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April 3, 2017

Securing the Job

You know you are the right person for the advertised role, but how do you demonstrate that to the charity?

Securing the Job

Nick Billingham is one of the leading Fundraising recruiters in the UK. He heads up the Fundraising team at Charity People and has recruited Fundraising Directors for a variety of national and international non-profits.

It can be a hugely exciting time having decided you are ready for a new challenge and identified a role which seems to fit all of your key criteria, but equally, it can be quite daunting. After all, you know you are the right person for the advertised role, but how do you demonstrate that to the charity?

Fundraising, like most other professions in the UK, is typically reliant on a tried and tested formula to secure new talent. A role is marketed through a job board or a recruitment agency, applications are encouraged before a shortlist is identified, and subsequently interviewed. So there are three key stages of which you are in control: finding the role, getting an interview and impressing them once you get there. Across each of these stages there are a number of things that you can do to give yourself the best possible chance to secure the job.

Finding the role

Luckily we work within a relatively small sector, so opportunities can usually be found on one of three job boards. As you start to look at more senior opportunities the role may not be widely publicly advertised; instead one head-hunter will hold responsibility for identifying and approaching potential candidates.

This is just one more reason for working on your public profile. Make sure the people who need to know you are aware of you. This will include building relationships with a selection of recruiters - this could be the people you have worked with to recruit in your teams or it could be people recommended to you by your networks. Beyond profile-building and networking, spend some time thinking about what your dream job is. Factor in where you want to be in 5-10 years and work backwards; what does the next role need to offer me to get me there?

I often say to people that seeking a new role can be a full time occupation. It is for this reason some people will decide to hand their notice in and then start the process of applying for roles. Whether this works for you will depend on your own individual circumstances. In a lot of instances it's not a risk worth taking and if so, it is worth designating some time each week to the job search. This will ensure you have time to apply for roles that come up, but most importantly it will mean you can do justice to any applications you decide to make. You will spend this time each week doing different things. It might be enhancing your public profile or speaking to your network, or it could be honing applications and preparing for interviews. Either way, diarising some time each week will ensure you find the time to focus.

Getting an interview

I have written in the past about the perils of application forms; I hate the things and they feel like a bureaucratic waste of time. However, sometimes they will be a necessity and its worth preparing for these, but hopefully you may get by with just a supporting statement! Either way you will likely be asked to present your CV and a supporting statement specific to that post. Hopefully you will be in the habit of allocating time each week to do these so either will be manageable.

It is worth recognising your CV doesn't have to be a singular document. Change it dependent on the role you are going for. Read the person specification and identify what they need  and make sure you are tailoring how you describe your experience to this. The supporting statement should be personal and exquisite, conveying why you are interested and why you are suitable. I have found that people can often overthink this, but it really is that simple.

For Director-level hires it isn't uncommon for the recruiter to be working on a retained basis, in full partnership with the Charity. If this is the case they will often hold the first round of interviews before discussing these interviews with the hiring manager.

I have met many people who assumed an invite to an interview with me would be a chat over a coffee about the job, when in reality it is running through a set of pre-agreed questions specific to the role. Whilst the questions will typically be quite top-line, don't underestimate this part of the process. Perform badly or disinterested at this stage and you may find that is where your part in the application process ends.

Impressing them at interview

"Fail to prepare and prepare to fail" is one of those irritating catch phrases which unfortunately rings true with interviews. As with the application process you will need to find time to spend time preparing. Preparation should include speaking to people who know the organisation or hiring manager you are applying to - how do they describe the people there? What are the key challenges they are facing? What are the sort of questions they typically ask at interview? If you don't have a connection then what can you find out through social media? Personal social media accounts can offer fantastic insight into CEOs.

Beyond casual social media stalking, you will certainly need to have spent time thinking over key experiences that will likely be relevant to the role you are going for. Competency based interview questions are common and it is worth identifying the key competencies you expect them to test and ideally having examples to talk through for each. It is worth noting some examples will fit a number of competencies, so you don't necessarily need a bank of 15 examples.

The key with any interview is to try and enjoy the process. It may involve an assessment centre with role plays; it probably will involve a presentation, but whatever is included try and enjoy it and relish the challenge in front of you. In Britain, it seems to be natural to underplay previous achievement, so it might be worth running through tangible successes before an interview with a friend/family member. Balance is the key here; you want to ensure the interview panel are made aware of your outstanding historical achievements, but you don't want to come across as arrogant. If you have planned and practiced, you should be able to deliver this in the right tone.

It is highly unlikely you will meet every single one of the assessment criteria for the post. This is ok and quite common. I always think it is worth recognising this and countering it by being ready to talk through an example of overcoming a knowledge/experience gap. This will demonstrate self awareness and problem solving.

As you reach the conclusion of the interview it is worth having a strong close planned. Genuine enthusiasm and confidence goes a really long way here.

Finally, think about the sort of questions you are going to ask when prompted? There are lots of suggestions online for these but try and think about what is genuinely important for you. The interview should be a two way process and you should be using it to identify if an opportunity and organisation is right for you as much as the other way round.

Whatever the role and process involved, good luck!

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