How we recruited a Movement Builder

Our most extensive interviewing process to date.

A watering can with Chayn’s logo is watering a pink coloured brain that is sprouting flowers, leaves and a heart. The brain is on top of a globe.

Chayn has always put movement building at the heart of our work but we just never had the capacity to deliver on those ambitions and values. There’s never enough time for me to prioritise follow up, while I’m grappling with fundraising, organisational management, outreach and content creation. Our Executive Team (made of rotating volunteers on a 4 month cycle) are busy with community management.

When we got funding to increase our impact and capacity to deepen our relationships, we knew we wanted to hire a Movement Builder. I began researching for job descriptions and interview processes by posting in activist lists, nonprofit groups and searching on job boards. I found a few but they were brief and given the importance of this senior role — we wanted to choose carefully.

I’m not sure we got it completely right. The process was intense. There were far too many questions and we expected people to have prepared. We made a lot of effort to make the interviews feel warm, inviting and relaxed too (is that even possible for an interview?).

We asked the finalists about their thoughts on the interview process and here are some paraphrased notes about it:

  • Overall: You put a lot of effort into making me feel comfortable. It was a speedy interview process — positive but also intense especially while preparing for this while juggling with a job nd other responsibilities . The interview process was a nice indication of the pace of work and like a mini induction as I got to meet many members of the team. It was helpful to have interview slots outside of working hours.

The recruitement process had three stages and was completed within three weeks after the application deadline:

  • Job application with CV, cover letter and an example of work.

Below, I share the process and questions we asked. Hope it is helpful.

Job description

It tooke me a whole day to write the job description and various trustees and team members edited it once I was done. We had lovely feedback about the job description. It’s long, and detailed. You can read it here.

We covered the following aspects:

  • Logistics: salary, reporting structure, days, holiday and pension entitlement

Candidates were asked to send:

  1. CV (no more than 2 pages). This was to understand their background, and the kind of organisations they had worked and volunteered at.

Interview — first stage

We invited four candidates to the interviews. We had an hour reserved for these discussions with an ideal time of 50 mins so we could do a quick de-brief amongst the interviewers.

We had so many questions we wanted to ask and there wasn’t enough time so we had to get crafty with the format. This resulted in a more intense-than-usual interview but given the role, we felt the candidates should be able to deal with it.

The interview was divided into many sections that matched aspects of the role. Each section had two kinds of questions:

  • Open: The candidate had the choice of how much to say.

Sometimes we found candidates answered open questions at so much length that we would cut similar questions that would be coming up, or moved them to the rapid fire round to save time. The rapid fire rounds did come as a surprise to most candidates. We felt like we got really interesting answers but we noted that most candidates felt unsure of how they did in that aspect.

Below is our script for the interview.

Check-in (5 mins)

  • We welcome the candidate and explain how the process would run.

Background and motivation (5 mins)

We loved your application and cover letter. We’re going to ask you a few questions about what made you apply.

  • Can you tell us about your background? What do you think you are suitable for this role? Why did you apply to this role?

Role Specific Questions (20 mins)

Strategy development and delivery

  • In your experience, from either implementation or observation — what are the ways movements grow, shift power, and create change? And all of this in — especially with limited resources.

Rapid fire

  • How would you identify movement-building opportunities?

Partnerships

  • Who does Chayn partner with right now, and who could we partner with (if we don’t)?

Rapid fire

  • What could Chayn bring to a partnership? What do we have to offer?

Community building and storytelling

  • What’s the most powerful form of storytelling you’ve come cross? It could be a campaign, a project or a physical space. What made it powerful?

Rapid fire

  • Keeping in mind that our work reaches people across the world, what techniques would make someone in our community feel like Chayn is talking to them?

Policy and advocacy

  • Tell us about a time you changed your mind on a topic because of something you read, heard or saw. Tell us why.

Approach to work (15 mins)

We all have our methods of managing our workload and how we approach problems. These questions are so we can understand yours!

  • Tell a story about your life where you have used creativity when things were not going to plan!

Rapid fire

  • How do you keep track of your work?

Logistics and work ethic (5 mins)

These last set of questions are about our values and the way we work. We want to make sure this is a good fit for you and us.

  • Chayn has a particular way of working as it is a volunteer-run organisation. Our team works on Sundays and evenings as people are in different parts of the world. Our emails can come out of hours. Though your project would not involve a lot of daily coordination with the volunteer community but you would be expected to engage and manage many volunteers, we wanted to discuss if you have experience working in this way or it would bring up any concerns for you.

Rapid fire

  • We work online all the time. How do you keep yourself motivated within this environment?

Check out (5 mins)

  • Do you have any questions for us?

Interview —final stage

We invited two candidaets to the final stage. It was hard to come up with the top two as most candidates offered a different kind of approach and moving insights into movement building. Once we found our top 2, we invited them to complete a task, which you can see below. We sent them a successful proposal we had won for a research grant with a partner organisation we had never worked with before. They had half a week to prepare this.

They sent their proposals the day before their interviews. Since this role was so important we got a number of interviewers involved from trustees to volunteers and staff members. We had 4–5 interviewers for this stage. We wanted everyone’s perspective in helping us select the right candidate but also wanted them to get a feel for what it was like working with Chayn. It’s full on!

We all divided what questions we were going to ask and took turns to take notes too. Everyone had read through the submitted documents and was asked to put down their observations and any questions they had around the task on the interview Google document.

You’ll find the script for our interview below.

Check-in (7 mins)

  • Introduce everyone on the call.

Task (25 mins)

Ask to present the task (20 mins)

We might ask you questions as you’re going through it.

This part was their chance to show us how they thought through the proposal, and considered different aspects. They could ask us questions throughout to clarify unknowns and we probed them on certain aspects. We wanted it to be a discussion rather than a test. Could we imagine working with this person? What would their approach add to our team? How could we complement each other?

While this discussion was happening, we encouraged interviewers to take notes on their observatione in our shared Google document.

Post-task questions (25 mins)

  • What do you value in your work relationships?

Check out (5 mins)

  • Do you have any questions for us?

Building communities. Feminist. Pakistani. Founder @chaynHQ & CEO fighting gender-based violence with tech. Championing openness. Forbes & MIT Under 30/35.