Nickey Alexiou is a specialist in organisational development and human resources and is a friend and advisor to Charity Careers Canada. In her recent article for us she outlines the 5 things employers look for when hiring! If you are seeking a role with Canadian non-profit and need help understanding how best to get your dream job for a Canadian charity. Read on below.
Wouldn’t it be great to know what recruiters and hiring managers talk about when they determine the “must haves” for successful candidates to fill their jobs? You may be surprised to know that what employers look for is not particularly revolutionary.
What is surprising is that applicants very often don’t give employers what they want. Someone really smart told me a long time ago that the interview and, by extension, the whole search process is about the employer (or whoever is representing the employer). Candidates make the tragic error of thinking the application, screening, interview and subsequent offer is about them!
Following is an employer-centric look at recruitment and how, as candidates, you can do your homework and, with a fair degree of accuracy, assess what a potential employer has determined as the requisite skills, fit, and attitude of the winning applicant.
1. Relevant Skills
Employers generally look for exact matches. A recruiter has too many choices in this job market to select, even for a long list of screenings, a candidate that doesn’t have 80-90% of the skills and experience listed in the job description. Don’t waste your time applying for hundreds of jobs that are marginally related to your abilities and background; instead, focus on applications where job titles, skills, and qualifications and years of experience line up with your resume.
In a recent search I conducted, I had 90 resumes out of 105 that had completely unrelated skills, background, or qualifications. They were not screened. Not only did they not have any of the job requirements, I found myself to be biased against them for their seemingly random application!
If you are new to the full-time job market (recent graduates, recent immigrants), your options are to look for entry level opportunities or seek volunteer or intern roles that build on career skills or Canadian experience to build some critical experience mass on your resume that are relatable for a potential employer.
Remember, most recruiters will spend about five seconds determining if your resume is worth putting on the pile that bears closer examination; make those five seconds count by applying for jobs strategically.
2. Culture and Fit
Employers look for someone who “gets them.” So, let’s assume that you are not applying to every job on every job board; you now have more time to research those companies where you have a much better chance of having your resume matched against the job requirements. Based on people you know, the organization website, and other sources like Rate My Employer or Canada Revenue Agency (for charities), figure out what kind of culture, norms, and work ethos define the environment.
A former colleague of mine applied to a training manager role at a fashion forward retailer while working in the heavily structured call and administration centres of the largest schedule “A” bank. Having done her research, she ensured that her resume was not only accurate but aesthetically pleasing; she used fashion-centric words in her cover letter (“on trend”, “this season”, etc.) and even went so far as to purchase very hip no prescription glasses to pull her fashionable look together for the interview. She got the job (for which she was eminently qualified) but might easily have been relegated to the rejected pile as “too corporate” based solely on her experience.
This is not a direction to be something you are not; it is a reminder that good applications take dedicated research, analysis and insight to create an impression that makes your prospective employer see you as not only skilled but the “right fit” for the job.
3. Incidental Cues and Signs
Employers look for signals about the real you. How you present on paper or even in an interview can be heavily practiced and a potential employer wants to know how you’ll be as an employee versus a candidate. Not long ago, I was involved in an offer to a candidate who was very adversarial and micro-detailed about the offer terms; he stretched it out over days by bringing up an additional issue or question each time we thought we had reached agreeable terms. Understanding that this was his default and natural style and that the role required a much more cooperative style, we withdrew the offer based on our observations of his behaviour.
Here are some “incidental” information sources that savvy recruiters and human resources managers watch for in applicants:
• Is the application flawless? If you cite one of your strengths as “attention to detail”, you can be sure you won’t be getting a call.
• Do you respect the recruitment process? We have all learned that networking is an amazing job search tool! However, use your network and connections carefully and ensure that you still follow the prescribed process even if you let your cousin, the VP of Marketing, inform the HR department that you are a top candidate.
• Do you have any searchable online embarrassments? Everyone has the capacity to find pictures of the bachelorette party in Vegas or the pictures of your 18 month old triplets. Neither of those is a bad thing but why provide more information than necessary for which you might be judged?
• Have you demonstrated your desire to change jobs by making room in your life for job search? There are many times when viable candidates make it very difficult to schedule telephone or in person interviews because of the demands of their current jobs. That is understandable as that is the employment contract to which you are currently committed. But if you apply to jobs, be sure to have a contingency plan for making time. Don’t make excuses (“We have a conference this week…sorry!”) Instead, be professional and offer options (“I’m unavailable all week during regular office hours but could easily come in at 8am from Monday to Wednesday.”).
