How to Review Candidate Résumés for Nonprofit Jobs
Résumés and cover letters give you the first opportunity to evaluate candidates for a nonprofit position. Respond quickly with a postcard or an e-mail to tell applicants that their materials have arrived. If possible, give a date by which they can expect to hear from you again.
Résumés come in various formats. Regardless of how the résumé is organized, here are the questions to ask when reviewing a résumé:
Is it free of typographical errors and misspellings? A typo may be excused if everything else appears to be in order, but more than one or two errors implies that the candidate is likely to be careless in her job.
Is the information laid out in a logical, easy-to-follow manner? The relative clarity of the résumé can give you insight into the applicant’s communication skills.
Does the applicant have the proper job experience, education, and licenses, if needed? It may be good to give a little slack on experience because sometimes highly motivated and effective employees are people who have to grow into the job.
Also, nonprofit organizations often receive résumés from people who are changing careers. They may not have the exact experience you’re looking for, but maybe what they learned in their previous jobs easily transfers to the position you’re trying to fill.
How often has the applicant changed jobs? You can never be guaranteed that an employee will stay as long as you want him to, but you have to ask yourself, If I hire this person, will he pack up and move on even before he finishes job training?
At the same time, don’t automatically let higher-than-average job switching turn you off to an excellent candidate. Maybe he has an explanation. Ask.
Cover letters also can be good clues to an individual’s future job performance. For one thing, you get an idea of the applicant’s writing abilities, and you may even get some insight into his personality. Some job announcements state that a cover letter should accompany the résumé, and some even go so far as to ask the applicant to respond to certain questions.
It’s up to you as to whether asking a list of questions enables you to more easily compare applicants to one another.
If good writing skills are required for a job you’re posting, ask applicants to include writing samples with their cover letter and résumé.
You’ll probably reject at least half the résumés out of hand. Many people apply for jobs for which they don’t have even the minimal qualifications.
Separate your résumés into two piles — one for rejected applications and one for applications that need closer scrutiny. Send the rejected candidates a letter thanking them for their interest. From the other pile, decide how many candidates you want to interview.
Reviewing the résumés with one or two board members to bring several perspectives to the choice is often helpful. One technique is to select the top three applicants for interviews. Reserve the other applicants for backup interviews if the first three aren’t suitable or if they’ve already accepted other jobs.