Want a Nonprofit Job? Change Your Resume in these 3 Ways

How to Impress that Nonprofit Employer

Young woman interviewing for a nonprofit job.
Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

More people than ever want to work at jobs that will change the world.

Not since the 1960s do we have so many idealists walking our streets. From recent college graduates to retirees launching new careers, would-be "do-gooders" are plentiful.

But the competition is keen. Gone are the days when nonprofit employment was only a fall-back position. Today the best and the brightest are lining up.

But how do you impress a nonprofit employer?

Especially when you might not have any nonprofit experience yet, either because you've worked in a different sector, or you're just entering the workforce.

Nonprofits are different. They look for different things in potential employees. Make the first cut by looking at your resume. How can you signal that you are a viable candidate for a nonprofit job?

Start with these three ways to make your resume pop out of the pack

  1. Highlight Your Volunteer Work.

    If you are serious about making a career in the nonprofit world, you've probably already done considerable volunteer work. If so, tout it! In a special section of your resume list the organizations you've volunteered with and the specific roles you filled. Start with the most impressive, such as serving as a board member or on a committee. Include relevant statistics such as "helped raise $10,000 from the annual auction" or "supervised 10 other volunteers in staffing the annual run."

    If you are a new graduate or are about to graduate, look into doing a stint in national service, such as the PeaceCorps or Americorps.  Such experience often puts you at the top of the heap  for nonprofit employers. Choose to volunteer abroad if you think you might like to work for an international charity or pick a domestic volunteer opportunity to qualify you for any number of nonprofit jobs in the U.S.

    Volunteering shows that you know your way around the nonprofit scene and are realistic about what is needed. It also shows that you are an altruistic person who is genuinely interested in helping others.

    Prowl the possibilities with our list of online sites where you can find information on volunteer opportunities. Showcase your volunteer work on your resume and your social network profiles. Pay particular attention to your LinkedIn profile, a popular place for nonprofit employers.

  1. Emphasize Your Ability to Wear Multiple Hats.

    Set up your resume to highlight your flexibility. Nonprofit jobs are known for requiring their employees to move easily between different tasks.

    The smaller the nonprofit, the more you will be required to fill multiple roles. Unlike large corporations, which tend to highly specialize their employees, a nonprofit needs people with varied talents and the grace to do many kinds of things, from the mundane to the highly creative.

    If you are just starting out in nonprofit work, consider positions with a smaller organization just because you'll likely get the broadest array of experience there. You can then use that base of skills to move up to a larger nonprofit.

  1. Get Rid of Corporate Language and Jargon.

    Do not fill your resume with corporate speak. You do not have to show off your technical vocabulary or your management seminar language. Nonprofit managers want to be able to understand at a glance what you've done.

    Use language that any layperson can comprehend. Most people in nonprofit positions value down-to-earth employees who can explain themselves in a way that even their neighbor, cousin, or grandmother would understand.

    In your charitable work, you will deal with people from all kinds of backgrounds and socioeconomic backgrounds. Do not try to impress nonprofit hiring managers with fancy language or words that only an MBA could love.

    Have your friends who work in nonprofit take a look at your resume and give you feedback about your vocabulary, the tone of your resume, and whether you've highlighted appropriate skills and experience.

    Your resume is your best shot at impressing on a nonprofit employer that you are suitable for the nonprofit world. Make that resume count by playing up your volunteer work, your flexibility, and your down-to-earth personality.