Approaching & Interviewing at Organizations of Interest

The InterviewIf you have gone in any sequential manner through this site or have come here directly after finding out we exist, you hopefully will have identified a number of specific employers, and, if not that, specific Common Good sectors that you would like to start to approach in your job search. If you are still in an exploratory mindset and are not ready to approach organizations directly for a volunteer, internship, part-time, full-time, consulting, or other type of relationship, the information in this section will still have some relevance for you because we will be talking about how to get closer to organizations in which you are interested. For example, asking a friend or loved one about whom they recommend that you talk to about your employer of interest, could be because either (a) you know you want to work there or (b) you want to find out more about that organization for any number of reasons.


The amount of information available about how to effectively approach an organization of interest is staggering. And focus is critical to career management and job-search success.

So my approach to this section is not going to be my attempt to create brilliant new ways to get hired. All the information on how to do that is available. What I am going to do is provide some framing thoughts about how to approach organizations successfully, and then point you to extremely rich sources for all the particulars you will need to create your successful Common Good job-search campaign. You have been introduced to them previously, so I hope in some way this part of the process will be like reconnecting with a trusted friend.

Eight Keys to Successfully Approaching Employers

Most job seekers do not identify and then act on personal job-search strengths and weaknesses early enough in the job-search process. Why? There are many answers to that question, but two that surface regularly are that doing the critical self-awareness part of the job-search and career-exploration process is hard work, and, for many, the “soft stuff” is not as important as forging ahead with the job-search tasks at hand.From my experience since 1976 when I started working with people and helping them reach their goals, I found that identifying what you bring to the process is critical for success. That is why it is at the top of this list of key success factors. So here are some questions that provide a starting point in regard to how much work you have to do in this area.

On a scale of 1 (not at all) to 10 (extremely), answer these following questions:

Question #1 – How aware are you of the strengths and weaknesses that you bring to the task of getting into an interview situation with someone who could help with your job search? For example, if you are not computer literate, that would be a drawback in the current job market, where much of the information you need is available on the internet. As another example, if you are super-confident you might not want to approach people and ask for advice, because you have “always had the answer.”

Question #2 – How confident are you that you will have successful interactions with those you come into contact with in the job-search process who could help you land a Common Good job? Reflecting on your interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and confidence in front of strangers will help with your answer to this question.

Question #3 – How comfortable are you in reaching out to people you know and asking for advice about your job search/career exploration? I, for one, have never liked asking people for help, preferring to figure things out on my own. But I had not become really effective at my career until I overcame that liability.

Question #4 – How comfortable is your financial situation? The answer to this question will obviously impact the depth of and amount of time you can spend on your job search and career exploration.

Think of a few people (at least a couple and then up from that number) who know you well. Ask them if they are comfortable with you running your thoughts by them about your strengths and weaknesses regarding your job search or career exploration. If they are open to doing that, ask them to give their honest appraisal of the accuracy of your self-evaluation regarding Questions 1–3 above. Then have them add whatever else they think will be to your advantage and disadvantage during this process.If you include your partner or a member of your family in your job-search brain trust, I strongly suggest that you also get a reaction from other people who are neither related to you nor in a romantic relationship with you. There is often personal “stuff” that gets in the way of family members or loved ones providing the most valuable feedback about the pros and cons of how you are going to do a job search. I have had more than a few folks I was coaching ask a spouse or significant other about their thoughts regarding the job-search process, and they got a one line reply: “Just get a damn job.”

Once you have received this feedback, it can be very helpful to ask if they would be willing to be a resource to you as you do your career exploration and job search, with you reaching out appropriately with questions or issues that have surfaced. Doing the job search alone is tough; having a group of people you know and trust who are willing to assist you can help create momentum. I have strong feelings about this idea of using a team approach to do your job search. In the career-transition industry in the 1980s, I helped introduce the idea of using teams, and trained a number of career-management professionals in that process at the time. I have seen firsthand that applying a collaborative approach can work.

