moss+ross senior associate Fred Stang has read hundreds of cover letters and resumes as he and the executive search team work hard to match exceptional professionals with nonprofit organizations in the Triangle. We think he’s the right person to share a few things to think about when you are considering a professional move.
At moss+ross we’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of cover letters and resumes reflecting some of the best and worst writing imaginable. The ones that stand out are well written, interesting to read and show us the applicant has done his or her research.
1. Show us you care by proving you have read the job description and done your research on the organization. Your understanding of both should be clear in your cover letter, resume and in the references you choose. The more your resume parallels the priorities for the position, the more you stand out. Whenever possible, match your headings to the priorities. If you can’t put your skill set into the job’s priorities it is worth considering if this is the best position for you.
2. Numbers say a lot! If you are applying for a fundraising position or a leadership position requiring fundraising then prove to us you have the experience with dollars you raised and not just percentages. Percentages without the actual numbers can give the impression you have something to hide. Make sure your fundraising success is highlighted and not obscured.
3. Maximize your cover letter. Don’t waste the reader’s time with a rehashing of your resume. Use the cover letter to go beyond your resume as a way to tell us about your interest in this specific job. Show us that you have really thought about how you can be of service to this specific organization. We are looking for applicants who are excited about this opportunity and the first place we look for that excitement is in the cover letter. It is also the other place you prove to us you’ve really done your research. We’ve got to tell you, there is nothing quite like reading a well-written cover letter and a well-organized resume. They are a breath of fresh air.
4. Spell check, double check. Spell check is a wonderful invention but it is not always your friend. Read through your materials and make sure the spelling and your grammar is correct.
5. Refrain from mass production, personalize. We know you apply for other jobs but don’t make it so obvious. A cover letter is no place to use that other great invention – “mail merge”, especially since many applicants haven’t mastered the operation in the first place. It’s a dead giveaway when the name of the organization and the position title are in a different font or a different shade of black. We’re fundraisers, we know when it’s a form letter and we’ll know if you haven’t taken the time to personalize your cover letter.
Remember, being an executive or a fundraiser is all about building relationships, and your cover letter and resume might be the beginning of your relationship with your next boss and colleagues. Make the most of it, don’t squander the opportunity. It is time well spent determining how your skills and expectations match those of the position and the organization and proving your ability to communicate through the written word.
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