Prepping for a job interview can be nerve-racking – not just if you’re an interviewee, but also if you’re the interviewer. The most valuable assets of any organization with a purpose are its people, and that’s why hiring is so important. When it comes to a nonprofit’s leadership, the stakes are even higher.

In any position, from Executive Director to openings in fundraising and development, you’ll want candidates whose purpose and values match those of an organization’s. There are specific executive director interview questions to ask for leadership roles. Specifics matter.


Here are 5 excellent executive director interview questions interviewers will want to ask leadership candidates:


1. “How do you see the organization changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?”

Why it’s important: You don’t want an Executive Director who’s comfortable with the status quo – that’s just not good leadership. In order for a nonprofit to be a success, a leader not only needs to be passionate and knowledgeable about the organization’s purpose, they need to know how to leverage a community’s interest in a new way.


Nonprofit Executive Headhunters
“You want someone with a vision. That’s why we ask about the differences they anticipate and how they see themselves shaping meaningful change in the future. A candidate’s answers speak volumes about their ability to drive results.” – Paul Eisenstein, Nonprofit Practice Leader, Y Scouts






2. “How would you pitch our role in the community at a public meeting?”

Why it’s important: An executive director needs to be able to represent the organization in the public eye as well as in the office. Asking the candidate to pitch the organization like they would while speaking in public demonstrates whether or not they are capable of holding a leadership role.


3. “What are your three biggest accomplishments?”

Why it’s important: … The answer to this question speaks volumes.


Nonprofit Executive Recruiter

“I always look for nonprofit leaders committed to driving results. This question helps me understand if a leader thinks incrementally or is committed to moving mountains. Plus, I get some insight into what the person considers successful. For them, is success a good project, learning something new, or earning a certain amount of money?” – Brian Mohr, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of Y Scouts





4. “Give me one word that describes you the best?”

Why it’s important: This is a quick way to evaluate the candidate’s character. Nobody’s personality can be fully summed up in one word, so the word they pick is very important. It shows you what they consider their most positive attribute.


5. “What other Executive Directors or philanthropic leaders do you look up to?”

Why it’s important: A person’s heroes can tell you a lot about who they are now and who they aspire to be. It also tells you whose leadership and management styles they would like to emulate as the Executive Director of the company.


What executive director interview questions have you been asked? Contact us to share your comments.

Y Scouts is a purpose-based leadership search firm that unites exceptional nonprofit organizations with exceptional leaders. Contact us if you are looking to find an exceptional leader at your nonprofit organization. Or, to be considered for exceptional leadership opportunities with our clients, please take the first step by joining the Y Scouts Leadership Community.


Working with Y Scouts is a breath of fresh air. The entire process – starting at first contact – was personal, comfortable and engaging. Y Scouts never made me feel like I was part of a transaction; I felt like I was working with a friend and an ally throughout the entire process, who kept my best interests in mind at all times. I felt like my recruiter truly took the time to get to know me, my motivations and what type of opportunity would help me grow and succeed. Y Scouts helped me move into an incredible new role, and I am thankful everyday that Y Scouts helped connect me to an organization and position that align perfectly with my skills and personal passions. I would absolutely recommend working with Y Scouts to any organization with a true commitment to finding the right leaders.