The other day, I asked a recruiter of senior-level staff for high profile non-profits what she is looking for in candidates. Here are a few nuggets from that conversation:

  • Candidates must submit a cover letter that shows some kind of knowledge about and enthusiasm for the organization. Otherwise, she tosses the resume without looking at it. It’s not OK to say in an email “see the enclosed.” At least mention the position and organization name, and that you have enclosed a full cover letter inside.
  • She’ll only read a one page cover letter. No time to read more.
  • Resumes must be reverse chronological, meaning your most recent position at the top of the experience list.
  • She likes to see a profile – short paragraph or a few lines outlining core skills, talents, abilities, experience. She happens to hate something I put into my clients’ resumes: the Core Capability list, which is made to get key words up front for the computerized application systems.  She understands ATS exists, and still hates those lists. She wants to see skills in context.
  • First interviews are almost always via Skype now. She advises folks to put their Skype address on their resumes with the rest of their contact information.
  • She confirmed that recruiters only like to talk to viable candidates for a job. The only time she is willing to talk to someone who is NOT a viable candidate for a current search is when it’s a young person from her college or her kids’ schools – and then she urges them to remember what she did as they progress in their career and do similar favors for young people.
  • People seeking to transition to the non-profit field need to know why they want to do it, have familiarity with the non-profit world, and have some volunteer experience in the field – as a Board member, a fundraiser for their school, a committee member, something.
  • For non-profit Executive Director and CEO spots, the must-have is leadership and management experience. Fundraising is also important but it can be as a volunteer. Financial management is “nice to have.” Obviously, folks who have run programs or done marketing also have a great advantage.

Surprisingly, she thanked me for asking her for her opinion, because she says career coaches rarely approach her. That surprised me, yet you get an advantage because I’m doing that market research. Only by knowing what your target market is looking for can you effectively market yourself into your “right fit” job.