Three reasons not to post your resume online

Amy Potthast served as Idealist’s Director of Service and Graduate Education Programs until 2011. Read more of her work at

“Can I post my resume on Idealist? How do I post my resume on Idealist? Why can’t I post my resume on Idealist?””

In my five years working here—chatting, writing and teaching about nonprofit careers—countless community members have asked these questions. Here’s why we don’t host resumes on our site:

1. Resumes should reflect position descriptions.

We don’t host your resume because employers should never see a generic resume from you.

Your resumes (plural) should each be almost mirror images of the positions you’re applying for. They should reflect your experiences with the roles, qualifications and job duties the hiring organizations seek, and the issues they champion. See Chapter Eight of the Idealist Guides to Nonprofit Careers for tips (p. 142 if you’re reading the guide for first time job seekers and p. 146 in the guide for sector switchers).

As a hiring manager, I love it best when an applicant’s resume tells me that they were born for this job or internship. A generic resume will never do that.

2. Resumes should not open you to identity theft.

We don’t host your resume because we don’t want to encourage identity theft.

Professional, non-financial identity theft involves using the details of another person’s professional and educational background to gain employment. Perpetrators can access your personal information in plenty of ways – including information you post about yourself online.

Listing specific details of your current and past employment online (including your contact information, accomplishments, references, awards and professional memberships) opens the door to professional identity theft.


From Flickr user Yasuhiro (Creative Commons)

3. Resumes should not invite spam.

We don’t host your resume because while we want to promote connections among our community members, we dislike spammers.

In the current job market, it’s unclear how many worthy organizations are browsing online resumes in search of people who haven’t bothered to apply for the organization’s openings.

However, it’s very clear that spammers are always on the look out for people to pester.


Posting your resume online may seem like hedging your bets: you can’t possibly know about all the openings out there, so maybe it makes sense to post a generic resume, just in case your dream employer discovers you that way. The risks of such passivity are professional identity theft on one end of the spectrum, and spam on the other.

In fact, worthy employers who post job openings in the current job market are inundated with worthy applicants. The best way to get their attention is to send your perfectly-tailored resume directly to the hiring manager. Read more about presenting yourself on paper.

And take note: if you have a crush on an organization that’s not currently hiring, connect with them in the meantime through social networks. For example, on the newly relaunched Idealist, you can connect with an organization as a fan of their page. Then you won’t miss out if and when they do post a new job listing.

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Four ways to make your job postings pop

I recently saw this observation from Twitter user @paulinechu:


This reminded me of a post called There’s a high likelihood that your job postings suck, from the blog Ask a Manager. (Ask a Manager is a great read, whether you’re a seeking employment, looking desperately for a way out of a toxic work environment, or just pondering age-old questions like what to do when your teammates over-share in their out of office reply messages.)

Alison Green counsels employers to “talk like a normal person and think like the candidate you’re looking for.” Steer clear of jargon, she writes, and think of your posting as a marketing document. Why will this job be exciting for the right candidate?

I figured our Community Support team—the friendly folks who answer your questions when you call or email us—might have some advice, too. Here are Jeremy’s tips for posting your jobs on Idealist.

  • List a salary range, even if you think the salary might be low. This is one of the biggest complaints we get from our community of job seekers. Candidates are much more likely to apply for your position if they know roughly how much it might pay and don’t forget to include information about the benefits your organization provides its staff.
  • Be clear about required experience. Ours jobs go out in email alerts in the format of Job Title / Organization Name. If you need an experienced Director of Development, you could put directly in the title “Director of Development – 10 Years Experience.”
  • Take advantage of the space that we provide. Fill it up with keywords and all the other information that you can to make your listing more searchable.
  • Promote beyond Idealist. Don’t forget that once you’ve posted, you should share the listing with your networks through newsletters and on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Your biggest fans can often become your best employees.

Here’s hoping you can stretch that $60 investment a little further.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Leaders from Girls, Inc., DC Central Kitchen, Civic Ventures, and Public Allies to Headline Nonprofit HR Conference

Registration is open for the 2009 Nonprofit Human Resources Conference, to be held October 4-6 in Washington, DC.

The impressive lineup of keynote speakers includes Robin L. Robin, Director of Human Resources at Girls, Incorporated; Phyllis Segal, Vice President of Civic Ventures; Robert Egger, Founder and President of DC Central Kitchen, Inc.; and Paul Schmitz, President and CEO of Public Allies.

From the conference website: Nowhere else in the entire nation will you find as diverse a group of nonprofit executives, researchers, consultants and capacity builders gathered to specifically discuss issues unique to the sector and to the sector…Not only will you be able to connect with like-minded professionals, more importantly, you will find yourself in the company of dedicated HR practitioners who know and understand what it means to work in a mission-driven environment.

Visit the conference website to learn more and to register.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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Career Corner: What Nonprofit HR Wants

By Meg Busse.

As I mentioned yesterday, this Thursday we’re hosting our second webinar for career service professionals around helping students connect to nonprofit careers. This one will be chock-full of specific information to make the job search more effective and efficient.

One of my favorite tidbits of information is with regard to what nonprofits look for in candidates.

By Daniel Lobo (Flickr/Creative Commons)

A few years ago, Idealist surveyed nonprofit professionals who are responsible for their organization’s human resources (recruitment, retention, salary, benefits, etc.). We asked them what life experiences they value most in a candidate. Of the nine choices, “volunteer work with your organization” was far and away the most valued life experience. Second and third place? “Internship in a relevant field” and “Volunteer work with another organization in a relevant field.”

The top three most valued experiences all speak to the need for nonprofit candidates to know the sector, the issue area, and (ideally) the organization. For the breakdown of results from this survey (and other suggestions for how to strengthen your nonprofit resume), see Chapter Five of The Idealist Guides.

We didn’t ask for reasons why people ranked particular life experiences more highly than others, but if you’ve ever worked for or with a nonprofit, I’m sure you can come up with a number of reasons. If you’ve not found a way to connect with a nonprofit yet as a volunteer, intern, board or staff member, now is a great time to look into ways to volunteer or intern to get an up close look at why organizations value nonprofit experience in job candidates.

And whether you’ve spent time with nonprofit organizations or are thinking about how you can get involved, the organization search on Idealist is a great way to begin researching the next nonprofit you’ll connect with.

[This blog entry appeared on an older version of Idealist; any broken links are a result of having re-launched our site in Fall 2010.]

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