The Volunteer Selection Process
When selecting volunteers it is important to try and meet your volunteer in a face-to-face interview before they start volunteering with your organisation. The interview as an opportunity for a two-way dialogue. Just as you are interviewing the volunteer to ensure their suitability for your organisation, the volunteer is interviewing you and assessing your organisation.
When preparing for the interview set aside a block of time e.g. 30 minutes. Be prepared with a list of questions. In addition, be ready to share information about your organisation and your volunteer opportunities. If the staff member who will be working with the volunteer is available you can invite them to sit in on the interview. If possible, conduct the interview in a private setting so the volunteer feels free to ask questions and share information with you. At the same time try to create a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.
When the volunteer arrives:
- Offer them some refreshments.
- Have them fill out the volunteer registration form.
- Ask open-ended questions about their interests, the skills they will bring to the organisation and past work and volunteer experiences.
- Share the volunteer role description and discuss any expectations or commitments related to the volunteer role.
- Ask for the commitment you need e.g. 4 hours a week for a minimum of 6 months. If the volunteer cannot commit to your needs then they may not be right for this role. It is important to find this out before the volunteer begins working with you. If appropriate you might try to find something more suitable to their skills and availability.
Conclude the interview by:
- Making an offer of a volunteer position.
- Alternatively you might suggest the volunteer go home and think about the commitment you are asking them to make. This gives both you and the volunteer an opportunity to review the interview and decide on their suitability
- Explain what will happen next: garda checks, reference checks, induction, general training and/or role specific training.
- If you cannot conduct a garda check for every volunteer role, conducting a reference check is the next best thing. It is surprising what you can learn from past employers, volunteer experiences and personal referees.
- Let the volunteer know when they will hear from you next.
- Consider giving the volunteer a brief tour of your facility so they can see your staff and volunteers in action.
Always allow the volunteer to say ‘no’ if they do not feel the volunteer role is suitable. It is important to note, just because a volunteer has contacted you does not mean they are ready to volunteer with you. Many volunteers will enquire at several organisations to find out which one best suits their needs and interests.
If you find the volunteer is unsuitable you should notify them as soon as possible. Be as honest as possible regarding why they were not accepted. Remember, this is not a time for negotiation (don’t get talked into giving the volunteer another chance) but a time to let them know why they have not been accepted e.g. references were unacceptable, garda vetting showed some time of offense, limited number of volunteer spaces which were filled by more suitable candidates. If needed you can offer to provide more detail in writing. It is important to keep notes on these meetings/phone calls.
Assuming you have now offered the volunteer a position and they have accepted, it is now time for the Volunteer Induction.