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Recruiting Volunteers Part 6: Screen Your Candidates

Asking a Person to be a Volunteer

By Daniel C. Olsen, Senior Consultant, Special Districts Association of Oregon

Recruiting Principle 7 (screening the candidate) and 8 (assessing the candidate) involve determining how they can best fit into your organization or agency.  The relationship between the volunteer and organization should be mutually beneficial. Carefully screening and assessing the candidate helps to achieve the goal of bringing quality volunteers into your organization.

Principle 7 (screening the candidate) evaluates the candidate meeting the requirements of the organization.  Principle 8 (assessing the candidate) evaluates the candidate traits and talents and how they can best contribute to the success of the organization and satisfy their needs and desires as a volunteer.

Consider Principle 7 and 8 as a two-step process.  While this may seem time-consuming, the purpose is more emphasis on the early stages of the recruiting process rather than later.  Moving too quickly at the beginning may result in volunteer dissatisfaction and leaving the organization later.

In this article, we address Principle 7.  In the following article we will explain assessing the candidate (Principle 8).

Why screen volunteer candidates?

Screening of your candidates is vital to your organization.

If the candidates become volunteers, they will represent your organization to the community.  In your planning, you identified who you are seeking as a volunteer member.  Your goal is to bring quality volunteers into your organization or agency.  Your volunteers represent your “brand”, that factor which makes your organization stand out above the others.

The types of screening which should be done are based on the needs of organization.  You will decide what is needed.  Certainly, there is a vast difference between the one-day volunteer who helps with the clean-up of a local park the volunteer that provides emergency response 24 hours a day/365 day a year.

You decide on the type and level of screening based on the needs of your agency and tasks to be performed by the volunteer.

What screening should be considered?

Consider three different levels of screening: basic, advanced and specialized.  Screenings at each level require time and funding.

Again, consider the activities being performed, the liability those activities they create. These can include the risk to your” brand” or reputation and the degree of exposure to risk in such areas as physical damage, legal liability, financial liability and confidentiality of information.

Basic screening can include:

  • Interview with the candidate.
  • Interview with references provided by the candidate.  You may consider asking each reference to provide the name of an individual who knows the candidate and interview them also. 
  • Task Performance of typical skills required of the position.
  • Education background.
  • Employers (current and former).
  • Other organizations the candidate volunteered for and been associated with currently or in the past.

Advanced screening can include:

  • Driving is operation of vehicle required
  • Credit/financial
  • Medical examination beyond task performance (i.e., spine/back, heart, pulmonary, general muscular strength and flexibility)

Specialized screening can include:

  • Psychological
  • Drug
  • Criminal history
  • Fingerprint
  • Polygraph

Prior to any screening, the candidate should be advised of the specific screening, the reason for it and sign a written document authorizing it by giving his permission.

Who does the screening of candidates?

The screening should be done by experienced and qualified personnel. The Volunteer Coordinator, designee, could screen candidates at the basic and advanced levels.  Consider retired personnel with human resources management or law enforcement experience.

Medical screening should only be done by licensed medical personnel.

Specialized screening should only be done by individuals with the proper credentials to perform the screenings selected.

Key Points

  • Your goal is to recruit quality volunteers for your organization or agency.
  • Once a volunteer, they become your representative in the community.
  • Use the proper screening to achieve your purpose.
  • You make the choice on which screening levels are appropriate for your organization,
  • Be thorough and consistent in whatever screening process you utilize.
  • Have the screening done by experienced and qualified personnel,
  • Have signed consent of the candidate being screened.


Are you trying to recruit Board Members for your agency?

SDAO has a great resource: “The Board Member Recruitment Toolkit”

Check it out at