If you are interested in working for a charity, this article could help you write a CV that gets you that job. Written by Guardian Professional network, it takes the best advice from people already working in the area and those who recruit to charities. Some of it is good advice when applying for any job, and some tells you what priorities the charity sector has. Take a look and get that job!
Rory White - director, Flow Caritas
Temporary jobs can be a great way in: Temporary jobs are a great way of getting paid charity experience on your CV and opening up opportunities. Once you're temping in an organisation you can network and find out about upcoming vacancies - the fact that you are there and already doing a great job will help your application stand out.
Focus on your personal statement: A lot of charities, especially larger ones, require full applications now. There is a lot of fairly standard form filling, but the key is the personal statement. If you're going through a recruitment agency they should be able to give you some guidance on this, especially as every charity has slightly different requirements. Focus on the personal statement section and illustrate your ability to do the job by including lots of achievements. Remember to show a genuine interest in the charity - they like to know that your application is not generic but speaking directly to them. Use the job specification as guidance on the key areas.
Good CVs: The initial impact of a CV is very important. Something as simple as font and layout may make all the difference. Once you have grabbed someone's attention, the CV needs to be very easy to read - not too much text with examples and achievements included with each post. Do not include hobbies unless they are genuinely different and a potential talking point.
Rebecca Birs - recruitment manager, British Heart Foundation
Have a great accompanying cover letter: A cover letter gives you the opportunity to explain your skills and experience, discuss why you are interested in the role and what you can bring to it, addressing any areas of the criteria that you do not meet. If I have several CVs that are all very similar, it will be the cover letter that will often sway my final decision. Those that can really demonstrate a desire for the role, are able to address areas of potential weakness and illustrate transferable skills and experience to cover this will trump those that can't every time.
Remove all errors: The biggest mistakes in CVs are spelling and grammar errors and poor layouts. It sends a clear message about attention to detail and care in work when a CV has not been spell checked and has red and green lines all the way through it. It's also really hard to read poorly formatted CVs. Trying to cram relevant skills and experience into two pages by decreasing the type face or pushing everything together is not advisable. CVs should be clear, relevant, easy to read with distinct titles and bullet-pointed achievement/skills and error free.
Paul Marvell - director of learning, Institute of Fundraising
Moving across sectors: You must learn the language of the voluntary sector and understand the culture. Demonstrate your commitment through volunteering experience but remember not to consider fundraising as a foot in the door as it is a proper profession. Be careful not to imply that you see the charity sector as an easy pre-retirement/ sector swap and describe your transferable skills in a way that obviously relates to the post you have applied for. For example if you work in private wealth and you're applying for a fundraising role, relate working with high-net worth-individuals to major donors.
Common pitfalls: Often there is too much detail in CVs. Some of the best CVs are simply presented in plain English, not too wordy, nothing flash, just succinct descriptions with examples where possible. Use a simple font such as Arial, and ensure it's not too dense. Remember to list responsibilities but not achievements and cut out all unnecessary information, such as gender, age, marital status, children. This is a waste of valuable space. Also avoid clichés in personal profile statements, ensure the CV is tailored to the role and all achievements mentioned are your own.
Include extra experience: Volunteer roles are crucial to include on CVs and application forms. They show a side of you that an employer cannot see from your work experience alone, especially if the volunteer includes organisational and people management skills. For example if you're a trustee, that is brilliant experience as you have knowledge of governance. It's also useful to say if you're a member of your professional body, and whether you have the relevant qualifications for your profession. While in fundraising this is not often essential, it does help to differentiate you from other applicants and shows your commitment to your profession and development. Also be sure to mention if you are a regular speaker at sector events, networking groups etc. It looks good to be well-networked.
Sue Davies - HR manager, Scope
Simplicity is essential: A CV needs to be straight forward and not too long - just give the key information to show your skills and experience. The strap line at the top that is so popular now needs to be short and relevant to the role or it won't be read. To make a CV stand out some people add a photo - not all are the most professional and this doesn't add anything for me. Include all work experience you may have – paid or unpaid. I wouldn't include interests and hobbies, although if I had an interest that was of particular relevance to the role then mention it in the cover letter.
Mistakes to watch out for: Common pitfalls to avoid include: using silly unprofessional email addresses; generic CVs that aren't linked to the role; when applications are emailed, the email takes the place of the cover letter – this shouldn't be long but still needs outline the key issues the applicant wants to put across; ignoring applications and just sending in a CV; fill out the additional information on applications properly but ensure it isn't too long.
Lauren Bates - director, ethicaledge
Graphic vs text: There are more and more infographic CVs at the moment. The decision between a text CV and one that is graphics-based depends largely on the profession and sector you're in. There's still a preference amongst recruiters for text-based CVs as we need to be able to evaluate experience quickly and sometimes the message can get lost in a sea of graphics. That said, however, done well an infographic can be very powerful particularly for creative and digital roles – they can really show talents. Whichever style you go for, it stills needs to concisely convey your experience so the message or content should still take priority. If in doubt, have two versions.
Write your own CV: There is a trend these days to get outside help with writing your CV. Obtaining a neutral perspective can be a valuable and revealing exercise, but write the final version yourself. A CV is designed to describe you so don't give the responsibility of writing it a person who may create someone you don't recognise.
Give concrete examples: Application forms can restrict flair, but you can still stand out from the crowd by giving concrete examples that show how you meet the person specification. Showing your achievements rather than listing your duties as they appear in your job description really brings your experience to life. Many forms are online these days so if you can, it's a good idea to include links to any examples of your work, which is especially useful if you're going for a creative, digital or social media role.
David Cankett - people development manager, The National Autistic Society (NAS)
Be wary of being innovative: The problem is that many recruitment systems cannot really handle digital applications, possibly incorporating images and video. Many employers might google applicants to see what sort of digital footprint people have left, if they want to. It seems that recruitment processes have not kept pace with other innovations, and whereas I would advise against gambling on trying to be too creative if you believe the organisation to be quite conservative, depending on the role applied for, and providing in all areas the CV addresses the necessary skills and abilities from the person specification, there can be scope for video and links etc especially for the more creative roles.
Managing volunteers is good experience: The recruitment and management of volunteers requires a very sharp skillset since best practice is to mirror as far as possible managing volunteers like staff, for example by providing support and supervision and ensuring their conduct is in-line with the values of your organisation. You can get an idea of the required skills from reviewing the job description for volunteer management roles, then reflect these in your CV. Emphasise those elements of management that are common to both groups - for example, issues of conduct, which can be particularly challenging, and tight resource management.
Georgina Anstey - assistant consultant, NCVO
Useful resources: You could consider using a skills-based CV format to highlight the transferable skills. There's also a free video on securing a job in the voluntary sector in tough times.'