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This page is devoted to the management of volunteer programs in health care settings.

~August 2014~

Back to the Basics – Part 3

raised hands


Interviewing – why it’s important

Your recruitment efforts have paid off.  Potential volunteers are knocking on the door.  Now what? 

Let me be clear, if you have a need for large numbers of volunteers (think volunteers assisting with a walk/run), formal interviews are not recommended as a prudent use of your time.  The recommendation here is to gather appropriate demographic data (name, address, contact information) so you may reach out to them later for other needs.

However, if you are going to engage volunteers in on-going assignments, it is important to do a formal interview to determine if it is a good fit for your organization.  Not only do you want to get to know them, you should also try to determine their motivation, assessing the matching ability for your organization and screen for risks.   Volunteers often are the front line to the general public and represent the reputation of the organization.  You owe it to the clients, staff, and other volunteers to make the best match possible. 

Generally, you should be asking all the same questions, using the same legal guidelines as you would if they were employees.  Have position descriptions readily available and feel free to make notes for later use and reference.man and woman shaking hands

There are four key steps in an interview:

  1. Preparation – Review the application beforehand if you can and schedule adequate time.  Have all your materials readily available (including position descriptions).
  2. Opening – This is an opportunity to put the applicant at ease.  Take a moment and clarify the purpose of the interview and let them know how long it will take.
  3. Body of interview – Review general information about the program, its mission and the organization.  Spend time here getting to know the potential volunteer.  Discuss various opportunities and identify what might be a good match.
  4. Closing – Summarize the discussion and let the applicant know what the next steps will entail.  Don’t forget to thank them for their interest in your organization.

As you identify your standard questions, give thought to what types of questions will help you identify the underlying motivation for the applicant.  You’ll want to ascertain their work skills and habits to ensure they are a good “fit” for you.  This is also an opportunity to verify or clarify information.  You’ll have to use all the listening skills imaginable to make the smartest determination if the volunteer will be successful for you.

Spending time with a potential volunteer can reap rewards in the long run.  How you set the beginning of the relationship is crucial to the volunteer experience and the beginning of recognition and retention as well.


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The author of the Heath Care Volunteer Programs column is Mary Kay Hood MS, Hendricks Regional Health, Danville, IN (317) 745-3556. With a BS degree in biology from Marian College and a Master of Science in Management from Indiana Wesleyan University, Mary Kay has been involved in volunteer management over twenty years with a zoo and in the health care field. During that time, she completed the Management of Volunteer Programs course offered at University of Indianapolis, several supervisory training programs as well as the Indiana Hospital and Health Association’s Management Institute offered by the Executive Education Program, School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Mary Kay served on the Nonprofit Training Center of United Way from 1993 to 2006. During that time, she taught many workshops also facilitating speaker arrangements for the Basic Volunteer Management series. Additionally, she has presented at various national and international conferences. Mary Kay served as president of the Central Indiana Association for Volunteer Administration (CIAVA) from 1993-1997 and the Indiana Society of Directors of Volunteer Services (ISDVS) from 2006-2008. She was also the recipient of the 1995 Outstanding Director of Volunteer Services Award and the 2002 United Way of Central Indiana Volunteer of the Year Award. Most recently she served on the Steering Committee for COVAA resulting in the formation of a new national membership organization for those in volunteer management, the Association of Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (AL!VE). With several published articles, she is also author to two books: The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions and The Volunteer Leader as Change Agent.

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