Career in NGO's
Career in Development Sector

Important Questions You must ask your interviewer

With professionalism slowly becoming a benchmark in the social sector, the expectations of both employers and employees for each other have reached a new level. Given the fact that job interview is the first formal space when an interviewee interacts with the potential employer, the interaction becomes really important. From securing admission in institutions of learning to securing job, they walk along with you for a substantial part both in academic as well as professional life.

The ones who have gone through it will agree that thought of interview can make one feel butterflies in the stomach. The only respite is thorough preparation and confidence in your capabilities to make your way through those deciding minutes with the interviewers. Confident, assertive, informed and empathetic individual is what most of the interviewers are looking for today in their potential employees in the social sector.


In the contemporary times interviews as a space are maturing more or less into an egalitarian space and interviewer is not expecting the interviewee to sit meekly in front of the panel of interviewers and only answer the questions asked concerning technical, soft skills and social skills. Today proactiveness from the interviewees is subtly desired. Though questions are desired but it is not expected that interviewee should ask for the information available on the public domain. Interviewers will surely appreciate if you have done your homework and only ask relevant questions regarding your work and the organization. Genuine questions asked will always be welcome but at the same time showing off your wealth of knowledge and challenging the knowledge of interviewers by using inappropriate connotations may result fatal and won’t add to chances of securing the job. Questioning attitude in such a scenario becomes a double edged sword, as on the one hand it might reflect your inquisitiveness and inquest for clarity in mind, on the other hand if inappropriate connotation is implied the result might not be as pleasant.

One of our regular readers, Sidharth recently went through an interview for securing a job in one of the premier social sector organizations and managed to secure the job. During the interview when offered Sidharth asked the interviewers about the nature of work, systems, structures and policies of the organization. Here are some of the essential questions which he asked and any social sector aspirant must ask his potential employers before making an informed choice on joining the organization.

  • The roles and responsibilities were mentioned briefly, it would help if you can elaborate on the terms of job and roles/responsibilities?
    During the interview it is important to have a discussion at length with the interviewers on your role and responsibilities in the organization. Many development sector organizations citing human resource crunch run the show without clear roles and responsibilities charted out for the employees. You surely would want to know regarding your role and responsibilities as clearly as possible.
  • It would help in understanding the foundation of organization clearly if you can talk about the vision with which the organization was started?
    Though information regarding the organization and its vision would be normally available on the public domain in the organization’s website, still you should ask about the vision and philosophical leanings instrumental in the functioning of organization. This will help you understand the foundation of organization and how your personal and professional values match with that of the organization.
  • Can you detail on different mechanisms prevalent in the organization to address ethical and gender issues?
    Ideally every organization has systems in place for addressing the ethical and gender issues which might arise in the organization in the course of time. Existence of these systems in the social sector organization reflects their capacity, credibility and legitimacy in the domain of their engagement. Broadly you can ask about existence of various committees which exist to address issues concerning – ethics, gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • For a longer engagement in the organization it is important to understand the avenues available in the organization for professional development. Can you elaborate on various avenues available and how often will the performance appraisal be conducted?
    The nature of Human Resource policy of the organization not only facilitates the smooth working environment for employees but also lays platform for professional development. So if it is rightly in place your performance management and appraisal will be clearly charted out, which is important for long term career growth. Some organizations follow a policy to promote and encourage its employees with respect to career advancement, i.e. they provide study leave/ break and sponsor for training programmes. You surely would like to know whether your organization provides that avenue or not.Another aspect which you must discuss is the various entitlements in the form of paid leave, insurance and other benefit organization will provide.

Well above mentioned are some of the questions which you can and should be asking your potential employer, but always remember there is no hard and fast rule. One can ask questions which he/she thinks are essential but essentially the bottom line remains that you do not ask the obvious questions which you are expected to know. Last and the final thing would be to maintain a genuine and positive approach while posing your questions in an appropriate manner. With that best wishes for your future job interviews.


Akhilesh Bakshi

Akhilesh Bakshi is a development worker. He has been engaged with the issues of gender, child rights, rights of the tribals, decentralized governance, agriculture, livelihood of poor & marginalized and issues of climate change.