A few weeks ago, we shared a post on Amy’s LinkedIn page (if you don’t follow her yet, you can start now!) outlining the most common reasons a candidate loses out on a job opportunity. Given the dialogue this provoked, we decided to expand on these warnings and dive a little deeper into each “don’t” below.
Ten things to refrain from doing:
- Speaking poorly of a former org or supervisor during the interview (if you do it to them, you’ll do it to us!)
Unfortunately, we see this often. Did you have a poor experience at your last organization? Was your boss really tough? We get it, but airing your dirty laundry is not the way to win over your potential employer. If you are coming out of a rocky situation, be prepared to answer questions. We recommend a short and concise response as to why the organization/team/role was not the best fit, without criticizing anyone or anything. The potential employer or recruiter may have follow-up questions- be prepared to answer those. Everyone has a bump in the road—it’s all about how you frame it!
- Typos in the resume or cover letter (proofread, please)
How many resumes or cover letters do we read a day? MANY. Whether it’s a misspelled word or a punctuation issue, I would guess that about 50% have some sort of typo. When you author your own work and review something ten times, it is often difficult to spot a typo when everything starts to run together. Share your resume or cover letter with a friend, family member, former colleague or mentor and ask them to proofread. Speaking of mentors…did you read Amy’s most recent blog post?
- Failure to do the homework (review the website and do a little research before you’ll be meeting)
This one is important. We understand that when you are actively job searching, the amount of prep work that comes with interviewing can be overwhelming. Nobody is expecting you to read the website cover to cover but it is important to review the highlights: mission or history of the organization, who the key players are- both professional leadership and volunteers, recent events or programs, any recent news articles or press releases, and a general understanding of the organization’s fundraising efforts and progress towards their goals- if that information is available. If not- ask about it!
- Unprofessional email exchanges with the hiring team
This is not something we see a lot of at Evolve Giving Group- phew! However, when corresponding with a potential employer or recruiter, it is important to be professional, clear, and avoid being long winded- we all have a lot of emails to read! Please be patient, but always feel free to follow up once if you do not receive a response within 2-3 business days. Do not email the hiring manager repeatedly no matter how tempting that may be.
- Dressing, acting or appearing too casual
One of my favorite sayings is “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. That said, this does not mean wear your sweatpants if you are interviewing for a position selling sweatpants! Even these days when we are mostly interviewing via video conference, it is important to present your best self- especially if you are seeking an outward facing role. When you are dressed professionally, you also act and appear more professional. A few tips: Avoid colors that wash you out, make sure your shirt or top is fresh, pressed and free of wrinkles, and remember that fixed hair and a clean, presentable face are important. A hiring manager will always consider how you will appear and present yourself to a client, donor, or team.
- Failure to come prepared with questions for the interviewer
Nothing says “I’m not interested” like not having questions prepared for the interviewer. If you are doing your research (see #3 above!) you will have questions. Prepare them on sticky notes or a note pad and it is OK to visibly reference them- it shows you came prepared! We suggest asking about short- and long-term goals for the organization, company culture, professional development opportunities, and anything else that is of interest to you. Listening is an important part of the process- make sure you don’t ask a question that has already been answered!
- Failure to send a thank you note (email is fine)
How is this still happening in 2021? Thanking someone is one of the most important pieces of business- no matter what sector you’re in. Thank your donor, thank your client, thank your team for a job well done. Please remember to send a thank you note reaffirming your interest in the organization and role within 24 hours of the interview- email is fine. If you are writing a handwritten note (brownie points!) please also send an email, as handwritten notes can take several days or longer to get into the hands of the interviewer. Regardless of the way you send a thank you, keep it fairly short and sweet.
- Failure to pause and listen (be conscious of your response length, then pause and listen for an indication to go on)
While the point of the interview is to learn about you, it is important to keep the interviewer interested and engaged. If we cannot get a word in edge wise, it will be tough to focus on what you are sharing. Answer the question, keep it concise, pause, and if there is more to share, continue only if there is an indication to go on. We have seen candidates lose out on opportunities when they are continuously long winded. If you are long winded in an interview, the hiring manager may be concerned about how you will interact with a donor, especially because a fundraiser’s job is to listen!
- Inability to engage in a lively video conversation (smile, make eye/screen contact and let your personality shine through)
This is a big one. We understand that interviews can be nerve-wracking, but you’ve got to loosen up and relax. Do some jumping jacks, go for a run the morning of, meditate- whatever works for you. There is a reason you were invited to interview and confidence (not ego!) is important. Smile, engage, listen, ask questions. We recommend keeping up with the interviewer and their energy. If they are very calm and quiet, it is still OK to be outgoing and energetic, just remember to read the room.
- Frequent interruptions (see no. 8)
We don’t have much to elaborate on here. This should be obvious. If you are a frequent interrupter, we recommend clasping your hands in your lap when listening in order to avoid jumping in and waiting for an obvious pause in the conversation before you speak again. Also, practice by doing a role play with someone you trust and ask them to count how many times you interrupt. Once you become more aware of this tendency you can begin to extinguish it.
We hope these pointers on what “not to do” are helpful! We encourage you to join us on April 8 as we speak with five exceptional fundraisers turned CEOs as we learn about their career paths and explore the successes, challenges and mistakes they each made on their way to the executive seat.