Thank you to Sasha for such a wonderful webinar. It's so valuable to hear what happens behind the scenes after an application has been submitted. Below you can find notes on the talk. Don't miss our next webinar on acing interviews. 


  • Do 
    • Include keywords from the job description
      • Ensure you have statements in your resume that relate to the job description. Sometimes HR departments get 200 applications for one position and may look resumes for 4 minutes or less, so ensure those keywords POP!
    • Have someone or many people proofread your materials!
    • Include volunteer work that addresses skills or needs in the job description
  • Don’t 
    • Include your picture
    • Include your street address -- just city and state are fine
  • Colors on your resume are fine, but keep in mind that it may be printed in black and white

Cover Letters

  • Use a cover letter template, but tailor every cover letter to the specific organization and job description you’re applying for. Ensure your cover letters also have keywords from JD that stand out.
  • Your cover letter should tell a story and answer why you are interested in the job and in the organization.

Phone Screens

  • One position can have upwards 50 applicants → narrowed to 8 max for phone screen
  • After the phone screen, the recruiter then debriefs with hiring manager, discusses any potential about red flags, it's then up to the hiring manager to select who to interview
  • Do
    • Showcase your interest in the position and how your past experience has prepared you for this role.
    • Explain areas in JD where you might not 100% fit -- How else do your experiences make you a good fit for this role?
    • Research the organization and their values prior to phone screen 
    • Have questions for the phone screen/interviewer -- you're interviewing the organization to know that it's a good fit for you
      • What do you like most about the organization?
    • Send a thank you after the phone screens


  • Sometimes organizations post a range in the job description, but you should ask early -- what if it's something that you can't accept? Don’t waste your time!
  • [DDCSP will be hosting a Salary Negotiation Webinar in June 2020, join us for more tips!]

Checking on Applications

  • Often takes ~3 weeks in between receiving an application to moving onto phone screens
  • It is not a red flag if the organization is taking a long time to get back to applicants because HR people may be sifting through 100s of resumes for multiple positions
  • Do
    • Email once saying something like, "I'm really interested in XX position. I feel like I bring XXX skills to the position. I was curious on the timeline and hope to hear back from you soon."
  • Many organizations have a hiring freeze right now due to COVID-19, this may lengthen the amount of time they take to get back to you. 


  • Organizations sometimes a 2nd round of interviews before offers are extended
  • If you've gone through the whole process and are not chosen, you'll often get an email saying that they gave the position to someone else
    • At this stage in the process, it comes down to really little things like something specific in the hired person’s job history, but this doesn't mean you weren't awesome because you got this far anyway
  • Do
    • Ask who you're interviewing with so you can do any background research and make up mock questions to practice
    • Be specific in your answers -- cite your experience
    • Be prepared for behavioral questions, "Tell me about a time when you XXX"
    • Send a thank you for anyone who interviewed you and it looks good if you reference what you talked about in the interview
      • Eg: "I really enjoyed learning about XX organization's advocacy work and was hoping to add to it in XX way" 
    • Ask questions (see in “Culture Fit section”)

Culture Fit

  • Questions to ask during the interview or phone screen ask
    • How do you describe your department? 
    • How is work-life balance at your organization? What does a typical work day/work week look like?
    • Ask the supervisor for the position: How is your management style? 
      • Can ask 1 behavioral based question eg: "Can you tell me about a time when you XXX (eg: gave an employee a project)"
  • Ask about diversity / their DEI initiatives
    • “How does your organization think about justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion?”
  • In the job description do they list percentages of time spent on a category of task? If not, ask how your time will be broken up in the position.
  • Non profit specific:
    • Be conscious of budget, but the organization might not necessarily have the budget to support all of your new ideas, or the highest salary, but they try to make up for it with benefits
    • Ask about the benefit package


  • Get on Linkedin and see if you know anyone working at that organization or have connections who know someone who works there.
    • Request informational interviews
  • Internships and volunteering great way to get your foot in the door 
  • If you have an organization in mind you really want to work with but they don’t have an open job description see if there is a particular department you're interested in working in and send any materials there (eg: resume)
  • Consider asking if they would be open to an informational interview. “I'm interested in learning more about the work you do”


  • References aren't typically checked until close to the end of the hiring process
  • Do
    • If you've done any volunteer work, you can list a colleague through that organization as a reference 
    • If you haven’t told your reference/current supervisor you’re applying for jobs you can say “References are available upon request” and ask if you can have time first to ask your supervisor for a reference rather than having the organization call your reference out of the blue
    • If you’re applying to a lot of jobs, you can let your references know, "I'm applying to a lot of jobs right now and have listed you as a reference"
      • See if you can alternate references
    • Thank your references for supporting you and let them know when you've got a position
    • List the person you worked most closely with so they can answer in greater detail 
    • If asked for a managerial reference, reference the person who was your direct supervisor, but you can also let the recruiter know that this other person was someone you worked most closely with

Managing Job Search Feelings

  • Do
    • Should I reach out to someone in the organization -- you can, it doesn't hurt to go on linkedin and learn who else works for the organization and ask for an informational interview. You can bring it up during the interview that you spoke with XX and it shows your interest in the organization.
    • Be kind to yourself. Take a few minutes to exhale and don't beat yourself up. You are worth more than a resume and cover letter, and that never changes.
    • Acknowledge that applying for jobs is work and hard work at that!
    • Give yourself 6 months or more to find a new job. It is not a quick process, more of a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Don’t
    • Get discouraged, even though it’s so easy to become so. A rejection can also mean it wasn’t a good fit for the applicant and maybe saved hurt in the long run. 
    • It's not personal if you don't get offered the position
  • I have sent out hundreds of applications to organizations, does it even work?
    • YES! Please keep applying. 
    • If you take the time to look for the keywords in the JD your resume will get more noticed!

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