from many different cultures. This can be a huge benefit as diversity can mean a wide range of experiences and view-points. However, NGO’s need to know their staff can work well in a team made up of people with very different backgrounds.
NGO interviewers often ask this question to make sure that applicants are aware that they will be working in a multi-cultural team. NGO’s also ask this question at job interviews to test if a candidate has previous experience working as part of a diverse team and understands how to work effectively with people from different background to achieve project objectives.
How to Answer
The best way to answer this question in an NGO job interview is to describe previous professional experiences you have had working in multi-cultural teams. Focus on how you worked well together to achieve a positive outcome. Link your example as closely as you can to the job you are interviewing for.
If you don’t have previous professional experience working in diverse teams, focus on times you have been with people from other backgrounds in your personal life, perhaps from travel you have done. Think about areas of common ground between cultures and how these can be used to make teams work towards objectives together.
Do You Have Strong Skills in Ms Office?
Like most jobs, NGO’s need staff that can work well with computers. All NGO jobs involve some kind of computer skills, mostly using the Microsoft Office programmes Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. In an NGO interview this can either be asked as a question, or sometimes a test is given to make sure applicants have the correct computer skills needed for the job.
For some more technical jobs, such as finance or in IT, NGO’s may ask for knowledge of specific computer programmes related to that role. However, regardless the role, NGO’s need to make sure candidates they are interviewing have strong computer skills, especially in the commonly used Ms Office programmes as these are vital to working effectively in an NGO job.
How to Answer
To answer this question well in an NGO jobs interview you should give examples of how you have worked effectively with the computer programs needed for the role. Avoid simply stating that you are good with computers. Instead, describe a time you used a program correctly to solve a problem or make an area of work more efficient.
It is also important to make sure that you have researched the NGO and the job you are interviewing for and thought about what computer programs may be needed. Does the job require specialised software? Even if you haven’t used it before, knowing what IT skills are required for the job will give a good impression to the NGO staff interviewing you.
How Do You Keep Up-To-Date with Current Affairs?
NGO’s work responding to crises around the world. They look for staff who are informed on world events and knowledgeable about what is happening in the world. At interviews with NGOs, it can be common to be asked how you keep up-to-date with current affairs, and what sources you use to get your information.
A similar question that can be asked at NGO interviews is ‘what global issues are you particularly passionate about’. This is a similar question as the NGO wants to see that the applicant is knowledgeable about what is happening in the world. NGO’s can also ask about what a candidate knows about the specific geographic area the NGO works in or the major trends in their type of programming and specialism.
How to Answer
If you want to work for an NGO it is important that you are interested in what is happening around the world. As well as having your general interest in current events, when attending an interview at NGO be sure to research news and reports related to the countries they work and the type of work they do.
Good sources to check before an NGO interview include the website of the NGO. This will tell you where they work and the types of programmes they run. Then you can see what news articles and videos relate to those countries and issues. Also check UN and other NGO reports that are published online to get a more in-depth view.
Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
This is another very common NGO interview question. There are several reasons NGO’s ask this. They include wanting to see the career aims of the candidate, as well as to get a good idea of what their goals are. NGO’s can also ask this question to see if the candidate wants a long-term working relationship with the NGO.
This can sometimes be a tricky question to answer. NGO’s can ask this interview to see how ambitious the applicant is. This question can also be used to open a discussion about what training the NGO offers, as well as what career development and support the NGO can offer.
How to Answer
The best approach to take when answering this question at an NGO job interview is to be honest. Although it is generally good to say you want to develop your career with that NGO over the medium-term, you do not need to say you will stay there for ever. Explain how excited you are about the role you are applying for and the NGO, but also explain where that job will really take you, including to further roles with that NGOs and others.
A good approach to answering this question is to decide what your career goal is, and then describe how the role you are applying for will help you get there. Make this the majority focus of your answer. Then you can elaborate and say how you would like to develop within that NGO as well as what your specific longer-term careers goal are.
If you want more information on how to work for an NGO, explore our list of the top NGO online courses here.