After you apply for an overseas volunteer project, you may receive a request for an interview, which is an excellent sign of your placement agency or host organisation being ethical and legit. It shows that the organisation wants to evaluate your compatibility with the project by checking your credentials, values and skills before offering you the role. It’s also a great chance for you to ask questions, which allows you to assess whether they match your expectations as well.
We all know that volunteering abroad requires money and time, and can be an emotional roller-coaster. We therefore suggest prospective volunteers to accept with enthusiasm any request for an interview and make the most of it before they actually embark on an overseas volunteer experience.
Here are some practical suggestions on how to have a successful interview for an international volunteer project.
Before the Interview
1. Be flexible with the timing
Bear in mind that the host organisation calling you for an interview might be in a time zone different from yours. Being flexible with the time window for receiving calls is always appreciated.
2. Have a Skype ID
Skype is still the easiest, cheapest (free!), and most common software for conducting video and audio interviews. Prior to applying for a volunteer project abroad, have Skype downloaded on your device and have your Skype ID written on your application and CV. This makes you immediately available for a video interview.
3. Check your Wi-Fi, audio, microphone and camera
Precious interview time is often wasted on getting the volunteer’s device ready for the call. Ensure that you’re in an area with good Wi-Fi coverage and that the audio, microphone and camera on your device are working well prior to the interview. Having a working camera is particularly important, as the ability to observe one another’s body language facilitates communication.
4. Choose a quiet place
Coffee shops and other public places are a big no-no. Background noises and conversations from adjacent tables will disrupt the interview. Choose a private, quiet location for your interview call.
5. Do your homework
If you’re really motivated, show that you care and prepare for the interview. Read about the project you have applied for, the country you’d be visiting, and the organisation you’re intending to help. The interviewer will immediately catch on if you’ve taken the time to look at the role and understand what it’s really about.
During the Interview
6. Prove your worth
In addition to talking about your motivations and reasons for volunteering, the focus of the interview should be on what additional value you could provide for the organisation. Articulate what you could bring to the volunteer role and why they should offer you the position.
7. Talk about your working style and values
Do you prefer to work in a team? Would you rather work in an office? Are you structured and organised, or flexible and adaptable? Sharing your working style and personal values is important for both you and the host organisation to evaluate whether you’re a good fit for the role and their culture.
8. Ask questions
An interview is an opportunity for you to ask as many questions as possible about the host organisation, the project, and volunteering conditions, and the country you’d be visiting. We suggest making a checklist so that you remember to ask the essential questions that would allow you to make an informed decision.
9. Agree on the next steps
This is possibly the most overlooked step as you run out of time and rush towards the conclusion of the call. Make sure you have an agreement with the organisation on what happens after the interview. For example, you should agree on when and how you will receive an answer, and what happens should they decide to offer you the position.
After the Interview
10. Be kind… always send a confirmation or a rejection
Often volunteers send applications to multiple organisations and reply only to the offer they accept. Remember that although you’re applying for a volunteer position with a non-profit, you should still treat it as you would a regular job application. Please act with kindness and give the organisation a nod if you’re interested in the position offered, or respectfully decline if you don’t wish to proceed.