5 ways to create the perfect CV and cover letter for international development

There is growing demand for roles in the NGO and not-for-profit sector.

And with an increasing number of jobs going to the countries and regions where charities operate, getting a role in international development and humanitarian assistance can be tricky.  

However, this should not discourage you. International development charities and NGOs work with the most vulnerable people in the world. The work they do is very important, and the impact the sector has on you and those you’re helping can be enormous.  

Here are five tips to help you stand out on your CV and cover letter when you’re applying for a job in international development.  

1. Make your CV and cover letter “international development friendly”. 

No matter where your career experience lies, make it relevant to the role, organisation and area of focus. What skills have you acquired that are transferable? What have you done in your previous roles that would be effective within international development? Can your achievements be repeated for a not-for-profit organisation? 

Make sure your CV and cover letter reference your passion and knowledge for international development and the organisation’s cause. You should also demonstrate the impact you would hope to have within the role you’re applying for.  

2. Focus on volunteering, fundraising and other charitable pursuits 

As covered in our changing careers section, there are lots of extracurricular activities you can do in international development. Not only is this hugely rewarding, it can also give your CV and your cover letter a boost.  


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If you’ve ever volunteered, raised funds or taken part in other charitable pursuits, make sure you highlight them when applying. Why did you do it? What sort of impact did it have? How did you find the experience?  

3. Make it about the role, not the organisation or its focus 

Even if you put across a compelling account of why you want to work in a particular organisation, it won’t mean much unless you can show that the role is right for you. 

Make sure you respond to every responsibility listed on a job description with examples of how you have completed such a task. Demonstrable experience is crucial when you’re applying for any job, so so show you can do it. 

4. Keep it brief. Only include the relevant information 

Now you have your relevant experience and you’ve shown your knowledge and passion for the organisation and its focus and ethos. What else do you need? 

Be concise with what you include in your CV and cover letter. If previous roles aren’t particularly relevant to what you’re applying for, then don’t go into detail. If the post isn’t asking for a degree, then leave it to the end with minimal detail. Make your application as compact as possible. 

5. Say something different.  

Before you submit your application, give it a read through from the perspective of someone hiring. Not only will this give you the opportunity to look out for any typos or mistakes, it will help you gauge whether what you’ve said will stand out from the crowd.  

Most applications will end up sounding similar to each other. What can you say to make people take notice? Is there anything in your application that will make you stand out? If not, then why not? Make sure you sound like a unique individual, perfect for the role.