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Tips to get an NGO job

Interested in working for an NGO? Here’s some tips, advice and best practice for your application and job interview.

Make sure your CV is accurate

From a recruiter’s perspective, you’re always looking for means to cut the pile of job applications rapidly, so if there’s a spelling mistake or if the text is too dense, I’m going to put their CV to one side – they’re making me work too hard.

Don’t think you’re God’s gift to development

Be clear about your value to the employer and what you can bring to the role… Just assuming that your double first in economics and politics makes you irresistible ignores the fact that you’re competing against applicants from the whole of the EU and beyond who may also have vocational experience.

Don’t rely on a CV you wrote in 1998

For older applicants who’ve held the same role for a long time, talk to your colleagues who’ve applied for jobs more recently about how the process has changed.

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Don’t be a cyber candidate only

If you’re interested in an organisation, get face-to-face time as soon as possible. Track down someone from the specific department you want to work for.

Don’t use pointless jargon

Stuff like ‘I’m a high-achieving, task-focused, self-starter’ is meaningless… I’m left just thinking ‘who is this?’ Applicants need to relax, describe how their experience matches the role and be more confident in being themselves.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself into one role

On the flip side, I’ve found applicants are often too restrictive on their cover letters about their goals and how they can fit into the sector… There’s a huge diversity of jobs in development but people tend to ignore IT roles, marketing, even fundraising. There’s lots of evidence you can move departments once you’ve got that first role, and right now one-third of all jobs are in fundraising.

Don’t be the person with the 15-page CV

I’ve had so many bad CVs, ones with no punctuation and whole words missing, but I’ve also had 15-page CVs with affidavits, testimonials and their PhD thesis attached.

Don’t go to an interview unprepared to talk about what the organisation does

Do your research. The most obvious question anyone is going to be asked is, “Why do you want the job? Why do you want to work here?” It’s a gift, so enjoy it! Do some basic web research, read through an annual report, and think about how the organisation describes itself. It’s an easy question but it’s often one that people answer badly and it’s really off putting to an interviewer if it feels as though the candidate hasn’t done at least some basic preparation.

But… do put yourself in your recruiter’s shoes

The thing most likely to eliminate you from the interview selection process is you. Don’t make it easy for the recruiter. Write clearly, write briefly, flag up your relevant experience, and check your spelling. Read your application aloud. And then edit. Don’t let things as basic as not following instructions on the application knock you out of the race.

Excerpts from this piece originally appeared in the Guardian: read the full interview.