Top tips for applying for People & Planet (and other voluntary sector) jobs

This page gives tips on how to fill out an application for People & Planet, and for almost any other job in the voluntary sector. It has been written by People & Planet staff with input from other people who spend lots of time interviewing others for voluntary sector jobs…

Tip 1 - Show you meet the person specification

“1) Show you meet the person spec 2) Show you meet the person spec 3) Show you meet the person spec”

Nigel Stanley - head of campaigns, Trades Union Congress

When we shortlist applications, we will go through the person specification and score candidates against each of its bullet points. You’ll get two points if you demonstrate fully that you have this skill, one point if you partially demonstrate you have this skill, no points if you don’t demonstrate you have it. Most voluntary sector organisations will do something similar. For the internship application, we give you a form to fill out so it’s 100% clear what we want to know from you. Answer the questions we ask. With other organisations, when you are writing the application, lay it out the same way - take each of the criteria from the persn spec, and write below it how you know that you meet it. Don’t just tell us your experience. Tell us how your experience fits the skills we’re looking for.

Tip 2 - Don’t just say you have experience, Show how you did it

“Give examples of how your experience applies, instead of waffle.”

Alison Charleton, Head of Communication, Unison

hamster hanging from a piece of string

Give specific examples which show that you’re good at the thing we ask about

When you are showing that you meet a criterion, give specific examples of things you have done in the past. Don’t just say ‘I know how to do this’. Lay out for us what thing you have done which demonstrates this.

Also, anyone can have experience of doing something - well or badly. Don’t just say ‘I’ve done this before’ - explain to us how you did it well. We are more interested in what you are capable of than in how many years of experience you have. The people who do best are the people who take a piece of their experience, explain how it’s relevant to the criterion, and show that they were successful in doing that thing and/or what they learnt from it.

So, for example, we sometimes ask for excellent writing skills. It’s good to say ‘I run a blog about hamster care and write for it all the time’. But how do we know that your blog is any good? It would be better to say: ‘I run a blog about hamster care, it has 500 readers every day. I often receive feedback from these readers saying that they are attracted because of my ability to explain complex methods of hamster care in simple and engaging ways. This shows that I have good writing skills and am able to clearly communicate complicated ideas in bite sized chunks”.

Tip 3: Don’t assume knowledge

“Assume the person reading the application knows absolutely nothing about the organisations you’ve worked for or the things you’ve done”

Laura Burley, People & Planet

Don’t assume that we know anything about you or the things that you have done. We will only take into account what it says in the application. Assume we know nothing else. The organisation you have volunteered for in the past may be huge, the event you organised may have been front page news. But that doesn’t mean we’ve heard of it, so assume we haven’t. Tell us why it was great, and why it’s really impressive that you were involved.

Tip 4: Think outside the box

“Use experience you’ve gained from all the bits of your life to show you have the skills you need”

Adam Ramsay - Activism Manager, People & Planet - [OK, I’m writing all of this, but this one is my top tip]

a Hurdy Gurdy

A hurdy gurdy - think outside the box…

We are looking for people with particular skills. We’re not too fussed how you got them. So, we might ask for experience of engaging young people. Maybe you’ve never been involved in a campaign which engaged young people but maybe you taught a class how to play the hurdey gurdey? That’s basically the same skill, so talk about that!

People who do well are not necessarily those who actually have more experience. They are those who are good at making clear in their applications how the various experiences we all have from life have given them the particular skills needed for this particular job. Learn that trick and you’ll do well.

Tip 5: Know what the job is, show you care

“Actually have a passion for the cause. Have read some of the ‘trade press’ or equivalent and have something to say about context”

Adam O’Boyle, director, Student Hubs


“I want to know why someone wants to work for my specific charity in my specific sector. I need to be convinced of commitment and know they’ll work hard.”

Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive of The Who Cares? Trust

2009 tar sands protest clayton

Show you care!

If you don’t understand what the job you are applying for is really about, then you’ll struggle to get it. So make sure you do your research. Part of your job is going to be getting people to care about the stuff People & Planet cares about. So it’ll help if you can convey your passion. So do some reading and try to get across to us in your application form and at your interview the passion you have for the work you’ll be doing.

Tip 6: Apply!

You won’t get it if you don’t. We’re always looking for people with a range of types and amounts of experience, so if you want to work here don’t assume we don’t want you. Good luck!