Initial interviews may be conducted by the agent, the chair of the CPC, the agent and the chair of the CPC or by the entire CPC.  A two-tiered system will be utilized for conducting and documenting interviews.

  • Familiar Community Member (FCM) or Past Program Participant (PPP) – complete a list of five required open-ended questions as part of the volunteer application packet “Volunteer Questionnaire”or complete a face-to-face interview with the Agent, CPC Chair or the CPC.
    • Familiar Community Members are those with no history of participation as a volunteer in the specific program but are well known to the agent or CPC Chair.
    • Past Program Participants are former program participants who were previously involved in the specific program in your county and who are known to either the Agent or the CPC Chair.
  • New applicants – Require a face-to-face interview with the agent, CPC chair or CPC Committee. New applicants must verbally answer the five required open-ended questions (“Volunteer Questionnaire”) plus the additional five open-ended questions (“Volunteer Questionnaire II.”)
    • New applicants are those with no previous contact with the program; are unfamiliar to the agent or to one or more members of the CPC.

Secondary interviews are conducted with yellow category applicants.  Individuals whose applications have been classified as yellow must have a face-to-face interview with the entire CPC.  In addition to the ten questions asked of new applicants, the Criminal History Questions and the Driving History Questions must also be asked, if they pertain to the issues related to the yellow classification.  In addition, any topics, incidents or situations which the CPC or agent wants to probe should be included in the interview.  (Examples of those questions and question types are included in this chapter under “In-depth Interview Questions”.)

Criminal History interviews are conducted with individuals whose application has been classified as “yellow” due to criminal convictions or a series of incidents related to criminal history.  The questions included in the criminal history interviews serve as a basis for probing these topics.

Driving History interviews are conducted with individuals whose application has been classified as “yellow” due to the number of moving vehicle incidents identified on the background check.  The questions included in the driving history interviews serve as a basis for exploring these issues.

Interviewing:

A Tool to avoid Poor Volunteer Placement Decisions

This information is provided to the client protection committee to assist with the volunteer screening and interview process.

  • Utilize a Volunteer Position Description developed specifically for this role.
  • Follow successful volunteer screening procedures.
  • Collect, check and document references.
  • Practice effective interviewing techniques.
  • Insist upon a good “fit” between the volunteer’s interests, skills and abilities and those required for the position in which the volunteer will be placed.
  • Selection decisions should be based upon accurate, complete, factual information.

Why Interview?

Interviews provide an opportunity for the Client Protection Committee (or the agent) to meet face-to-face with prospective volunteers.  Interviews provide both interviewers and interviewees with an opportunity to obtain and exchange needed information.  The youth protection/risk management committee needs to make sure that the prospective volunteer shares the organization’s vision, mission, values and goals; will complement the organization and the volunteer team; and will be comfortable with the organization’s expectations and culture. The volunteer needs to determine whether the volunteer activity will be rewarding, fulfilling and a good use of available time, resources, interests, and abilities.

During an interview, the interviewer has the opportunity to:

  • gather additional information from the applicant
  • obtain nonverbal information
  • probe some information or topics more deeply
  • seek both positive and negative characteristics that could influence the placement of the applicant in this position.

Meanwhile, the volunteer candidate has an opportunity to:

  • learn more information about the organization
  • get a taste of the organization’s “culture”
  • develop an understanding of the position requirements, and determine if s/he wants to complete the selection and placement processes.

Conducting Effective Interviews 

Effective interviewing techniques require planning and preparation.  Follow these steps to ensure that you get the most out of each interview:

  • Do your homework: prepare interview questions in advance.
  • Read the candidate’s application and contact references prior to scheduling an interview.
  • Conduct interviews in a private, quiet room with no distractions.
  • Ask the same set of core questions of all applicants.
  • Obey the 80/20 rule: applicants should talk 80% of the time, interviewers talk 20%.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Ask questions in themes based upon the prospective volunteer’s application and the position description.
  • Allow candidates ample time to answer each question; don’t let them off of the hook.
  • Probe deeper to obtain complete and accurate information.
  • Identify “cracks” and potential “red flags.”
  • Only ask questions which relate to the potential volunteer position.
  • Warm up by beginning with broader, easier questions (such as those about their likes, hobbies, etc.) and then focus on more technical questions.
  • Conclude by asking if the interviewee has any questions.

