October 21, 2019
From typos and poor formatting, to boilerplate resumes and cover letters that mention the wrong company name, there are plenty of chances to make a silly mistake and potentially cost yourself an interview!
To help, we’re sharing our best advice — compiled after reviewing hundreds of applications over the years. The five tips below will help you emphasize your strengths, avoid common pitfalls, and submit an application that increases your chances of standing out for the right reasons.
As a grant writing firm, tailoring standard grant language to each specific funder is key to a strong grant. Similarly, a cover letter that’s tailored to Elevate and the specific position to which you are applying is key to any applicant’s success.
Your job as an applicant is to make the strongest possible case for why YOU are the ideal candidate for this specific position. As such, tailoring your materials to the specific role you are applying for is a must. Some hiring teams may place more emphasis on reading cover letters, while others focus more on resumes; you likely won’t know up front which type of company you are applying to, so it’s best to spend time customizing both.
The best candidates will highlight the direct experience that relates to the position, no matter how small. Make sure the reader knows that you understand the role and have experience that will translate into your new job. For Elevate, we look for candidates at all levels with a strong writing background, as well as those with nonprofit experience – even volunteer or classwork can demonstrate the kind of relevant experience we like to see. Make sure you include it!
Words matter! That is particularly true if you’re applying for a job at Elevate, where we’re a team of professional writers. Keep these guidelines in mind, to ensure your materials are top-notch:
Use the hierarchy of a resume to your advantage to highlight the most pertinent information. For example, unless you’re still in school, your Professional Experience section should be listed above your Educational Experience. Also, unless your GPA is outstanding, or the company has asked for it, don’t bother including it. And if you’ve been out of school for a year or more, don’t list your GPA at all.
If you don’t have the exact type of experience listed in the position description, draw attention to the relevant experience you DO have, and make a strong case for how it would serve you in this role. Don’t make the hiring team connect those dots – paint the picture for them. For example, what skills did you develop as a writer or editor at a college publication that would make you a strong grant writer?
A recent study from TheLadders shows that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing each resume. That’s a very small window in which to make a strong impression! At Elevate, we review all cover letters and resumes in house – but there are a few things that jump out right away to demonstrate your interest in Elevate, not just any job. Things like:
Make sure your cover letter and resume are saved in PDF form, and give everything a final review before you hit submit. (You would be amazed how many documents we receive with comments or edits in the margins.) Similarly, demonstrate your attention to detail by double-checking things like the date on your cover letter, and making sure you don’t have one stray bullet point on its own page. These seem like small things, but they could be a deal breaker for some reviewers.
Once you submit an application be ready for the next steps. For example, make sure you have a professional sounding outgoing voicemail for calls from hiring managers. Be prepared to interview in person on short notice. Watch you email (including your spam inbox) for follow-up – which may include tests or skill assessments.
We hope these tips and tricks serve you well in your job search, no matter what jobs you apply for. And, if you’re the kind of person who loves working hard for social change, and you have experience in fundraising, grant writing, consulting, project management and/or other nonprofit work, we’d love to hear from you!
Photo courtesy of wocintechchat.com