Insights October 2015
Seek Answers That Reveal Their Purpose & Values, Talent Experts Say

What Questions Should You Ask Your Next Nonprofit Leader?

Brian Mohr


Prepping for a job interview can be nerve-racking – not just if you’re an interviewee, but also if you’re the interviewer, says talent strategist Brian Mohr.

“Most of us feel the stress associated with being interviewed for a job, but interviewers face pressure, too,” says Mohr, co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts (, a purpose-based leadership search firm for nonprofits, social enterprises, and other mission-driven companies.

“The most valuable assets of any organization with a purpose – whether it’s for-profit or not-for-profit – are its people, and that’s why hiring is so important. When screening candidates, who may become part of your work culture, however, there are important criteria that simply may not occur to you.”

But when it comes to a nonprofit’s leadership, the stakes are even higher, he says.

“In any position, from CEO to openings in fundraising and development, you’ll want candidates whose purpose and values match those of an organization’s, and its available roles,” Mohr says. “However, there are specific questions to ask for leadership roles. Specifics matter.”

Mohr reveals some of the questions interviewers will want to ask leadership candidates and explains why they’re important.

“How do you see the organization changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?” Why it’s important … You don’t want a CEO who’s comfortable with the status quo – that’s just not good leadership. In order for a nonprofit to be a success, a leader not only needs to be passionate and knowledgeable about the organization’s purpose, they need to know how to leverage a community’s interest in a new way. You want someone with a vision.

“That’s why we ask about the differences they anticipate and how they see themselves shaping meaningful change in the future,” Mohr says.

“How would you pitch our role in the community at a public meeting?” Why it’s important … A CEO / president / executive director needs to be able to represent the organization in the public eye as well as in the office. Asking the candidate to pitch the organization like they would while speaking in public demonstrates whether or not they are capable of holding a leadership role.

What are your three biggest accomplishments?” Here’s why it’s important … The answer to this question speaks volumes.

“I always look for nonprofit leaders committed to driving results. This question helps me understand if a leader thinks incrementally or is committed to moving mountains,” he says. “Plus, I get some insight into what the person considers successful. For them, is success a good project, learning something new, or earning a certain amount of money?”

“Give me one word that describes you the best?” Here’s why it’s important … This is a quick way to evaluate the candidate’s character. Nobody’s personality can be fully summed up in one word, so the word they pick is very important. It shows you what they consider their most positive attribute.

“What other CEOs or industry leaders do you look up to?” Here’s why it’s important … A person’s heroes can tell you a lot about who they are now and who they aspire to be. It also tells you whose leadership and management styles they would like to emulate as the CEO of the company.

About the Author(s)

Brian Mohr is co-founder and managing partner for Y Scouts (, a purpose-based leadership search firm that unites exceptional organizations with exceptional leaders. 


Provided here with permission of the author: Brian Mohr


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