We receive a large number of employment applications. In response to our most recent posting, more than 75 applications were received. Because we take the search for an additional team member very seriously, this required a considerable amount of effort, and no doubt many of the applicants were disappointed, or may have felt that their application was not given adequate consideration or recognition.

Although we take all applications seriously, we are unable to interview every applicant, nor are we able to probe for additional information, we must decide on the basis of the application we receive, and sometimes must use some pretty harsh rules to narrow down. Here are some suggestions for your application to IndEco.

Before you apply

If you are responding to a specific opening, read the job description we have provided, and find out something about IndEco, most likely by looking at our website. (However, be aware that — like all websites — what you see there is a guide and may not be completely up-to-date.) You should assess whether you meet the criteria we specify for the position, whether you are interested in the kind of work we do, and whether IndEco seems like the kind of place you would want to work.

Content and presentation of the application

Your application should be submitted by e-mail, since we request that format, and should include at least the following: a cover letter and your resume. In general, we will decide on the basis of these whether or not to interview you. If we select you for an interview, we will probably ask for a list of references and examples of your work.

Your application should be for us, not for you. This means you need a short and to the point subject line to your e-mail. The best ones are ones like: “John Doe’s resume and cover letter for the Environmental Management Analyst position”. This helps us to organize. Similarly, any attachments should have names that are relevant to us, such as “John Doe’s resume.doc”, not IndEco.doc If you don’t make our life easier when you’re applying for a job, it’s hard for us to assume that you’ll make it easier if we hire you.

Your covering letter ought to do three things:

  1. connect your training and experience to what we say we are looking for, and the kind of work that we do
  2. provide a high level summary of your resume, for example by identifying the three most important things we should draw from your resume
  3. deal with administrative issues, such as your confirmation that you meet the eligibility criteria, and how to contact you, that you know where the position would be (e.g. in our Toronto office), and you are willing and legally able to work from that location.

If you’ve read a book about how to write cover letters, or taken a course on how to write a cover letter, don’t use the sample they provide because your letter will probably be identical to that of the next applicant who read the same book or took the same course. Extract the principles they are trying to convey to you, figure out if they make sense for you (and for us), and then write your own cover letter.

Your resume may be generic (though we’d prefer one customized for us), but if it is, your covering letter becomes that much more important. Your resume must reflect a balance between providing us with enough information to make a decision, and overwhelming us with too much detail. Contrary to what the resume books say, it need not be one page, or two pages, but it should be readable and engaging. If you are a recent graduate, the name of your program alone does not give us enough; but we probably do not want to know titles and a summary of every paper you wrote in school.

When to apply

Apply as soon as you become aware of the position. If there is a closing date, we aren’t going to wait until that date before looking at applications, and if you apply close to the closing date, the position may already be filled. However, if you find out about the position late, you should not assume the position has been filled. We will remove the listing of the position from our website once we finalize an agreement with an applicant.

Specific content suggestions

Your objective — if you look at the website, you will see what our objectives are. If these aren’t compatible with yours, you probably should not waste your time or ours applying. We want to know what you want to do, not what you want to be. Similarly, we don’t like objectives that are all about you and not about us. We assume you want to learn (and you will), but we’re looking for people whose objective is to contribute, not just to take.

Your education — we care where and what you studied. We cannot possibly know about every program at every university (though we do have biases), so you need to tell us a bit about your education. This is particularly true where you’ve gone to a university we’re unlikely to know about, where you’ve studied in a field quite different from what we practice (or request), or where we are likely to make assumptions that you don’t think are valid. We dismiss lots of applications from people who say they’ve studied in a specific field, such as say molecular biology. If you studied molecular biology, and if you look at our website, you will know that we don’t do molecular biology. If you really want to do molecular biology, you shouldn’t apply to IndEco. If you really are interested in IndEco, you need to tell us why your training in molecular biology is relevant. For example, explain how adding a molecular biologist to our team would enhance our ability to get certain kinds of projects, or explain that training in molecular biology provided certain kinds of skills and expertise that are relevant outside the field of molecular biology. If we have asked for a science degree and you have an arts degree (or an environmental studies degree), you need to explain why we should even consider your application. Maybe you took a large number of science courses and are highly quantitative. Then you need to tell us that.

Your work experience — same thing. We don’t know every company so you need to tell us at least a single line about the company and what you did there. Don’t let us make erroneous assumptions about your experience. Tell us how your work experience is relevant to what we do. Similarly, if you’ve had four jobs in the last year, tell us why that is so we won’t assume you can’t hold a job. If you had four short term contracts, tell us that.

Communicate clearly and well — communication is a big part of what we do, and we want to know you can do that. Spell check your document, and read it over before you send it to catch problems your spell checker might miss. Poorly written letters and resumes get rejected immediately. Be very careful with names (yours and ours), with “environment” and with similar sounding words (e.g. complimentary/complementary; affect/effect). We probably won’t consider your application if you say you are pleased to be applying for a job at a different organization (probably because you’ve recycled a letter, or mixed things up), or if you spell your name or e-mail address incorrectly. We won’t be happy if you misspell our name, but may consider you anyway.

Use a professional style — we want neither an academic treatise, nor a casual note. We’re a business.

Specific format suggestions

If you’re e-mailing your application (as we prefer), don’t use fancy fonts that we may not have because your application may look like a mess when we open it. If you think it’s important to use fancy fonts, for example, send a pdf (with fonts embedded), hard copy or a fax. If sending a hard copy or fax, please explain why you’re doing that when we indicated we prefer to receive applications by e-mail.

We don’t want to read long paragraphs. Keep things short and to the point, and use bullets, diagrams, headings or other mechanisms to convey your information effectively.

Don’t send us your application by e-mail and by fax without having a reason to do so and explaining to us what the reason is. Similarly don’t submit your application twice without explaining why you are. For example, if you don’t tell us that you’re providing updated information, we’ll probably assume you just don’t remember that you’ve already applied and you aren’t organized.

Be creative

In general, applicants that show creativity are more likely to be interviewed than those that do not. However, your best strategy will probably be to have a ‘conservative’ component to your application as well as the creative one, showing us you will be able to bring ideas to us, but will also be able to communicate with our clients who may not want something too different from ‘normal’. We have often granted interviews to persons who have done something creative that shows how they might fit into the company. such as putting themselves into our organization chart, or preparing a bio that looks like it could be on our website, or that really shows how they differ from the other applicants.

Follow up

We like it when you follow up, but you have to walk a fine line between showing you’re interested and being pushy. All staff have been told to pay attention to potential applicants, and your interactions with staff will be incorporated into our evaluation of your application. If we do give you an interview, we’ll like it if you confirm that you will attend. We’ll also like it if you send us a note afterwards, perhaps with additional points you forgot to make during the interview.