Don't Forget to Bring Up Your Volunteer Experience!

Nancy Anderson
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Volunteer experience offers you several advantages when trying to land a full-time job. Your volunteer supervisor can vouch for a particular skill set much in the same way a boss can. You also get a chance to expand your network and learn something new while looking for your next job. Discover how to leverage your volunteer work during a job interview to highlight why you're a perfect fit for an employer.

Why Talk About Volunteer Experience?

Volunteering shows a prospective employer that you're committed to a cause regardless of financial gain. You're in it for more than just the money, which adds value to your personal brand. Volunteer experience bespeaks your personal and professional beliefs that giving back is important. Doing something for nothing also demonstrates that you filled gaps in your employment by actually taking part in a worthy endeavor rather than sitting around while searching for a job.

Leveraging Your Volunteer Positions

You can answer common job interview questions with your volunteer experience. You have plenty of opportunities during your face time with a hiring manager, so take a look at how to use what you've got.

1. How Do You Lead a Team?

Explain how you worked with a team that brought together people of various socioeconomic and educational backgrounds, as well as people of different ages, at your volunteer position. You led the team so it could solve a particular problem for the organization as a whole, whether your team repaired houses, tutored school kids, delivered meals for homebound people or helped run a fundraising event.

2. Why Should We Hire You?

Perhaps a potential employer asked this question because you have a gap in your employment. Volunteer experience shows how you did a lot with a little and brought your unique skill set to a team to get the job done. For example, say you used your experience as a homeowner of an older home to lead a team of people who completed odd jobs around houses, such as sealing windows, painting exteriors, insulating attics, and making sure homes were safe for children and the elderly. Be specific as to why your skill set was particularly helpful for that organization.

3. How Did You Solve a Challenging Problem?

Explain how your volunteer work solved a challenging problem facing your team. For instance, your fundraising goal of getting school supplies for low-income kids was coming up short two weeks before the start of the school year. To solve the dilemma, you set up a phone bank at the organization's office to call potential donors and met your goal during the final stretch.

4. What Motivates You on a Daily Basis?

Volunteering shows that you want to make an impact on people's daily lives regardless of the personal outcome for you. You revel in seeing smiles on people's faces when you brighten their day or make their lives a bit easier. Companies love self-motivators who take the initiative and get the job done.

Volunteer experience is an ideal way to remain busy during an employment gap and gain valuable skills. Practice your responses to common interview questions with this experience to leverage your volunteer work into a paying position.

Photo courtesy of Bill Smith at


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