By Phil Gerard
It’s a job seekers’ market for fundraisers, especially in Vancouver. We have a talent shortage of frontline fundraisers and one of the reasons, in my opinion, is that Vancouver has not traditionally been a major gifts fundraising market. Cities like Toronto have a higher concentration of universities, hospital foundations and other shops with a strong history in major gift fundraising. Furthermore, most national offices are headquartered in the east.
However, many charities here who have been successful with annual giving strategies (such as events and direct mail appeals) have now acquired a donor base that is ready for leadership and major gift cultivation. Therefore, we now see an increasing need for trained, experienced, development officers and major gift officers with a proven track record. So why is it that some job seekers still have trouble landing interviews? Here are some possible reasons:
Out of Work
It’s always easier to find a job when you are employed. So think twice before resigning! When people are unemployed hiring managers wonder why that is. Even if there’s a perfectly good reason it makes employers feel more comfortable if someone is currently working. If there is a strong response to a job vacancy hiring managers may be focussing on employed candidates first.
We all know that we have a turnover problem in our profession. As noted on Penelope Burke’s blog we are now well under two years as an average tenure for frontline fundraisers. While many fundraisers are getting recruited into progressively more senior positions short stints can still raise eyebrows with hiring managers and recruiters and make them nervous about your staying power. Fundraisers who have been employed for a good period of time with a reputable organization will most likely get an interview if their background aligns well with the position.
Poor Résumé Presentation
Your résumé is your potential ticket to an interview where we can convince a selection committee with our soft skills (our personality, our fit with the culture, etc.) but if we don’t present our résumé in the best possible way we may never get that chance.
This is really basic stuff but a résumé needs to be flawless in terms of spelling and grammar and it needs to be appealing in presentation and easily legible. I personally don’t have a preference for a special format or layout as long as I can find out by a quick scan what a candidate has accomplished.
Some have eclectic résumés like me. If you read mine you see a fundraiser, a recruiter, and a community relations specialist. When presenting a résumé for a fundraising job be sure to highlight your fundraising experience and make it relevant for a fundraising position. Be sure to always tailor your résumé to the position and not pump applications out ‘en masse’.
I came across a résumé of someone the other day who has not been in fundraising for over five years but had solid experience before that. Unfortunately, many recruiters and hiring managers glance at your last job and that’s how they categorize you as a professional. Therefore, it’s crucial to find ways to highlight your experience effectively.
Strong Candidate Pool
Sometimes we just need to accept that there are people more qualified then us. There is nothing wrong with us or our résumé. You can only present the truth in the best possible light and sometimes what we have to offer is just not enough in comparison to the other candidates in the competition.
If you have trouble securing interviews some of the above points could be the reason why. But even if you get the interview does not mean that you will get the job. Next time I will talk about some things that might have happened in the last interview that could explain why you didn’t get that job!