Review of ‘A Conversation With a Purpose’

This is a reprint of a review of my book ‘A Conversation With a Purpose: A Practical Guide To Interviewing Prospective Volunteers’, from the March 2010 edition of Volunteering Magazine and reprinted with permission.

A Conversation With a Purpose: A Practical Guide To Interviewing Prospective VolunteersWe liked the layout of this book, which is written by Kathleen McCleskey and Cheryle N Yallen.

It is divided up into eight clear and concise chapters and is packed with practical advice and tools and techniques.

The worksheets, forms to use, and mock dialogue for an interview are likely to be particularly useful.

In Getting Started, the authors outline some of the key elements they believe must be in place before the interview gets under way. This might seem like stating the obvious but it really does give structure to this process. The authors also examine the importance of motivation and communication.

In the chapter ‘The Participants’, McCleskey and Yallen look at expectations and how the potential volunteer can actually make a difference to the organisation and who in the organisation is involved in the interview process.

“The key to interviewing is ensuring the interviewer, whether paid or volunteer, is properly trained in effective interviewing skills.”

‘Interviewer Traps’ turns the spotlight on to possible barriers, including the ‘halo effect’ which happens when the potential volunteer has something in common with the interviewer, or stereotyping when the interviewer allows their own prejudices to impact on the interview, with first impressions generally formed in the first 30 seconds of the interview.

Another common trap is language, when someone may be ‘verbally affluent’ and using too much ‘agency jargon’. Time is also picked out by the authors as a crucial factor. They believe the downfalls here are because interviews are sometimes squeezed into whatever slots are available
in the day or hastily put together.

The authors go on to examine the potential volunteer and aspects such as their concerns about the interviewer or organisation if they have not done their research ahead of the interview.