Toolkit for Recruiting Association Executives

6. Conduct Interviews

The purpose of the interview is to gather enough information from the candidate to determine who will be the best fit for your position. At the same time, the candidate will also be interviewing the association and determining if the position is right for him or her.

Multiple interviews are excellent information gathering opportunities to increase the chances that you hire the right person for the job. A three-step interview process can guide you in making a valid assessment. The three steps include: (1) phone screen; (2) first round of formal interviews; and (3) final round of interviews with top candidates.

The best candidate is not necessarily the right one for the job. Do not make the mistake of hiring the best candidate if he or she does not meet your position requirements (see “Determine Position Requirements,” Section 3). You may need to be flexible with your timeline for filling the position to make sure that you hire the right candidate that meets the essential job requirements determined by the Committee.

Fair-Employment Laws

Federal laws prohibit you from making hiring decisions based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. State and many local laws may also prohibit you from making a hiring decision based on marital status, handicaps, pregnancy, criminal record, sexual orientation, and financial affairs. The following topics should be avoided during the interview: age, arrest record, credit information, citizenship, disability, driver’s license, educational attainment, emergency contact information, English language skills, height and weight, marital or family status (child care arrangements), race, color, sex, national origin, and military records.

Interview questions should focus on the competencies that are directly related to the position such as: candidate’s prior experience, education, attitudes, personality, skills, and knowledge. Any questions that are not related to the position requirements should be avoided (see “Determine Position Requirements,” Section 3).

Behavioral Interviewing

Behavioral interviewing focuses on relating past job performance as a predictor of future behavior on the job. The answers that are shared by the candidate during behavioral interviews can be a good predictor of future performance. The focus of the behavioral interview is to ask for specific examples of what the candidate has done in previous positions that are directly related to the position requirements (see “Determine Position Requirements,” Section 3).

Behavioral interview questions begin with a lead in phrase telling the candidate to provide specific examples. Examples of lead in phrases include:

  • “Can you give me an example of…”
  • “Describe a situation when you were called upon to…”
  • “Tell me about an example of a time when you…”
  • “How have you handled…”
  • “Explain your role in…”

Sample Behavioral Questions

  • “Tell me about your role in implementing a specific, new association policy.”
  • “Give me an example of how you have solicited input from leadership on a specific association issue?”
  • “Describe a time when you had to consult legal counsel regarding a specific association issue. How was it resolved?”
  • “What has your role been with the political and government affairs of the association? Please provide a specific example.”
  • “Tell me about your involvement with marketing association services, products, and membership. Please provide a specific example.”
  • “Give me an example of a time when you had a conflict with a leader or member in your association. How did you resolve the issue?”
  • “Tell me about a recent employee performance problem. How did you handle it? What was the end result?”

Candidate Interview Form

A candidate interview form can be used to record candidate responses and to ensure consistency. Below is a sample interview form that includes an example of the technical criteria and corresponding behavioral interview question. Record only job related information on this form.

Candidate Interview Form
Candidate Name:
Scoring:0 = does not meet requirements
1 = meets requirements
2 = exceeds requirements
Total Candidate Score:____________
Technical Criteria/Behavioral
Interview Questions: * Score:
Example: Working with Volunteers “Give me an example of how you have solicited input from leadership on a specific association issue?”

Phone Interviews

The purpose of the phone interview is to narrow down the list of initial candidates and to determine if a face-to-face interview should be scheduled. Below are guidelines for the phone interview.

  • Explain why you are calling and determine an appropriate time for the phone interview.
  • Request salary requirements. If the candidate is not within your salary requirements, it is appropriate to share that with the candidate and politely end the phone interview. Make sure that you are using both the Committee and candidate’s time wisely.
  • Ask five to eight behavioral interview questions that focus on the position requirements.
  • Briefly describe the position.
  • Ask if the candidate has any questions.
  • Inquire about the candidate’s interest level in the position.
  • Discuss any travel or relocation issues.
  • Explain the next steps in the interview process.

Formal Interviews

After the phone interviews have been conducted, the Committee needs to select the top candidates for face-to-face interviews with the Committee. The following are guidelines for what needs to be done before, during, and after the interview.


  • Schedule interviews -- Select the dates(s) for the first round of interviews. Contact each candidate to schedule an interview time and arrange for any transportation needs.
  • Mail information packet – Send each candidate information to help them prepare for the interview and make an informed decision. Examples of materials to include in the packet include: the Association’s annual report, budget, strategic plan, staffing information, program information, Association publications, job description, benefits, job application, and compensation package.
  • Develop behavioral interview questions – A list of 10 to 15 behavioral interview questions (see “Sample Behavioral Questions” on previous page) should be developed that focus on the position requirements (see “Determine Position Requirements,” Section 3). Determine the role of the Committee members and who will lead the interview.
  • Develop candidate interview form – To ensure consistency, a candidate interview form (see “Candidate Interview Form” on previous page) should be developed for the Committee to record candidate information.
  • Review resumes -- Read each candidate resume prior to the interview. Make notes on the candidate review form of any items in the resume where you need further clarification.


  • Create a friendly atmosphere – Establish rapport and make the candidate feel welcome. Introduce all of the Committee members in attendance. Provide an overview of what you would like to accomplish during the interview.
  • Be consistent -- Ask each candidate the same interview questions. Avoid questions that are not related to job experience or performance.
  • Listen -- Listen attentively and let the candidate do most of the talking. Less than 30 percent of the Committee’s time should be spent talking (e.g., asking questions, clarifying points, providing information on the position or association, and answering questions). Focus on what is being said and how it is being said. Be mindful of nonverbal communication.
  • Take notes – Write down key words and ideas provided by the candidate that relate to the job requirements. The notes will help you recall what each candidate said during the interview. After the interview you will have more time to rate each position requirement and write a more detailed summary.
  • Discuss the position and association structure -- Be honest and upfront about the position, the association’s vision, and any challenges.
  • Solicit questions – Ask if the candidate has any questions about the position or the association.
  • Obtain references – Request that a list of four to six business references (past supervisors, association leadership, members, subordinates, and colleagues) be provided before the next round of interviews.
  • Compensation – Ensure the candidate’s compensation requirements are within the association’s budget.
  • Close the interview – Let the candidate know the next steps in the interview process and when the Committee is scheduled to make a decision.


  • Complete interview notes – While the interview is still fresh in your mind, write a more detailed summary. Rate the candidate on each of the position requirements. Because post interview documents can be reviewed as evidence in lawsuits, record only job- related information and not your opinions.
  • Debrief – Schedule time after the interview, or at the end of the day, to review each candidate and discuss strengths, weaknesses, and any concerns.

Top Candidate Interviews

If there are two or more top candidates for the position, a final round of interviews will help you to clarify certain points and gather additional information. This is a great opportunity for the Committee to see each candidate again, determine the potential association fit, and to reach consensus.

  • Invite spouses to attend -- The Committee may want to invite the spouse of any out-of-town candidates to accompany them on the trip to become familiar with the community and housing options.
  • Ask more detailed behavioral Conduct Interviewsquestions -- Behavioral questioning should focus, in more detail, on the technical aspects of the position.
  • Solicit questions – Ask if the candidate has any additional questions about the position or the association.
  • Discuss candidate interest, availability, and compensation package – Determine the candidates level in moving forward with the position if an offer is made. Find out when the candidate is available to accept and start in the position. Ask the candidate about their compensation requirements.
  • Close the interview – Tell the candidate when the Committee will have a final decision.

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