5 steps to apply successfully for a volunteer position

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Volunteering in organizations is not a matter of showing up and then you’re in. You may have to go through a hiring process which involves screening before you’re accepted as a volunteer. They do this because they have a responsibility to uphold standards of service; they need to protect the people they serve. It also ensures that the work is the right fit for you, the volunteer.

If you’re thinking of volunteering but don’t know how to start, read on:

  1. Choose where to apply

    Make the best of your time and talents. There are thousands of opportunities around you! Start by:
    Knowing what you’re good at – Focus on what you can do to help an organization or a cause. Assess your skills, experience, temperament and resources. Make a list and match your skills to volunteer activities.

    Knowing 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 to get involved. For example, if you are skilled at numbers and know basic accounting, you might want to get involved in the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP). The program helps individuals file their simple tax returns for free.

  2. Look for opportunities

    Find people or groups that share your passion. Start within your community. Check neighbourhood or community centre bulletins, search online or use your network. Ask family, friends, or someone from an immigrant-serving organization you’ve met if they know of interesting opportunities for you. Read Should you volunteer during the pandemic? 5 steps to help out safely to see some opportunities around MB.

    Assess the volunteer want ads if they fit your expectations. Check the responsibilities, location and the time commitment required.

  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. Check with the organization before applying for these documents.

  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 common job 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. Greet people warmly, be polite and attentive.

    Answer behavioural questions using STAR – STAR stands for situation, task, action and result. Follow this pattern when answering questions. This will keep your answer clear, concise and relevant.


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

  6.  
    Express how you can contribute to the organization clearly – Explain how your interests and skills will contribute to the organization’s goals. Emphasize your advocacy. Mention your previous volunteer experience and your positive contributions so that they will have an idea of what you are capable of doing.

    Ask questions – This shows your commitment to performing 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 time commitment

Stay positive and you’ll do well. Good luck!
 
Article updated October 22, 2020.
 
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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