Best and Worst Job Interview Questions for Comm and Development Directors?

Questions MarksAshlie Hutcherson, Associate Development Director at Almost Home, emailed me yesterday asking if I’d write a blog post on questions to ask during interviews with Development Director candidates.

Ashlie says that applicants for the Development Director job at her organization have already completed a prescreening phone interview and a face-to-face interview with the Executive Director. Now she and the some board members will get their shot at asking questions.

What do you think? Let’s open this up to Communications Directors and Development Directors.

What are the best questions to ask these candidates?

And for fun, what are some of the worst?


 Question Mark by BigStock



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  • For jobs that require a person with some personality and excellent people skills, my favorite interview question (not really a question) is: “Tell me a joke.” It puts the person on the spot to think on his or her feet, be funny yet appropriate, and actually remember a joke. If you’re in communications or fundraising and don’t have a sense of humor you’re doomed.

    • beth

      I know I have a pretty good sense of humor, but if someone demanded I tell them a joke on the spot in a job interview it would make me cringe. In my opinion, telling “jokes” and having a good sense of humor are two different things. That’s my 2 cents, because I wouldn’t like to be put in that position!

      That said:
      What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t come back?

      • I wouldn’t necessarily disqualify a candidate based on the response, but it would improve the standing if he or she handled it particularly well. And it certainly tells you a lot about a person when caught off guard. Being in front of a donor, a reporter, or a group of employees requires someone who can hit a curveball (to abuse a sports metaphor).

        Is the answer “a stick?” (By the way, that would be a wonderful joke in an interview!)

        • beth

          Yes, that’s the answer, har har. That’s probably what I would have said if asked in an interview. And depending on your perspective, hopefully I wouldn’t laugh until I cry afterwards. That happens sometimes if something strikes me at the right moment.

          I can see the reasoning behind putting someone on the spot like that, makes sense.

          • I think I would probably fail at telling a joke, although I could certainly share lots of funny stories and situations!

  • Suzanne

    Good question I have heard: What role do you see the board and executive director playing in the fund raising process?

    Bad question and someone REALLY asked me this (but thank goodness not for director of development): What color do you see yourself?

    One question that I think should be asked: What is your comfort level talking to individuals about money? Have you ever gone to an individual to talk to them about a donation?
    It is surprising how many folks want to be a Director of Development and aren’t comfortable discussing money.

    • This are great, Suzanne. And just for the record, which color were you? LOL.

  • I can NEVER remember jokes.

    I like to ask folks to describe to me what “development” means to them. It gives me a good idea if they “get” the big picture, and also shows me how they think and if they’ll be able to inspire others to become involved. I’m a huge proponent of building an organization-wide culture of philanthropy, so might also ask them what they see as the difference between fundraising and philanthropy.

    I also ask them to tell me about a failure they’ve had, what they learned from it, and how they’d do it differently next time.

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  • Julie

    I ask them to share their biggest professional mistake and what they learned. It catches people off guard and they share very openly. I am more interested in how they handled the situation and what they learned from it. We also ask “Tell us about a time when you had to disagree with others to prevent a mistake.” It will usually vet out people who are more inclined to blame others than assume accountability for their actions. I’ve also noticed that those who have encountered ethical dilemnas will share them and you get a good read on the integrity of the candidate.