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Cracking the Government & Non-Profit Job Search: Tips From Marcelle Yeager

Expert Interview Series

Marcelle Yeager

President, Career Valet

Marcelle Yeager helps launch people to the next level of their careers as president of Career Valet and CEO of ServingTalent. We had a chance to speak with Marcelle recently about the comparisons between job searches in the private, nonprofit, and government sectors, and also heard her advice on how applicants can alter their resumes and interviewing approaches to maximize their odds of success.

Tell us a little about yourself. Why did you decide to head up Career Valet?

Since I was young, I knew that I would start a business one day, but I didn't know what kind until I was finishing my MBA and was asked, "what would you do for free?" Then it dawned on me that I had been helping friends and colleagues with career-related questions for years.

What types of "entry-level" interviewing mistakes do you still see from job candidates who are applying for mid-level or senior-level positions?

Talking either too much or too little. When you're asked a behavioral question like, "Tell us about a time when you handled conflict in the office," give one specific example. Describe briefly what happened and how you attempted to solve it. 

Another issue is poor preparation. This is your only chance to show the employer who you are "off paper!" Take advantage of it by studying common interview questions and preparing examples from your work history in advance; this will allow you to be more calm and confident on interview day. Also, make sure you ask two or three insightful questions at the end (you should prepare these in advance too).

Study common interview questions and prepare examples from your work history in advance; this will allow you to be more calm and confident on interview day.

Should a job seeker go about finding a position at a nonprofit organization differently than if he or she were looking for employment in the private sector?

In some ways, yes. But for a nonprofit job search, your resume and LinkedIn profile should include all community leadership and volunteer positions you've held as well as details/bullets about your work with them.

If an applicant were to say to you, "I don't want to look for a government job because the application process is too time-consuming and cumbersome," how might you respond?

I agree, but if you're looking for similar jobs within the government, once you have a solid resume you will be in good shape. The only thing you will need to do for each application is to check out the job requirements and make sure you've used matching language where it applies to examples from your background where you've demonstrated the skills they seek.

What are the differences in how you approach the job search process for someone who has just been discharged from the military as opposed to a typical working professional?

For transitioning military, I focus on translating their experiences into language that the private sector will understand (everything from job titles to descriptions). For both typical working professionals and veterans, it's essential to look at postings of interest to identify job requirements. In a resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile, you must define how the person's background aligns directly with the position's requirements by giving examples to support those necessary skills.

What's a relatively easy way for someone to make his or her resume stand out from the rest of the pack?

Don't list your duties! Use specific examples from your work as your bullets, and include the end goal or result of your work (it doesn't have to be quantitative).

Other than technological advances, do you foresee any significant changes in the overall job search process in the next ten years?

Remote work continues to become more common, but there are still no clear universal guidelines on telework policy. It's important to pay attention to what happens in that space because if it becomes more standardized, there will be legal and other requirements job seekers may have to meet or follow when applying to jobs. 

Need a little turbo boost for your job search? Sign up for Vocate today!

Zack Andresen

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