• What is your communication like post-application? If you have been screened as a viable candidate, it’s likely that you’ll get a phone call or email regarding the next steps in the process. Many applicants underestimate the importance of this first contact which is not planned, edited or rehearsed. I have seen many a candidate mis-handle a phone call because they don’t recall applying for the job, are somewhat hostile when they see the name of a charity and expect to be solicited for a donation, can’t make themselves understood (volume, accents) or—having answered the call—tell the caller that now is not a good time. Similarly, I have been surprised to see beautifully written cover letters and well designed resumes followed up with emails rife with grammar and spelling mistakes! Employers look for consistency between the application and every point of contact thereafter.
4. The Interview
Employers want their choice to be validated. In other words, they want to see an interview performance that justifies each step of the screening process that has brought you this far. There is a massive amount of information on interviews so the following list provides a brief guide to validating the decision to bring you in for an interview.
• Personal presentation: professional, hygienic, culture-appropriate
• Curiousity (always have questions)
• Consistency (does “in person” match “on paper”?)
o Examples that demonstrate the skills and competencies you say you have
o Roles that describe what you contributed (avoid “we”, “the team”, etc.)
o Dates and gaps (be prepared to fill in the chronology of your resume)
o Salary expectations
Employers look for positive corroboration. Once an employer is checking references, it indicates a predisposition toward you as someone who can succeed in the job. Your references should corroborate your work experience including your title and responsibilities. Ideally, you should have at least three references of which two are direct supervisors who can also comment on the quality of your work.
So, what do employers look for in potential hires?
Employers generally look for exact matches for their qualifications. Employers look for someone who “gets them” in terms of culture and fit. Employers look for signals about the real you in every interaction. Employers want their choice to be validated by your interview performance. Employers look for positive corroboration from your references.
And, by the way, as a candidate, you should look for the same things in a potential employer!
Nickey Alexiou’s career has included executive roles in organizational development and human resources leading change, engagement, strategy, talent and succession planning, and conflict resolution, including counsel to Charity Careers Canada. Nickey’s extensive leadership experience in working with all levels of staff, Boards and volunteers in private sector, not-for-profit and member-based organizations has delivered comprehensive and successful outcomes.
Keep up to date with all our latest vacancies and career advice on www.charitycareerscanada.ca
Have you decided that there is more to life, want to escape the rat race and the corporate world but don’t know where else to put your great business skills to use? Or you are just about to graduate and are thinking of your future career choice? If so, then you might think of joining the 1.2-million Canadians who work with the primary purpose of building a better world.
There are over 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations in Canada and 86,000 of these are registered charities (recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency). It’s a uniquely diverse sector with a wide range of jobs, pay scales and perks. Just like the for-profit world, there are short-term, executive, managerial, entry-level jobs; plenty of training opportunities; and great chances for career progression.
Before you read on though, if making money is top of your priorities list then take note! Typically, non-profit jobs pay less than their for-profit counterparts but with all of the benefits of working for a non-profit, such as allowing individuals to live with purpose, execute their jobs with passion and give back to the surrounding community, many people are willing to accept a lower salary.
Here’s our top 5 Reasons why you should consider working for a non-profit organization
#1There are lots of great job opportunities.
There are over two million Canadians employed in the charitable and non-profit sector and over 13 million volunteers and the sector contributes an average of 8.1% of total Canadian GDP, more than the retail trade industry and close to the value of the mining, oil and gas extraction industry.
Whether you want to work with animals or have a burning passion for the arts or agriculture, there is a non-profit for you.
#2 You get to work with passion and engage your head.
Often a person finds that their heart is unengaged in the work processes they are responsible for and can easily become a meaningless chore outside of earning a pay check. By working for a non-profit, you will see how your efforts positively affect people in need. You can help veterans who have given so much for your country, you can help disabled kids in all sorts of ways from working directly with them in teaching or care to fundraising for new life changing equipment to help them. Homeless shelter workers see people sleeping in a warm bed or eating their first meal of the day, and the list of heart-warming occurrences continues… Non-profits are a great place to maximize your mental talents along with your compassion and passion.
#3 Successful non-profit businesses have high-performance cultures.