Preparing for an Interview

  1. The interviewer begins by reviewing the volunteer position description and becoming familiar with the responsibilities and requirements outlined therein. 
  2. Position responsibilities associated with specific risk factors are to be identified.  These factors can be addressed during the interview as core questions (For example, if the position involves direct contact with youth, the interviewer can prepare questions that screen for possible abusive tendencies. Questions which focus on past experiences with children and appropriate or successful discipline techniques are in order).
  3. The third step is to develop (and write down) a set of core questions which will be asked of all candidates.  The core questions should be duplicated and inserted into the front of each candidate’s volunteer file.  (The candidate’s answers can be recorded during the interview and filed.)  Core questions help ensure consistency among all interviews for the same position.  Core questions focus upon determining if the candidate:
    1. supports the version and mission of the organization  (and are therefore committed to serving the organization and its programs)
    2. is able and willing to fulfill the responsibilities of the position
    3. possesses the necessary requirements and experiences
  4. The fourth step is to re-read (or scan) the volunteer application packet.  Write down separate questions to be asked of each individual, based upon the application and any voids which need to be filled or personal experiences that could be expanded upon.  (Remember that it is possible that a candidate may actually be a better “fit” for a different position than the one that for which application is being made.)
  5. The interviewer needs to be familiar with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and understand which type of questions may be legally asked and which should be avoided.  (Examples are included in this section.)
  6. Schedule the interviews in a room that is private and comfortable.  Both the interviewer and interviewee should be seated at a table.  Making available hot or cold beverages demonstrates attention to detail and the importance of making the candidate feel comfortable and at ease.
  7. Schedule enough time for interviews to allow an effective exchange of information.  Save enough time for the candidate to ask questions about the organization, the position, and its specific responsibilities. 

Who should conduct the interview?

  • Interviews may be conducted by an individual (agent or CPC Chair), the agent and the CPC Chair together, or a small group (CPC). 
  • When utilizing a small group (the CPC) remember how intimidating a group of people may seem to a single candidate.)  If utilizing a committee, try not to include more than three people as interviewers, all of whom have clearly identified roles and questions to ask.
  • Committees are appropriately utilized when interviewing multiple people for a limited number of positions.
  • If utilizing a committee, one or more volunteers who are actively involved in the same or a similar volunteer role should be included.

Red Flag / Warning Sign Interview Responses for Youth Volunteers

Determine how the applicant can or does relate to children and also the nature of the applicant’s peer relation. Many child molesters have extremely limited contact with their own peer group.  This list was developed to indicate those “red flags”, or factors which should raise concern during a volunteer’s application, interview, screening, or supervision.

  • Unmarried and has had no significant “age-appropriate” relationships.
  • Engages in primarily shallow or dependent relationships.
  • Activities and interests primarily involve children.  Absence of meaningful relationships with peers.
  • Individual was a victim of child abuse (especially sexual child abuse.)
  • Immature.  Inappropriate dependence on parents, spouse, career, or affiliation.  Unable to accept responsibility or make decisions.
  • Surrounds self with children.  Fearful or cautious of adult world.
  • Overly anxious to be accepted and placed in a volunteer role.
  • Not concerned about the specific role to be placed in or its responsibilities, just wants to “work with children.”
  • Demonstrates eagerness or willingness to bend the rules for overnight visits.
  • Verbalizes a preference for children with specific physical characteristics.  (For example, gender, age, race, build, or complexion preferences.)
  • Unstable or erratic employment and/or residence history.  Premature separation or dishonorable discharge from military service.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Abuse of alcohol or drugs.
  • Criminal record involving children or misdemeanors which suggest immaturity.
  • Gravitates toward vulnerable, frail, or emotionally dependent children.
  • Poor social adjustment during childhood or adolescence.
  • Poor adjustment to home life in childhood or adolescence.
  • Candidate already has located or identified a child and asks the organization to accept the child (and therefore legitimize the relationship).

Other than individuals who have a documented history as a child abuser or victimizer, a person should not be screened out based upon any one of these factors alone.  Many of these characteristics are also commonly found in individuals who are good role models for children.  A pattern of these “red flags,” however, should be cause of concern.

“Red flag interview responses for youth volunteers” were adapted from original materials developed by Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America.

Interview Documentation

  1. Take notes during the interview.
    1. Notes should reflect responses to questions, mannerisms, attire, punctuality, level of comfort, questions asked, etc.
  2. Record only objective, factual, non-judgmental comments.
    1. Don’t write: “The interviewee looked like a tramp.”
      Do write: “The interviewee was unclean, unshaven, and wore dirty clothes.”
    2. Don’t write: “The applicant just wants to form a horse club to make money.”
      Do write: “The applicant is a professional horse trainer who gives riding lessons to several 4-H members. The applicant acknowledged the desire to become a 4-H club leader because she is already working with 4-H members. The applicant has no previous experience with youth development organizations.”
  3. Document only non-biased comments that are related to the volunteer position.
    1. Don’t write: “The interviewee is a strong United Methodist.”
      Do write: “The interviewee is actively involved in volunteering in the United MethodistChurch.”
    2. Don’t write: “The applicant is a smoker.”
      Do write: “The applicant acknowledged an inability to volunteer in a smoke-free environment.”
    3. Don’t write: “I heard that the candidate lost his driver’s license after being arrested for a DUI.”
      Do write: “The candidate does not have a valid driver’s license.”
      “The sheriff’s department confirmed during a background check that the candidate had a suspended license as a result of being found guilty of DUI on (date).”                             
  4. Document responses to the core questions that were asked of all applicants.
  5. Forward the results of the interview to the CPC (if applicable) and place in the applicant’s volunteer personnel file.

Ineffective Interviewing Principles

  • Being unprepared.
  • Being unprofessional (being late, distracted, interrupted, or discourteous).
  • Making promises you have no authority to make and cannot guarantee to keep.
  • Asking questions that are unrelated to the performance required for the position.
  • Doing it all yourself.
  • “Priming” or “leading” the candidate.
  • Allowing interviewer bias to enter the setting or the decision.