Plan on working on your cover letter this weekend? While there are plenty of resources out there—including ours!—Amy Gallo of Harvard Business Review recently compiled a list of tips for a great cover letters based on interviews with hiring managers and case studies. Both case studies are of nonprofits and include helpful advice for people looking to land a job in the sector. In one case study, a potential candidate wanted to work for the International Rescue Committee and applied for multiple positions. Here’s what she did to stand out:
Sarah Vania, the organization’s regional HR director, says that Emily’s letters caught her attention, especially because they included several video links that showed the results of Emily’s advocacy and fundraising work at other organizations. Emily explains, “I had prior experience advocating for former child soldiers, human trafficking survivors, vulnerable women, and displaced persons. It’s one thing to make statements in a cover letter, like ‘I can make a pitch, I am a creative person, I am thoughtful,’ but showing these qualities seemed like a better way of convincing the recruiter that the statements were true.”
Read the rest of case study and Amy’s tips on Harvard Business Review.
Amy’s advice and the insights from hiring managers confirm what we know about nonprofit hiring managers from our recent annual survey: genuine interest in the mission and hands-on experience (whether it be through a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity) are key to making a powerful first impression.
Come across any other helpful cover letter tips? Share them in the comments.
Tags: amy gallo, cover letter, Harvard Business Review
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The Secret Formula to Cover Letter Success
Paragraph 1: Flatter the organization and show you’ve done your research
Most people are tempted to start their cover letters with a general overview of what position they’re applying for, where they saw the listing, or an explanation of why they are interested and would be perfect for the job. Sounds reasonable, right? The only problem is that hundreds — these days probably even thousands — of other applicants are beginning their cover letter the exact same way.
Right off the bat, you’re sending the wrong message — that you’re exactly like everyone else and there’s nothing that stands out about you. Wouldn’t you rather begin your cover letter by commanding the reader’s attention and providing something memorable so they’ll remember your name and application come hiring decision time?
Of course you do. That’s why your cover letter should always begin with something anecdotal — a story, a memory, an experience, or even something you’ve read recently. This anecdote should be tied into what the organization means to you and will help the hiring managers remember you more vividly, e.g. ”Oh, the so-and-so girl! I remember her!”
But beware! Don’t just talk about yourself. Keep in mind, this first paragraph should be about the nonprofit, not you. Don’t ever start your cover letter saying why the nonprofit would be good for you — sorry to say, but they don’t care about that. You need to show them the exact opposite — why you would be good for the nonprofit.
By human nature, we can’t get enough of hearing about ourselves or what wonderful things we’ve done, so always begin your cover letter by flattering the nonprofit very specifically. How specifically? Well, you want to show them you’ve really done your research, so don’t say something general, like “I really admire your workplace diversity.” Bring up specific things like statistics, numbers, recent grants or gifts, latest campaigns, awards they’ve won, or notable accomplishments.
In the example below, the writer immediately grabs the reader by sharing an anecdote. She then connects the anecdote to what she knows about the nonprofit. Any hiring manager is certainly going to be impressed with the depth of research the writer has put into the opening paragraph alone.
Dear Hiring Manager,
Born and raised in San Francisco, I’ve always known Glide Foundation as a household name. Now, having thoroughly studied urban planning and public housing as a CS student, I have come to fully understand the extent of Glide Foundation’s awe-inspiring accomplishments. A formidable player in the housing sector with award-winning services, Glide is always striving to enrich the community with their campaigns, while continuing to innovate with their programs and local solutions.
Next: Be Specific — Very Specific >>
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