Bulk up your resume

Curriculum vitae. What approach is best when applying for your dream development job? Photo by: sunshinecity / CC BY

I was talking to a job seeker the other day who was anxious to work for a particular organization. He had a background that fit the organization’s mission and a passion for their cause.

“I’ve applied to every job they’ve posted in the past 6 months and I haven’t been called for a single one!” he said, puzzled that the law of averages hadn’t worked in his favor. Surely out of those dozens of positions, he should have been a fit for one, he presumed.

He chalked it up to too much competition in the labor market and concluded he should continue to apply to more positions. As a former recruiter for a similar organization, I advised the opposite.

I hear from applicants who assume that when they apply online, they are sending their application into a black hole, where they will be one in a sea of thousands. How will I ever get noticed, they ask, particularly in this economic climate when jobs are scarce and job seekers are plentiful? Their solution: a gunshot approach whereby they apply to every open position within an organization, hoping to increase their chances of being seen.

This approach is not only a waste of time, but can potentially be detrimental to your chances of ever being hired.

While online applications have taken a lot of personal interaction out of the initial hiring process, there are still recruiters and hiring managers reviewing every application on the other side. Often times within international development organizations, there is only one or a small handful of people reviewing applicants for all positions within an organization. Recruiters are skilled at remembering names, and if they don’t remember yours, their online application system will. When you apply online, most recruitment systems will keep a record of each application you submit.

If you’ve applied to every position from program assistant to chief of party, you may not be viewed as a serious candidate. Multiple applications can convey a sense of desperation or a lack of clarity in your career goals. When you do apply for a position that is the right fit, the recruiter may have already dismissed you.

Additionally, a reputation for serial applications can follow you. Within the industry, recruiters move around, so a recruiter in Organization A today may be the recruiter at Organization B when you apply a few months later.

If you are truly interested in — and qualified for — multiple positions within an organization, address this in a cover letter tailored to each job opportunity. Be sure to read the posting, digest the qualifications and do not apply for a position completely out of your realm of expertise. Use the 80 percent rule: If you meet at least 80 percent of the qualifications, apply. If not, let this one pass and wait for a better fit.

If you have a question about developing your own career, let us know. We’ll do our best to help you read the HR tea leaves, make that transition into the field or back home, and find that elusive work-life balance.

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or budding development professional — check out more news, analysis and advice online to guide your career and professional development, and subscribe to Doing Good to receive top international development career and recruitment news every week.

About the author

  • Warren kate 1

    Kate Warren

    Kate Warren is Executive Vice President and resident talent and careers guru at Devex. With 15 years of global development recruitment experience advising international NGOs, consulting firms, and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.