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So it’s time to launch a job search. Maybe you’re graduating from college or seminary or you’re exploring a mid-life career change. Maybe you feel God is calling you to a new pastorate, to a nonprofit organization, or to serve your denomination. 

As a lifelong nonprofit employee, a writer and editor, and a member of several CRCNA search teams over the years, I can tell you this: your application materials can make or break your chances of getting the job.

Now, nobody loves writing cover letters and resumes, but these little pieces of paper serve as your ambassadors. They represent you to a team of people who have one goal: to identify the person whose experience, skills, gifts, and personality will be the best fit.

Here are seven easy things you can do to give your application materials the best chance of nabbing you an interview. Ready? Here we go:

Thing 1: Research the organization thoroughly before you apply. Make sure you understand its mission well, and familiarize yourself with how that mission is carried out day to day. Talk with people who work there. Learn everything you can—this will help you discover whether you’re the right candidate and whether the organization is the right place for you.

Thing 2: Don't apply for a job if you don't meet ANY of the qualifications outlined in the posting. You won't be considered. But if you're missing one or two of the qualifications, it's OK to take a chance and focus on the qualifications you DO meet. It can be hard for an organization to find someone who meets their entire wish list, just so you know, so don't let that hold you back.

Thing 3: Keep your cover letter to one page, and your resume to two pages if possible. When the search team has to look through 60 applications, they’ll appreciate it if you make it REALLY easy for them to spot your qualifications. Use bullet points. Be succinct. And don't BS. People can tell.

Thing 4: Don’t tell the search team that you’re the “best,” the “most qualified,” or the “ideal” candidate for the position. That may or may not be true, and it sounds amateurish. Instead, write about the specific ways in which you feel you can contribute to the organization’s mission, serve its constituents or clients, and function as an effective team member. 

Thing 5: I can't emphasize this enough: use your application materials to show how your skills and education meet the SPECIFIC job requirements. If you’re applying for multiple positions, tailor your application materials carefully to fit each position. Study the job description carefully, and use it to organize your cover letter or adjust the focus of your resume.

Thing 6: Don't get too cute with your resume design. This can make you stand out in the wrong way. (Calibri is a great typeface for easy reading. Lobster is not. Just saying.) Clarity should be your goal. Use subheads and bullet points to organize your info. And contrary to what some folks may tell you, you don't need a "Goal" statement at the top. Those can sound hokey and are much too general most of the time.

Thing 7: Finally, I BEG YOU, have an editor, your school's career office, or your Aunt Sadie who teaches English proofread your cover letter and resume before you submit them. Typos and grammatical errors make an impression, and it's definitely not a good one. This should go without saying, but it’s stunning how often application materials come in riddled with errors.

Looking for work is hard work. I hope these tips help, and blessings on your job search!

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