Seven tips for a successful job hunt

publication date: Aug 7, 2012
author/source: Philippe Gérard
For aspiring fundraisers and seasoned ones alike, the job-hunting process can be challenging. Lately, I have received a few comments and questions about job search and interviewing etiquette, which inspired me to feature the job hunt in this month's column, share a few suggestions and clarify some misconceptions (in my opinion) about etiquette. Phil Gerard photo

Apply flawlessly

Many applications are littered with typos, grammatical errors and inconsistencies in style and punctuation. I am an awful editor of my own writing, and I know that I always have to find someone who can read my documents before I hand them in. Have someone who is used to reading other people's materials edit your application closely.

Present your application in the format requested in the posting. Some recruiters prefer the cover letter and résumé in one document combined. Others like two separate documents.

I would advise to not consider your email as the cover letter. Rather, attach it as a document. In our world of varied computer systems and Word versions, it is advisable to turn your documents into PDFs before you submit them. Even small things like a missing font on your reader's computer can interfere with the formatting and appearance of your well-crafted document. For the most part, a PDF preserves the integrity of your original document.

Submit once

There is no reason to submit an application other than through the right channels, even if you know the hiring manager well. It shows respect for the process and for the intelligence of the recruiters. We know a good application when we see it, and will direct it through the appropriate channels to the right person.

If you know the hiring manager well, feel free to inform her or him in a quick email or phone call of your intentions to apply, but submit your application through the same channels as others.

"Don't call us, we'll call you"

I disagree with those who advise applicants to follow up with a phone call to ensure the email has been received. Email systems have auto-reply and bounce-back capabilities to supply that information. Yes, you want to demonstrate how proactive you are, but there's a fine line between being proactive and being annoying.

I may be exaggerating a little bit, but what I am getting at is my earlier point about respecting recruiters' intelligence. If your application closely aligns with the requirements of the particular position, recruiters will contact you. They do not need to be reminded of your application or hear your sales pitch about why you are the perfect candidate.

Agreed, a personal conversation trumps a piece of paper - but your résumé serves as your personal marketing copy, your potential ticket to get in the door. Therefore it must be perfect and tell as much about your qualifications and competencies as possible. Once you are selected for an interview, you can give your sales pitch.

If you want to show how proactive you are, a much better idea is to contact an HR department or one of the senior managers of an organization and ask for an information interview not related to a particular job competition. Information interviews are a great way to show interest in an organization and learn more about it and its culture. Networking in general is a great way to get your name and talent noticed by recruiters.  

Arrive at the perfect moment

It is of course tempting to show up early because being too late could have devastating consequences.  However, 15 minutes is too early, and doesn't show respect for the interviewers' time.

You may want to arrive at the interview location about half an hour before the interview or even 45 minutes to be certain. You never know what traffic is like or your sense for directions, especially if you don't know the location very well. When you arrive, familiarize yourself with the building, the office level and parking.  But wait until five minutes before your appointment to report to the front desk.

Dress for the occasion

Dress appropriately for the organization in the interview. Find out as much as you can about the organization to determine its culture and style. It's always safer to be over-dressed, since it at least shows that you understand the formality and seriousness of an interview situation.

Be sure to avoid anything that could distract from you as a person. Chewing gum is not a great idea, for example.

Say thank you

Some people prefer thank-you cards, but I find that it is more important to be thanked promptly. A card can get lost in the mail or arrive days after the interview. And once received and read, it ends up in the recycling bin. An email is immediate, it doesn't cost you any money, and it helps you respond faster than others who prefer snail mail. The key is to make your message timely, intelligent, thoughtful and appreciative.

Keep current

Seasoned fundraisers could be out of practice after being in the same role for many years. One way to keep current is to meet confidentially with an executive recruiter for a general conversation about career aspirations and upcoming opportunities. Always update your résumé even if you're not searching for a job. You can easily forget the achievements that you have accomplished, so it's better to chronicle them along the way to be prepared for the next job hunt.

Job hunting can be challenging, even frustrating, but with practice and by following some simple rules of etiquette it can actually be fun. And of course it's very satisfying when an interview results in a job offer.

Philippe (Phil) Gerard has been a fundraising professional for 14 years in the community service, education and university advancement sectors.  His specialty is major gifts fundraising. An MBA with a human resource management specialization set him on the exciting path of fundraising talent management. 

He is a director of advancement with Simon Fraser University and teaches as an adjunct instructor in Georgian College's Fundraising and Resource Development Program. Phil is also the President of Gérard Consulting - Fundraising Talent Management and author of Phil's Careers Blog. His firm helps fundraisers find a great career and organizations find and retain the next great colleague. For more information, visit or

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