How to NOT Get a Nonprofit Job

Job searching is about as fun as getting your teeth pulled. Ranking even higher than that on my list of things to avoid are revising my resume and writing cover letters. I despise the former and take twelve hundred years to complete the latter. To say the least, I'm no pro. Therefore I'm always seeking advice and tips on how to improve for when I need to put these skills to use.

Recently I came across two helpful articles - one on Nonprofit Quarterly and the other on Daily Kos - with advice on applying for jobs in the nonprofit sector. Here's how to best ignore the sage advice offered:

Send the exact same resume to Organization B as you sent to Organization A.

Do this especially if the missions of the two orgs are as drastically different as the roles for which you are applying. Don't tailor your resume to demonstrate how your past experiences and acquired skills will transfer. That would require the hiring manager to make assumptions and thus ignore your application. Obviously, she'd rather select from the dozens of resumes on her desk than waste time with yours.

But, if you actually want the job: Make sure that your resume highlights accomplishments and skills from previous roles that directly align with the responsibilities stated in the job description.

While you're on a roll, send the exact same cover letter too.

This will really get the hiring manager's blood boiling. Keep it as industry, sector and company agnostic as you can. Don't state why you're specifically interested in that organization or role; and definitely don't explain how your skills will allow you to deliver on that organization's mission. Oh and if you really want to go all out, simply forget to copy and paste Organization B's name where you originally typed in Organization A's.

But, if you actually want the job:  Take time to tailor the cover letter to the organization and the role. The author of the NPQ article writes, "Mentioning what you know about the company’s reputation and why the company’s mission is important to you and to the world is a great way to entice an employer." Explaining why you're passionate about the mission will apparently win you far more brownie points than talking about how "results-driven" you are.

Use generic and vague words to describe the skills you bring to the table.

Recommended phrases include "strong organizational skills" and "an asset to your company." Feel free to do a Google search of other strong resume words and plop them any and everywhere throughout your resume and cover letter. You want to make sure you leave a great impression, whether or not these words have anything to do with you or things that you have done. The hiring manager will surely see right through it within seconds.

But, if you actually want the job: Succinctly list and describe your accomplishments as they pertain to the position. Use words like created, increased, reduced, improved, developed, and researched then follow up with specific details that highlight your successes.

Pretend that you don't realize that you're under- or un- qualified for the position.

This applies the same logic as a child who covers his eyes with his hands and yells, "I can't see you, so you can't see me!" It's brilliant. If none of the suggestions above workout as you expected, you can rest assure that doing this will get your resume placed in the "No" pile. Winning!

But, if you actually want the job: Check out this young woman's success story about applying for a position for which she wasn't fully qualified. Her situation taught her that clearly stating that you are under-qualified then articulating the skills you possess that will allow you to be successful could lead hiring managers to consider you despite the fact that you lack experience.

Submit your resume and cover letter using a horrible file name.

For this you have two options: 1) Name it something useless like "Resume" or "Organization_Resume" that doesn't include your name, or 2)  Forget to change the orgnaization's name in the filename . If you really want to give it your worst shot, name it something completely irrelevant like "Sundaymorning_253."

But, if you actually want the job: You should always include your full name in the filename. Other useful additions that make file-organizing for both you and the hiring manager include adding the the name of the organization and the title of the position.


What other [non-]advice do you have for nonprofit job seekers? Which ones have you been guilty of yourself?