For that reason, I suggest looking for job-search teams in your area that you might join if you are in a job-search mode. This would be in addition to the creation of the small Job-Search Brain Trust described above. Job-search teams are often sponsored by religious organizations, libraries, civic groups, membership groups, and other organizations as a way to help job seekers. Sometimes it is limited to members of their organization, but more often it is open to the public. The definitive work on how job- search work teams should be run has been created by and written about by—Disclaimer—a close friend of mine, Orville Pierson. His most recent book on this subject is titled, Team Up! Find a Job Faster with a Job Search Work Team. His previous book on this subject was Highly Effective Networking: Meet the Right People and Get a Great Job. You can find out more about this approach at:

I have worked with literally hundreds of people who got the referral they needed in order to get a good job from someone who they had left off of this list. The longer the list is of people you know, the more likely it is that you will maximize your contacts in your job search and career exploration. There has been a lot of scientific research and talk about how interconnected we are, prompted to a certain degree by Stanley Milgram’s publication in 1967 of research on “The Small World Problem.” His research was triggered by his desire to learn more about the probability that two randomly selected people would know each other. Milgram’s study results showed that people in the U.S. seemed to be connected by approximately three friendship links, on average. His research was popularized in a play, Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare, and by the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” There are articles I will refer you to in a little bit that will talk about how to utilize this expansive list in an ethical and appropriate way. This is an activity where a spouse or significant other or a close friend who you are partnering with on your search could assist by creating their own contact list and sharing the results with you.

LinkedIn won the social media battle for those individuals who want to manage their careers online and Facebook won the battle for those individuals who want to manage their personal lives online. In my opinion, there are no close seconds to either of those companies with either of those populations. LinkedIn has created numerous ways for individuals to manage their career and job-search activities more effectively, including:

  • sending users job leads for positions that their profile suggests would be of interest to them
  • sending users names of organizations that their profile suggests would be of interest to them
  • sending users articles that would educate them about subjects that their profile suggests would be of interest to them, etc., etc., etc.

LinkedIn is without question one of the most important resources for you to master for your job search and career exploration. It will help you link to individuals and organizations that will help you serve the Common Good. It is also the most powerful way to store your contacts, because the more contacts you have included with your LinkedIn profile, the more potential links you have with individuals who might be interested in helping you.

Your online and offline resumes are two different things and should be structured differently, according to the guidelines suggested in the articles I will suggest you read. You will be choosing to do a substandard job search if you use your offline resume for online searches.

Having done a strong job of identifying your strengths and weaknesses as it relates to the job-search process toward Common Good opportunities provides you with a major advantage over many of those who you will be competing with for those situations. Making a priority out of leveraging your strengths and lessening the impact of your weaknesses should be just that: a priority. This is where other people often come into play. The kinds of people who can help here are:

  • career coaches
  • recruiters
  • individuals such as managers, human-resource professionals, salespeople, and others who are involved with evaluating people’s presentation style and strength of personality every day
  • counselors, religious professionals, health care professionals, social workers, and others whose very job requires them to help individuals

Looking for the assistance you need regarding how to maximize the strengths and minimize the negative impact of the derailers you bring to the search can provide you with the performance improvement necessary in a tight job market.

Most of you have had to deal with personal or professional setbacks. Because of that, most of you have information about your resiliency pattern—how you respond when negative things happen to you. Having an understanding of this pattern is valuable because job search and career exploration is difficult and usually has negative events attached to the process. If you know, for example, that your pattern for dealing with rejection is to withdraw and sulk, you can plan for that when you get rejected for the job you really wanted by making sure you reach out to those who love you, or to your Job-Search Brain Trust and say, “Can we talk? I just got some bad news.” If, on the other hand, your pattern for dealing with negative information is to double your effort and be overly aggressive, that can be planned for as well, so that you don’t move too quickly in the wrong direction or in an inappropriate manner.Dr. Al Siebert wrote one of the most useful books on this topic, called *** The Resiliency Advantage: Master Change, Thrive Under Pressure, and Bounce Back from Setbacks. His research on resiliency is available at *** On that site you can take a five-minute Resiliency Quiz without having to register or provide your email address. You immediately receive a free printout with your resiliency score and suggestions for how to move forward regarding each score. Important Note: If you are depressed or going through a particularly difficult time you might want to hold off on taking the quiz, or at least take it with someone else, because the scorecard on the low end lets you know if you need to seek help or are struggling. The high-end scores let you know you are very resilient— better than most—while the middle score explains you are slow, but adequate.

The results of the quiz and multiple free articles on the site provide data for you that can help you create your current resilience strategy, to allow you to bounce back effectively from setbacks that might occur as you do your job search and career exploration.

