One Thing I Wish I Knew Before … The Big Interview

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These days, there is plenty of talk in the nonprofit sector about mentorship, personal advisory boards, and professional development. But at Idealist Careers, we understand that not everyone has access to a cracker jack team of career cheerleaders and sadly, many of us have to navigate our professional path without our own social-impact Yoda.

In light of all that, we’re kicking off a new series called “One Thing I Wish I Knew Before…”

In each post, we’ll select a topic and share real answers from real folks in the social-impact and nonprofit space. Here are a few topics you can expect to see over the coming weeks and months:

One thing I wish I knew before …

  • … the big interview
  • … resigning from my last job
  • … transitioning to the nonprofit sector
  • … choosing my major
  • … becoming a manager

So without further ado, let’s tackle our first topic …

One thing I wish I knew before the big interview

We asked our community of nonprofit professionals to share one thing they wish they knew before they went in for their last big interview. Here’s what two Idealists had to say:

“The answer to the very tough question, ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ I wasn’t prepared for this, went awkwardly silent, and turned bright red while trying to think of something. In the end, instead of making something up or showing frustration or worry, I smiled and said something honest, ‘Sorry, I haven’t done this for a while!’ The interviewers were great and we had a good laugh about it.” ~ Bradley Michelson, Director of Business Development,

“Make sure to come with questions. Ask ones that really help you get the info you need to make your decision. A very simple one I’ve found yields a lot of helpful information is ‘What is your favorite and least favorite thing about working here?'” ~ Anonymous Idealist

What’s one thing you wish you knew before your last big interview? Share in the comments below!


Is there a “One Thing I Wish I Knew Before…” nugget of knowledge you’re itching to know? Tell us what we should ask our community of social-impact professionals, job seekers, leaders, and nonprofit superstars. Post in the comments or email us at



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As a seasoned communications professional with 15 years of nonprofit experience and 6 years of experience creating engaging content and copy, I love the idea that a thoughtfully crafted piece of content can spark social change. Here at Idealist Careers, I'm eager to offer job seekers, game changers, and do-gooders actionable tips, career resources, and "social-impact lifestyle" advice.
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    • Ann Grove
    • September 14, 2018

    I’ve found it extremely useful to review the last 2 to 5 years of IRS 990’s for an organization with which I’m interviewing. Is their funding consistent? Is their programming consistent? Are there any red flags (like having losses from fundraising events in multiple years)? If possible, I like to know primary sources of income, and if it isn’t clear I like to ask if the position is contingent upon maintaining grant funding. If it is, I also like to ask what my role would be in maintaining that funding stream.

      • Alexis Perrotta
      • September 14, 2018

      Great point, Ann! Thanks for sharing with the community. And for those of you unsure about the ins and outs of a form 990, check out our post for a helpful refresher …

    • Kat
    • September 14, 2018

    Whether or not it was an actual interview or just a preliminary screening interview. You have to prepare differently depending on what type it is.

      • Alexis Perrotta
      • September 18, 2018

      Hi, Kat … great point! Any tips for our readers on how you might have prepared differently had you been given a bit more info?

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