Project Wonderful

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Job Applications 101

Guys, we need to talk. Nothing hurts me like reading a terrible job application from a qualified organizer. While I realize that being a stickler for proper application etiquette is in some ways perpetuating a system of privilege, there are still ways for EVERYONE to figure out how to send a professional application. When I am trying to put together the best team for one of my candidates, I am not in business of mentoring or giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. So I am spelling it out for you here. Basic rules and etiquette for applying to jobs:

1) Your resume should only be a page. Yes, even yours.
The rule that the Federal government uses, and the rule that most people go by, is one page per 10 years of professional experience. Professional experience includes full-time work, paid work and meaningful internships. It does not include work in a completely unrelated field and it certainly doesn't include varsity debate club. If you have only a job or two under your belt or you are a career changer and you include that you were a server at a restaurant or that you were the president of your fraternity to show a record of responsibility and leadership, then that's great. But, there is no reason you should be running onto a second page because of publication in Space and Time magazine or the time you worked at an after-school daycare. If you have enough experience that you don't need these things as filler, then you should cut them.

If you are applying to jobs in more than one field you should have more than one resume. A long resume that is all over the place tells me that you don't have an idea of what kind of experience is relevant to this job (not good) or that you didn't care enough to tailor your resume for this position (also not good).

*"But," you say, "It's different when you work on campaigns! I have so many different races to list!"
To which I would reply, if I am in a position to hire you, then I most likely have more experience than you and if I can fit my resume on a page so can you.

2) Send all of what is requested and ONLY what is requested.
You may think you are being helpful by providing references, or letters of recommendation, or a CV when I just asked for a resume, but what I hear is, "I can't follow directions." Next!

3) Use a professional email address.
Come on guys, really? Would you hire Your email should be some form of your name at a school, business or gmail address. Email addresses are free, so there is no reason you should still be using one from 7th grade. While we're at it, it's not like I'm going to throw away a resume from earthlink or aol, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't admit that this gives me pause. It's 2014, get with the program.

4) If my name is in the job posting, use it.
As a job applicant, it is one of my pet peeves when the poster makes it impossible for me to figure out to whom I should address my cover letters. So when you are emailing me at and you write "to whom it may concern" I am having none of it. Who do you think it concerns? Not doing basic research or applying critical thinking shows me that you are either lazy or don't really care about this job, neither of which are qualities that make me inclined to respond to your inquiry.

5) Grammar, format, and spell check your resume and cover letter.
Again if you can't be bothered to edit it, I can't be bothered to respond to it. If you don't edit your own emails when applying for the job, why would I have any confidence that you would put care into communications on behalf of a campaign?

Bonus Tip: Always send your resume as PDF since documents may look different on different computers and PDFs are in a standard format that every computer should be able to open.

6) Avoid flowery or qualifying language.
Good writing is very important in a cover letter and on campaigns, but "good" doesn't necessarily mean "wordy." Hiring managers have a lot of cover letters to get through and they want them to be concise and effective. Tell me in plain English who you are and why you are a good fit for this job. Adjectives, adverbs and idioms should be used very sparingly.

By qualifying language I mean phrases like, "I believe," "In my opinion," "I feel," before making a statement about why you are an appropriate candidate for the position. I know you think it, you're the one writing it. Just say so! Qualifiers like these only undercut your argument by taking up space and making you sound insecure.

7) Make a specific link between your experience and the job in question.
Two things a cover letter should NOT be: a reiteration of your resume or a manifesto about how I can help you. Your resume should already tell me what you've done. If you have chosen to applying for the job I assume that the position somehow fits with your personal goals and that is all the information I need about those at this time. You do not need to include an objective. Your cover letter should illustrate how your skills and experience match an organization's needs, not your own. Identify what the campaign is looking for and show how you're a match. For example, if I say I need a self starter who can hit the ground running, use your cover letter to let me know about a time when you single-handedly turned a campaign around.

I'm with you, writing cover letters is the worst! I just want to attach my resume and then write in all caps "BUT I'M NANCY!!!" However, the world doesn't work like that. My hope is that these tips will allow you to get your foot in the door so that your passion and experience and show through. Go forth my little CampaignSicles! Shine your light into the world!



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