Thursday, May 16, 2013

8 Nonprofit Cover Letter Mistakes

If there's one thing most job seekers struggle with, it's writing a cover letter. Crafting these documents can be extremely monotonous but they are also extremely important as they are usually the first exposure a nonprofit has to you.

Unless the employer requests your cover letter as an attachment, it will be the first document they read in your job application. This means you need to do everything in your power to make a great first impression; you  need to make the hiring manager want to read more. That's why it's imperative to avoid application-killing mistakes such as the ones listed below:

  • Mistake 1 -- Overusing the First Person: Minimize the use of first person words such as "I" or "me" at the beginning of sentences. You are supposed to be explaining on how you meet the organization's needs, not telling your life story.
  • Mistake 2 -- Having a Stale Opening: The opening of a cover letter can be the most difficult part in the writing process. You want to catch the reader's interest but you don't want to appear as if you are trying too hard either. Avoid an opening like this -- "I am extremely interested in your Executive Director position" -- and write something like this -- "Your need for an Executive Director exactly matches my more than five years of experience running one of the top nonprofits in the country."
  • Mistake 3 -- Going on Too Long: A cover letter longer than a page risks putting the reader to sleep. In fact, even a page is pushing the limits.
  • Mistake 4 -- Parroting Your Resume: Use your letter to tell a brief story that explains your qualifications rather than just regurgitating information that is already in your resume.
  • Mistake 5 -- Not Referencing the Job: Make sure you mention which job for which you are applying. Organizations often advertise multiple positions, so you can't assume they know which one you want.
  • Mistake 6 -- Passive Closing: Promise to follow-up within a few days to answer any preliminary questions the hiring manager might have instead of hoping he will get back to you.
  • Mistake 7 -- Not Saying "Thanks:" Always end your cover letter by thanking the reader for his time and consideration.
  • Mistake 8 -- Forgetting to Identify Yourself: Whether it's in the introduction or at the end, you need to identify who you are.

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