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Write an amazing CV for the Charity/NGO sector

UCL Careers3 March 2014

This post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog

So you’ve decided to apply for that position at a Charity/NGO, but you’re stuck, blankly staring at your CV, not knowing how to best get across your experience or even if it will make the cut. You’ve got this nagging stat in the back of your head, that on average less than 10% of CVs make it through the first stage of the recruitment process.

Here are some quick tips on writing a CV for the Charity/NGO sector that can help give you a fighting start:

  • Make sure it’s no longer than 2-sides and know that the first half of your CV is key – it is what the recruiter will look at first and if they aren’t intrigued to read further, they won’t! Note: Some employers such as the UN might take a longer CV, so check and do your research before hand especially on the position you are applying for.
  • Read the person specification and tailor your CV against the competencies they are looking for. Most recruiters score CVs against a criterion and if you haven’t clearly labelled or demonstrated those competencies, your application won’t go any further. For example, if you are applying for a researcher role, make sure your research section has enough of the core competencies matched so you are ticking all their initial boxes.
  • A recruiter only spends on average 7 – 30 seconds looking at each application initially. Make sure you have a powerful punch at first glance. Get some friends to review or even get your application checked by your careers service.
  • When you are explaining why you want to work for them, ensure it is tailored appropriately and highlight what you can offer them. No one wants to read: “I want to work for Save the Children because I can’t wait to touch all children!”
  • Make sure it is a consistent format and if possible send it across in a PDF format – it doesn’t lose its formatting.
  • Get someone to triple check for spelling and grammar mistakes!
  • Demonstrating evidence is easier than you think. Core Humanitarian competencies are often:
  1. Understanding humanitarian contexts and applying humanitarian principles
  2. Achieving Results
  3. Managing yourself in a pressured and changing environment
  4. Developing and maintaining collaborative relationships
  5. Operating safely and securely at all times
  6. Demonstrating leadership

Once you’ve broken these down, finding examples are easier than you think.

Realised you haven’t got one of these competencies?  Build them up by:

  1. Volunteering whilst at university
  2. Internships during the summer breaks
  3. Reading
  4. E-learning
  5. Networking/attending free talks at ODI
  6. Training
  7. Transferring your skills from any sector
  8. Waitressing – pressure
  9. Childcare – operating safely
  10. Enhancing your knowledge of cultures – you can do all of this without even leaving the country!

Once you’re confident that you can nail your CV, come in and get it checked by an applications advisor who can give you more specific tips against the person specification and job description.

Good luck!