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You spot an awesome job at an NGO and think you tick all the boxes, so you apply and are confident that you will get the job. But you miss out and don’t understand why. What’s missing from your application? Why is it being overlooked?
In my eight years of working in human resources and as the HR manager at The School of St Jude–a nonprofit school serving over 1,800 students in Tanzania–I have sifted through countless applications and know what it takes to make your job application shine. Here are some tips on improving your chances of getting that dream NGO job.
Your resume and cover letter
Use the cover letter to address the selection criteria
A cover letter is the best chance you have to explain why you’re good a match for the organization and to win that crucial interview. Don’t sell yourself short, even if you don’t meet all the selection criteria. If you can produce a convincing cover letter that demonstrates what you can offer then you will likely secure an interview. Start a cover letter by addressing a simple question: Why should this organisation hire me? Go back to the selection criteria and show how through your experience (both through work and personally) you have strong communication skills, good organisational skills or whatever it is the company is looking for.
Highlight volunteer or community work
Hiring managers look at the types of volunteer and community based work that you have done either at home or overseas. It could be as simple as working in a soup kitchen or organising a fundraiser, however this all goes a long way in showing a hiring manager that you have a genuine interest in community development.
We don’t want to hear that you want to go to Africa to save the world. Be respectful to the fact that your destination of choice is likely to have a proud and vibrant culture where people do not like the idea that their country is helpless or in need of saving. Telling an HR recruiter that you “love Africa” gives little insight into how you would be the best person for the job. Have a strong knowledge of the country, culture and job that you’re going for and give good, clear examples about how you are suitable for the role.
During an interview
Demonstrate an understanding of the country and cause
Take a real interest in the organisation, place or industry you are looking at joining. Research, research, research. For example, if you wanted to move to South Africa to fight poverty could you explain to your interviewer what you know about poverty there? You will always be asked at an interview why you want to move to a new country or join a particular company, so if you are well prepared for a job interview it greatly increases your chance of success. Don’t forget to highlight any previous travel or experience you have in a developing country as this reinforces your commitment and interest.
Be aware of the challenges that can come with working in a developing country
Resilience is a key trait that hiring managers are looking for in candidates. You may be a confident, social person at home but that alone is not enough to be able to cope with living in a developing country. Think honestly about how you would handle living somewhere where you don’t have all the comforts of home — where Internet and electricity can drop out regularly. A really good job applicant will demonstrate at an interview that they have the maturity to handle such situations, and that they are sensitive to cultural differences and have experience with working with people from different nationalities.
Be clear about your motivations
Do you really want to help build a sustainable community or fight poverty or another cause? Or are you trying to run away from a problem or boredom at home? The latter can really work against you as it can be difficult to fulfill requirements if you are dealing with difficult, personal issues from abroad. Working in a developing country is a noble act, but make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons.
Good luck in landing that dream job!
Anna Richardson is the HR manager at The School of St Jude, a nonprofit school serving over 1,800 students in Tanzania.
Tags: #HRInsider, international jobs, NGO
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Sample cover letter for Full Time position at NGO
Dear Recruiting Team,
I am writing to apply for the EU Policy Associate employment opportunity as advertised on the Euro Brussels website and its current vacancy bulletin. After I had read the job description I felt the range of relevant skills I possess rightly match your requirements for the post.
My ambition and career goals regard being a part of the work of the international organizations connected, especially in the field of democracy and human rights, within EU. Therefore I chose to study Political Science at the University of Sofia, which I graduated with a specialization in European Integration. In order to enhance further my knowledge on the domain I completed a Master degree program in International Relations: major in International organizations and multilateral diplomacy at the same university.
Having learned about the Political Institutions of the European Integration, EU Common Policies and European Logical Framework, which introduced me to the processes in the EU, EU’ Institutions working mechanisms and European policy making process as well as having researched for human rights matters in the field of Democratic Regimes and Governance, International Conflicts and International Terrorism I can manage confidently dossiers covering the both topics under consideration.
In addition to my academic and research experiencesmy work as an Executive Assistant to the Deputy Minister in theEuropeancoordination and international co – operation Directorate at the Ministry of Youth and Sport afforded me the opportunity to gain professional practice in the organization and informative coordination of EU, UNESCO and ENGSO funded projects in the field of youth and sport through fulfilling diverse administrative and event planning tasks.
Furthermore the position description calls for someone who has excellent communication skills and ability to produce well-written policy materials. My communication skills have greatly developed both through my degree programs and work experience in the multinational environment. During my education I have not only conducted researches, written position papers and essays but frequently I presented and discussed them orally in student conferences, seminars, occasionally employing the use of visual aids. This taught me a lot about working in a team and practicing my presentation and oral skills in English.
The working experience within ethnically and culturally diverse groups proved to be a unique source of interdisciplinary, cultural and language knowledge. Currently I am fluent in English, Bulgarian and Turkish and I have a working knowledge of Russian and a basic understanding of French and Spanish.
I would welcome the great opportunity to work as a part of your successful team, to benefit from your extensive experience and to put my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm into practice for the prosperity of your organization. My accomplishments and qualifications are further detailed in the enclosed curriculum vitae. If I can provide any additional materials - such as a writing sample or references - to help you evaluate my candidacy, please do not hesitate to contact me. I would appreciate the opportunity to meet you and discuss the value that I can bring to your organization. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
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