We’ve all been there: clicking send on an application or sitting in a job interview when we realize we JUST MADE A BIG MISTAKE.

Maybe we misspelled a name on the cover letter or told the hiring manager what we really thought about our lame-o boss. Either way, we knew it was the moment we were culled from the herd. Separated from the pack. Unceremoniously dropped into the “no” pile.

These defeats are definitely more painful than cuts based on experience and credentials, and we want to spare you some heartache. Below is our list of the Top 10 Things NOT to Do During a Job Search based on personal experience and our work handling open position searches for clients. Drumroll, please…


  1. Use your current employer’s phone number or email address for communication regarding your job search. Do not interview from your current office phone. Do not use your current work email on your resume.
  2. Lie. You should never misrepresent yourself, your experience or anything at all.
  3. Address your cover letter using “To Whom It May Concern.” Do make an effort to get the name of a real person. Use Google, pick up the phone, send an email or read the posting. Using a generic salutation screams, “I’m not thorough and can’t be bothered to follow directions or take the time to do the research.” Not good in fundraising.
  4. Get too comfortable. Do not swear or cry during an interview, share your entire life story or talk about your most recent night out with your friends.
  5. Talk bad about your current employer. It reveals more about you than your jerky boss and no one wants another whiner in the office.
  6. Interrogate your interviewer. Having questions about the potential role, the organization and the office culture is appropriate. Aggressively turning the conversation around to grill the interviewer about their objectives in hiring is not.
  7. Neglect to do your research. Don’t walk into an interview without knowing the organization. Use social media and the internet to do your research. Check for recent stories in the news. Talk to your networks. Be prepared.
  8. Stalk the interviewer or hiring manager. Period. There is a distinct line between thoughtful, genuine follow up and hassling your interviewer.
  9. Forget to show gratitude. It’s a small world and you’re likely to cross paths with the same people over and over again. Send a thank you. Accept rejection with grace. Keep your petty comments to yourself. Give people a reason to like you beyond your qualifications and you’ll stand out from the crowd.
  10. Forget to ask for feedback. If things don’t go well, be honest about your experience. Ask for feedback and listen to the answer. Then change your approach or your credentials to address any real issues.

Best of luck in all you do! For more advice on navigating your job search, check out this list of top nonprofit job boards.


Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Aly Sterling Philanthropy

Over the years we’ve helped nonprofits raise millions of dollars, engage their leaders, hire top-notch talent and grow their missions. Are you ready to move your mission forward? Contact us to get started.
Aly Sterling Philanthropy
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