We are now at a point where you have, if you have gone through the site sequentially: (a) information about yourself, (b) the important keys to successfully approaching employers, and (c) ideas of employers or sectors in the Common Good that you want to approach. Now it is time, as I have mentioned, to turn to resources mentioned earlier, which provide specifics about all aspects of the job search, as well as valuable information about Common Good employment. These are the old friends I have mentioned to you previously: … and … I will focus on for the remainder of this Approaching Organizations of Interest section, and will then bring to join in the section on Interviewing at Organizations of Interest.*** I suggest that you carve out a good chunk of time to get to know It has an amazing amount of very well researched information on how to do job search and career exploration. When you go to click on Get Started, then click on All of Job-Hunt’s Free Guides. You now are on a page titled Guides to Smarter Job Search which will provide you with dozens of resources for your job search and career exploration. If you are starting a job search I suggest go to Traditional Job Search Processes and Tools. Click on that link, then click on Guide to Getting Started, and you will be on Guide to Getting Started with Smarter Job Search. I strongly suggest bookmarking this page because the first three links on that page – The Job Search Tutorial, The Guide to Finding Jobs Online and The Job Search Process provide very comprehensive information on how to do a job search.

The Job Search Tutorial takes you through the three stages of the current job search process – Preparation, Implementation and Suspension/Maintenance.

The Guide to Finding Jobs Online identifies The Ten Best Sources of Jobs – Networking, Employer Websites, LinkedIn, Job Aggregators, Social Media, Job Boards, Recruiters, Staffing Firms & Head Hunters, Classified Ads, Associations and Alumni Groups and Google. If you click on any of those resources you are taken to very clear articles on how to best use them.

The Job Search Process is outlined in full on this link. Here is the introduction to this resource. “The Internet is at the center of job search today, particularly the use of social media (LinkedIn, especially) to attract employer attention, build the online reputation and brand, and expand the professional and personal network. Unfortunately, some hazards have increased like managing your online reputation, using personal search engine optimization (SEO) to become appropriately visible, and avoiding the online scam jobs.

But remnants of the old process (resumes, interviews, networking) are still around and still very important parts of the process. Job-Hunt offers you help navigating this new process and using the new tools necessary today.


Preparation is critical to interview success. Most articles you read on interviewing will stress that. Our friends at have excellent articles on all aspects of the interview process. You will have seen them as you went through the links I suggested above.

There is another level of preparation necessary, however, when interviewing in Common Good organizations or for Common Good types of jobs. This involves having a thorough understanding of the difference between Common Good employers and employment versus for-profit or other employers. (no connection to this Common Good site) has a number of articles that provide that thorough understanding. You will find these in their Knowledge Center and include:

  • Debunking Myths of Nonprofit Jobs
  • Finding Your Niche in the Social Sector
  • In Demand Skills in the Social Sector
  • How to Market Yourself to Nonprofits
  • Breaking into the Nonprofit Sector: A Guide for Recent Graduates
  • Act II: Pursuing a Nonprofit Career in the Second Half of Life
  • Nonprofit Salaries: What Should I Earn?
  • Meeting the Nonprofit: Ten Interviewing Questions

Another resource for finding out about how Common Good employers hire can be located at There are many white papers and surveys available that provide insights into how nonprofits do their hiring. The 2013 white paper, Using Social Media as an Effective Recruitment Tool for Nonprofits, states that “More candidates are using social media as part of their job-seeking strategy, and organizations are using even more varied social networking resources to recruit. Nonprofits tend to be slower to utilize technology-based solutions, and to provide dedicated resources to the human resources function.” This is consistent with a point made in their 2011 Nonprofit Employment Trends Survey: “It’s still who you know when it comes to nonprofit recruitment. Nonprofits primarily use in person networking and newspapers to recruit job candidates. This is surprising considering the rapid growth and affordability of social networking tools over the past few years.”

Finally, there is a more subjective and personal aspect of Common Good interviews because of the often personal nature of the mission, or population served, or particular cause, or set of values—which is why a Common Good organization has an emotional connection to the work that is done there. You will not often find this in the for-profit sectors. It is for that reason that you need to be particularly well- prepared to talk about yourself and what your values are and what you stand for and why you are really talking with a particular Common Good employer. Many of the questions I asked in the Why You and Why the Common Good? section of this site will help you prepare for questions you will be asked during an interview regarding why you are interested in the Common Good.