Just because a non-profit organization’s strategic objectives does not involve bottom-line targets, it does not mean they don’t strive to be the best at everything they do. Employees of non-profits need to be “on top of their game” and forward thinking. Knowing their competitors, innovating, and budgeting are all part of the job for a non-profit manager.
#4 Fresh talent is needed.
Recent graduates are in high demand in non-profit companies. Graduates can provide a fresh perspective for a non-profit. The business world is a competitive place and this competition spills over into the non-profit marketplace. Competition for funds from individual donors, businesses, and foundations necessitates a passion for innovation.
#5 You can do something worthwhile.
Even if you find that non-profit staff or board work is not for you, you can look back and say without hesitation that you devoted your time and energy to something that really and truly mattered. A life without this is simply not a life well led.
If you have read this article and think – Yes this is what I want to do then register with www.charitycareerscanada.com today. Charity Careers Canada is a great new recruitment firm who help charities and non-profit organizations find great staff across Canada.
Look out for our next article – how to prepare yourself to take the leap into the non-profit sector. Lynn Stimpson, Development Manager, Charity Careers Canada
Other great sources to research
Have you ever wondered why even though you apply for lots of roles, either you don’t hear back or miss out on shortlisting? It might be the case that you’ve got some excellent skills and experience and you know that you would be a great candidate for a role – but that’s just where there may be an issue – YOU know you would be, but are you making it clear enough? Often applications can come in to recruitment agencies and charities which aren’t always clear to read, or lack some crucial information about you, like a particular type of experience or how many events you’ve organised. Very often application forms can come in where the recruiter or charity can see potential in a prospective candidate gives them a call and finds out that in fact they would make a great candidate!
So the question is, how do you fill out an excellent, clear and descriptive application form?
We’ve come up with a few tips below to try and help, and if you’ve got any other helpful tips then we’d love to hear from you – simply email us.
- Read the Application Pack Thoroughly – It may sound like a simple request, but often when prospective candidates come to fill in their application form they can sometimes forget that they need to address every point in the application pack. If there is a list of essential and desirable skills or qualities, list these down and explain how you match each of them. If there are certain personal qualities or interests that the charity asks for then explain and give examples of you having them. Remember that you may have transferrable skills too – there might for example be a mention of event management as a charity member, but if you’ve managed an event as a volunteer then that is still useful to mention!
- Give Examples – Quite often a candidate may say that they are good at such and such, but if you’ve not given evidence showing how or why you are whatever this is then its difficult for the recruiter or charity to appreciate your abilities.
- Be Clear – don’t presume that recruiters of charities will understand everything without explanation – of course you don’t need to explain what fundraising is, but if you’re using business style abbreviations then it can be useful to explain these if relevant. Also, often candidates are willing to move location for a role, and if this is the case then make it clear on your application. We’ve all been confused when a candidate living in Sydney applies for a role in Edinburgh – until we find out that they have been in a temporary role abroad and are moving back to the UK!
- Try Not to Leave it Too Late – We all live busy lives, but if there’s any chance that you can get your application form filled out a week or so before the closing date you are really setting yourself up for lots of benefits (not only concerning your blood pressure). If you fill out your form in advance then you can get friends and family to check it for you for little mishaps or you might even be able to get in contact with the recruitment agency and ask that they briefly look it over before you send the final version to them. A fresh set of eyes over your application can be very helpful.
- Don’t Panic, Ask for Help – If you’re having difficulty filling in your application form, get in touch with the recruiter and ask for a bit of help, we are always happy to do this! Sometimes things can be confusing in this kind of form so a hand can be very welcome.
- Do Your Research – You might be surprised by the number of potential candidates who don’t do their research on the charity whose role they are applying for. You’d think that surely candidates would want to know exactly what kind of charity they are effectively signing themselves up to possibly be a part of! Particularly when it comes to interview it is essential that you’re up to date with the main facts about the charity. No one wants to asked in interview what they think of the £2 million project which the charity is fundraising for, only to have not known about it at all. Show your interest and passion for the charity you are applying for!
- Simply Does It – We’re talking about the presentation of your application (or indeed CV or covering letter too). As a rule of thumb size 12 or 10 Ariel font in a safe option. Don’t use comic sans. Ever.
