5 steps to apply successfully for a volunteer position

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Volunteering is not a matter of raising your hand and then you’re in. You have to know where to volunteer so that you can make the best of your time and talents. You also have to go through a hiring process where you have to undergo screening before you can be accepted as a volunteer. Organizations do this because they have a responsibility to uphold certain standards of service. They also need to protect the people they serve. The process ensures that the work is the right fit for both the organization and the volunteer.

As an applicant, you have to plan, prepare and sell yourself in order to get the job. If you’re thinking of volunteering but don’t know how to start, read on:

  1. Choose where to apply

    There thousands of volunteer opportunities around you! It can be overwhelming to decide which ones you want to be involved in. To start:
    Know what you’re good at – Focus on what you can offer to help an organization or a cause. Assess your expertise, experience, knowledge, skills and resources. Use Discover tools on the Volunteer Canada site to help you in this process. For example, the skills self-assessment checklist can help you match skills to specific volunteer activities.

    Know what you’re passionate about – Do you want to see a cleaner world? Have a soft spot for animals? Or do you want to help other immigrants? Connect your skills and knowledge with the causes that you believe in and look for ways you can get involved. For example, you are skilled at numbers and know basic accounting. You also want to help the poor. You might want to get involved in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP).

  2. Look for opportunities

    Find people or groups who share your passion. Start within your community or neighbourhood. Search online using Volunteer Manitoba or simply search for “Volunteer opportunities in ____ (ex: Winnipeg)” on Google. You can also use your network to search. Ask family, friends, or someone from an immigrant-serving organization you’ve met if they know of interesting opportunities for you. Read 5 best places to volunteer in Manitoba for more ideas.

    Assess the volunteer want ads if they fit your expectations – see if it is the type of work that you can do, the location is convenient, it fits your schedule, etc.

  3. Prepare the requirements

    They may ask for a resume or ask you to fill out an application. In any case, having your latest targeted resume ready will come in handy. Be ready with two to three references. Some organizations may ask for a Child Abuse Registry Check, or Police Record Check but this will depend on the nature of the volunteer work you’re applying for. You may apply for these documents after the interview.

  4. Prepare for the interview

    Learn about the organization – Visit the organization’s website to get more information. Read about their activities and know more about their mission, vision and goals. See how they align with yours.

    Anticipate questions – Practise answering some interview questions so that you won’t be nervous on the day of the interview. See some of the sample questions from the video below:

    Top 10 volunteer interview questions from Mock questions

  5. Ace the interview

    Make a good first impression – Come on time. Be confident and show enthusiasm. Do this through your words and body language. For example, greet people warmly, be polite and attentive. Also have a firm handshake and maintain eye contact.

    Answer behavioural questions with STAR – STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. Follow this pattern when answering questions. This keeps your answer clear, concise and targeted.

    How to succeed in your job interview: Behavioural Questions from EngVid

    Express how you can contribute to the organization clearly – Explain how your interests and skills can contribute to the organization. Emphasize your advocacy. Mention previous volunteer experience if you have. Outline some of your positive contributions so that they will have an idea of what you are capable of doing.

    Ask questions – This shows your commitment to doing a good job. You can ask about:

    • orientation and training
    • flexibility about schedule changes (especially if you have shift work or are actively applying to jobs)
    • the minimum time commitment

Just stay positive and you’ll do well. Goodluck!

Sources: Volunteer interviews: 5 tips for sharing your motivation, Olivia Ryan/Basil Sadiq, Volunteer match.org; Pan Canadian Youth Opportunities Platform, Volunteer Canada; Volunteer Screening: The interview, Verified Volunteers; and Volunteer interview tips, Marcy Brinkley, Livestrong. Retrieved January 10, 2019.

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