In a competitive market to secure operating funds, many businesses -- whether for-profit or not -- have turned to hiring professional grant writers. These specialists meet with staff; build an understanding about the task or project at hand; and draft the grant application. When hiring a grant writer, keep in mind that you'll be looking for certain skills that a typical writer may not have. Ask the right questions when interviewing to fill this critical position.
A grant writer, like any employee, must fit into the culture of your firm. Ask standard interview questions -- such as "How do you handle job conflicts with peers?" and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" -- to determine whether the candidate has the interpersonal skills critical in the position. Probe with communications-oriented questions, as a grant writer must be a good listener and presenter, and ask open-ended questions. Inquire about the candidate's career goals and expectations, because grant management often spreads over months and years.
Ask specific questions about experience to clarify and fill in gaps on a candidate's resume. If a candidate lists grant-writing experience on her resume, ask questions such as "How many successful grants have you written?" and "What types of entities did you prefer to petition for grants and why?" These questions will help you determine a candidate's range of experience and separate a candidate who has written a few grants from one who is truly a grant writer. Ask personal questions, such as "How do you handle stress in grant writing?" to verify that she has the tools necessary to press on when stressful situations arise.
Ask process-oriented questions to discern whether the writer thoroughly understands grant writing. Start with an open-ended question, such as "Generally speaking, what is the process of writing a grant from beginning to end?" Listen for critical details, such as references to deadlines and the organization's needs. Discuss and inquire about technological experience, such as experience with Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Project, or ability to use proprietary software. Inquire about research skills with questions such as "What specific research tools do you utilize when applying for a grant?" Listen for a detailed methodology, not generalities.
Ask questions to discover what your candidate knows about your industry. Most strong candidates will research the industry before the interview and be able to give effective responses. Inquire about "big picture" concepts, such as "What do you expect the role of grants in funding our organization to be?" knowing that the candidate doesn't have all of the information available to completely answer the question. Big-picture questions allow you to see whether the candidate can see beyond the task at hand to the organization's mission statement and goals.
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