Charities belong in what is often referred to as ‘The-Not-For-Profit or Community & Voluntary Sector’, making them distinct from public (government) and private, commercial organisations. There is often confusion about what constitutes a charity, what they do and how they operate – much of the language used is interchangeable and invariably there is crossover between ‘charities’ and some other words that are also often used which can refer to an individual organisation or the sector:
- Community & Voluntary
- Third Sector
- Civil Society
There are over 7,000 registered charities in Canada alongside an estimated 25,000 additional community and voluntary groups employing over 100,000 people and generating an annual turnover of approximately €6 billion.
Canada’s charity sector has been operating without a regulator, and there is, as of yet, no statutory definition of what a charity is. However, the enactment of the Charities Act 2009 is underway and a new authority will supervise and regulate the activities of the organisations that work in the sector. Úna Ní Dhubhgaill has been appointed as the interim Chief Executive of the new Charity Regulatory Authority, and 16 board members have also been appointed. All charities will be obligated to register with this regulatory authority, giving us a clearer picture of the sector in Canada. The new regulator is expected to be operational by the end of 2014.
While there is a huge variety of organisation types, missions and goals, and despite the lack of regulator, the sector is tied together by these common elements:
Charities must have an explicit charitable mission as outlined in their written constitution or governing documents. They cannot be set up to make a profit.
The roles and careers available within a charity are as diverse as the sector itself. There are those involved directly in service provision and these roles include carers, social workers, therapists, project managers, advocacy officers, nurses, doctors and trainers among many others. Like any other organisation, charities also need people to keep them running and so employ people in finance, HR, administration, legal, marketing, fundraising and management.
 Registered with the Revenue Commission for tax exemption.
Charity Careers Canada
If you are looking for a job with a non profit organization in Canada, you may be interested to know who the biggest ones are as its likely they’ll have more jobs that you can apply for.
Here is the list of Canada’s 10 largest non profits measured by donations. In total, Canadians donated over $1.5 billion to these 10 Canadian non profits – almost 10% of all of the money Canadians give to non profits each year. Canada’s largest 100 non profits receive approximately 33% of total Canadian giving so these charities would be a good place to start looking, if you want to join a non profit organization.
Remember though that the level of donations they receive doesn’t necessarily mean that they have the largest staff teams in Canada, but they may well have a job for you.
The Top Ten are:
- World Vision Canada
- Salvation Army
- Canadian Cancer Society
- Plan Canada
- United Way Toronto & York Region
- Sick Kids Foundation
- Heart and Stroke Foundation
- Toronto General and Western Hospital Foundation
- Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation
For more information about all the latest vacancies with non profit organizations in Canada register with Charity Careers Canada today
A helpful guide to resume writing
With competition for non profit jobs being as strong as ever it is vital that you make a great first impression with your CV. Here are Charity Careers Canada’s top ten tips:
Use a strong, clear, professional font. Do NOT use Times New Roman, it is the default font for Microsoft products and is much overused.
2. Work History
Start with your present or most recent employment and work backwards. Make sure you put all months and years and expand on the most relevant positions. Make sure there are no gaps. If you have been out of work for any reason, for example, travelling, then say so.
Length – it should be no more than 2 pages unless you are advanced in your career, and only then in exceptional cases.
4. Write a new resume for each job
The Job Description and Person Specification are where the charity tells you exactly what skills and experience they are looking for. You should ensure that your resume demonstrates that you have exactly these skills and experiences, so be sure to include information about your ability to match each of the areas that they have highlighted as “Essential”. If there are any areas where you don’t have what they are looking for, try to show them that you have transferrable skills, or the capacity to learn these new skills.
5. Be yourself
Write in the first person not the third… “I am”… rather than; “Richard is”.
6. Give them figures
If you have managed staff, say how many. If you have raised funds, tell them how much.
7. Show commitment
If you are looking for your first non profit role, it is vital you show empathy for the aims of the organization you are applying to together with a demonstrable passion and commitment for working in this environment. Any volunteering experience will be warmly welcomed.
8. Avoid Jargon
One mistake people trying to transfer from another sector to the non profit world make is to fill their resume with language from their current career. A recruiter reading this will start to wonder if they are able to change sectors.
9. Get someone else to proof read it
It goes without saying that your resume should be free of mistakes, but we all know how hard it is to proof your own writing. Show it to a friend and invite them to nitpick!
10. Get a professional to help
If you are not getting the interviews you should then perhaps it’s time to get some expert advice. When you think of how important a resume is in terms of your future career prospects perhaps it’s not surprising that more and more job seekers are turning to professional resume writers for help.