Global development professionals are a passionate group motivated by the desire to make the world a better place.
In pursuit of their dream job, they might apply the same zeal that led them to this line of work to the application process, especially if the goal is to land a position with a specific employer — one that aligns with their goals, values and mission.
The assumption is the more applications they submit with one employer, the better the chance of getting an interview. This strategy can certainly get an applicant noticed, but not in the way intended.
More advice on acing your global development CV and cover letters:
Requirements for international development jobs can be very specific, even for entry-level positions, so it’s unlikely someone is a strong candidate for a wide range of openings at any given employer. When a recruiter sees the same applicant applying to everything from a program assistant to chief of party, their assumption will be that the person isn’t qualified for any of them. It also tells them the candidate is unfocused and lacks judgment and attention to detail.
Applicants shouldn’t assume that a recruiter won’t notice their multiple applications, either.
Most employers use an online recruitment system that requires creating a profile and will track every job a candidate applies to in the organization. Even without technology, recruiting departments, including in large organizations, are typically small and recruiters will remember the same name if it pops up repeatedly. Even if a candidate eventually does apply to a position where it is a good fit, the recruiter may have already dismissed them as a serious candidate altogether.
Pro tip: Recruiters in international development frequently move around from employer to employer. If you build up a reputation as a serial applicant with one, it can follow you to other global development organizations.
So what if you want to apply to more than one position at an organization?There are scenarios where it is perfectly acceptable to do so. Here are three tips on how to do it right.
1.Use the 80 percent rule.
The danger in applying to multiple positions is in submitting applications to a job you are not qualified for, thereby diminishing your credibility for the positions where you may be a strong candidate. However, if you use the 80 percent rule you can avoid appearing like an out of touch candidate who isn’t sure what they can and want to do.
Carefully review the requirements for each position. While employers will prioritize those who meet all of them, they will typically consider candidates who meet most of them. As long as you meet at least 80 percent of the requirements, go ahead and submit an application. Be careful, however, to not apply to jobs where you do not meet hard requirements that are typically less negotiable like language fluency or citizenship.
If their online system allows it, submit a separate CV and cover letter tailored to each job. This will show the recruiter you thought about how you are a strong candidate for each position and not just shooting off your CV to every opening you see posted.
If their system won’t allow you to submit a separate CV and cover letter, be sure to address your interest in multiple positions in your cover letter and briefly state why you think you are a good candidate for each. You can also try to get an email for the recruiting department to send separate CVs and cover letters.
The key is to be upfront about the fact you are interested in multiple opportunities and demonstrate you thought about how you can add value to each.
If you’ve tried applying to multiple jobs with your dream employer and have yet to hear back, try instead for an informational interview. Perhaps you’re missing some key experience they require at their organization or you’re not presenting your skills in a way they understand. Talking to someone in either the recruitment department or in the areas where you hope to work can give you more insight into what will make you a better candidate.
Then when a position does open up where you’re a fit, they may even reach out to you.
Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with 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.
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