I completed one recruiting engagement and am hopefully near the end of a second one.  The people I put forward were the ones with visible enthusiasm for:

  • the mission of the non-profit
  • the position itself
  • the idea of working for the organization
  • how the organization and its mission related to their own life purpose or experience, and what they hoped to achieve in the world.
I gave extra credit to the people who hit all these points! And interestingly enough, the enthusiastic people are the ones I recommended for interviews with my client. One got the first job. And one other is going to meet with my client and her Board members.

People who didn’t express in their cover letter anything about WHY they wanted to have the job or work for the organization didn’t make it past the cover letter review.  I wanted to feel that people did some homework and weren’t thinking “I just want a job, any job.” I wanted to talk to people who knew what they were applying for and gave some thought to their application.

For that matter, neither did people who had typos or addressed the wrong organization in their cover letter.  Typos show that you don’t pay attention to details, and that you rush to do things carelessly.  I don’t want to recommend anyone who sends off that vibe.

There’s a saying that I find completely true:  “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

That means if you’re careless and thoughtless and rushed in a job application, that’s how you’ll be in the job.  I don’t care if you say “that’s not true!” Show me. Prove it to me by acting as you would act as employee from the very first contact you have with me and my organization.

People who were more interested in what the job could do for them simply didn’t make it past 20 minutes into the screening phone call.  One guy wanted to know about hours and days off. In the screening interview. Really? You don’t want to know more about the organization, its vision, its staff, its challenges? Or about the job responsibilities?

I get it that people do have things they are looking for, but you’ll never get to the point of being offered a job if you are more interested in What’s In It For Me (WIIFM) on the first call and first interview.

Others who didn’t make it past the first screening call were those who wouldn’t answer my questions with specifics.  I asked one person how he would use his past experience in the position in question. He spoke in generalities about what he had done and never spoke about the organization I represent.  I could tell that he didn’t know much about the organization. I was surprised because he had worked for a lot of non-profits in positions that required research. So he couldn’t look at the website? Or even read the job description?

This said to me that either a) he didn’t really care about the mission or organization; b) he was lazy; or c) he had no imagination or ideas.  None of these are a good impression to leave with a recruiter.

I know you are applying to a lot of jobs and may resent having to spend a lot of time on each application.  The thing is that an employer wants to know that you really care about them.  The carefully written and pitched cover letters really do stand out.

My suggestion is that you apply to fewer jobs – the ones that really fit you and your core value proposition – and spend more time on those applications. Make sure you really want the job, that you will be happy doing the job.  Then you can let yourself get enthusiastic.  Your enthusiasm will come through, and could be the very thing that wins you an interview.