Volunteer interviews are a chance for volunteers to find out more about the role and for you to get an idea of what they are looking to get out of volunteering, what their skills are and therefore where a potential volunteer might be placed. The most successful volunteer placements are those that most closely match the needs and expectations of both the volunteer and the staff.
Areas which you may wish to cover at interview are:
- Previous experience, skills, knowledge that the volunteer has
- The applicant’s current situation and future plans (for example – long term unemployed looking for a placement which will give them the chance to learn skills and hopefully gain employment).
- Information about the organisation and the role of volunteers within the organisation
- What roles are available
- What the expectations and limitations of the role are
- What training / support is offered to volunteers
- What level of commitment is needed for the role (frequency, durations and length of volunteer commitment)
- Expense information
- References – these should be discussed at interview as the inability to provide the right kind of references can delay an application or prevent an applicant from starting.
- Whether or not the candidate has a criminal record of any sort to declare and if this might prevent them from volunteering.
It is important at all stages of the process to manage the expectations of the volunteer by being clear about not only what a role involves but also what it does not involve. For example: many people apply to be volunteers thinking that they will get a chance to shadow nursing or medical staff which will help them get a place at medical school. If that is not part of a role then you must make it clear as otherwise volunteers will become disillusioned and leave.
In addition, although in the past most VSMs have always described interviews as informal, there is an increasing trend to formalise interviews so that the potential volunteer is clear that they may be turned down at interview as places are limited. Setting this expectation up in advance makes it easier for a VSM to say no to a potential volunteer.
If the applicant has any disabilities it would also be useful to discuss these at interview and to agree the types of roles that would be practical for the applicant to volunteer. If an applicant does not wish to discuss their disability then it would be for Occupational Health to advise the VSM as to whether they were suitable for the role based on their health declaration and reasonable adjustments that are possible.
Best practice states that you should have two people present at every interview but this is not always possible.
- Interview forms
It is useful to create a standard interview form that can be used for all interviews and an example of this can be found below. In particular, you should make notes during the interview so that you can refer back to your notes when the volunteer is ready to start and review role options, or if you turn someone away so you are able to refer back to the form and provide reasons, if feedback is requested.
- Group interviews
You may wish to save time by conducting group interviews. There are pros and cons to this method as it can speed things up but potential volunteers might be less inclined to ask questions and it is harder to accurately match volunteers with roles when you have not had a chance to get to know them and what they want out of the role.