4 Primary Interview Selection Criteria

I am quizzed sometimes by candidates as to why they did not get hired. The most logical thing to do is to ask for feedback from the interviewer. The interviewer(s) is the best source of the actual answer. Sometimes, however, they are unwilling or unable to provide any helpful information. When I work directly with clients and candidates, I encourage them to consider these 4 primary categories of selection criteria: Communication, Skills, Presence, and Energy.


How are you communicating with the employer of interest? Did you apply through the appropriate channels even if you scored an interview with a higher up in the company? Is your resume up to date and error free? Did you submit a cover letter that provides clear evidence of how your abilities match the job description? Do you have 3 pre-qualified references with correct contact information?

In the interview itself, is the conversation a good balance of careful listening and thoughtful responses? Did you share your value proposition that matches the needs of the organization? Did you look the interviewer in the eye, respond clearly and calmly to all questions, admitting if you did not know an answer? Did you ask relevant questions that are not easily answered by a quick perusal of the organization website? Did you write a prompt thank-you note mentioning again why your skills are a match for this position? Is there any other follow-up on your part that might differentiate you from the competition?


Skills are the most obvious selection criteria of the 4 defined here. Do your skills, abilities and experience exactly mirror the position description or are there things you will have to be willing to learn? Have you been totally honest in answering all questions? Have you done your homework on the company? Do you know others within the company? Can you make further connections with your network and offer new ideas that might benefit the employer?


Did you dress appropriately for the interview? Are your shoes shined and did you wear your best smile? Were you well rested the night before, arriving 15 minutes early allowing plenty of time for traffic and unexpected delays? Did you warmly greet the receptionist and all employees you see? Are you at ease or nervously drumming your fingers on the desk? Are you alert and aware of the office environment and how you might fit in? Did you gratefully accept a water or coffee or other food while waiting for or as part of the interview process? I know I always appreciate it when a candidate at least offers to clear his/her dishes or recycle his/her water bottle. It is just common courtesy.

I mistakenly wore red once to my workspace unknowingly alarming my colleagues who all knew that I was wearing the team colors of the employer’s arch rivals. I have now learned to try and wear school colors or other appropriate attire when I am meeting potential clients.

A well-known local organization website clearly shows all the development team of about 40 young women who all have long blonde hair. I am more experienced, older and have brown hair, but I am thinking I may not fit in there.


How vibrant is the work environment? Is it quiet with cubicles or are there bells ringing and music blasting or something in between? In your interview are you reserved or enthusiastic and bouncing off your chair? Do you bring a burst of energy to the interview that shows your enthusiasm and readiness to contribute at a high level?

It is always wise to be yourself. Do your homework in advance of accepting any position. You don’t want any unwelcome surprises and neither does your potential employer.

Consider these 4: Communication, Skills, Presence, and Energy and good luck in finding the position that is just the right match for you.


Linda Wise McNay, Ph.D. is owner/founder of Our Fundraising Search, an Atlanta-based fundraising consulting firm which helps busy nonprofit boards and CEO’s successfully fill critical development positions.