FAQ: How to crush the application phase

It'll require a bit more effort than this

From time to time, we’ll post our best thinking around different questions related to the Ally Recruitment season.  One question that keeps coming up is “What are you guys looking for?”

In the coming days, we’ll post videos from almost all of the sites that feature staff people sharing in their own words what they look for in Allies.  If you can’t wait, this post will drop some science on how to handle your candidacy.

Keep in mind, there are three stages to becoming an Ally.  Let’s hypothetically assume that you’re applying to a site that has 30 Allies this Fall.  Here’s a brief overview :

The Application Phase. In this hypothetical case, we’re expecting 180 Ally Applications.  Out of these 180, you can realistically expect a site to conduct interviews for 90-120 candidates.

The Interview Phase. The site will conduct live (and virtual interviews) for 90-120 candidates.  This will include individual interviews, and group components.  In this hypothetical situation, we can expect the site to select 40-50 Finalists.

The Finalist Matching Phase. The site will conduct a one-day matching fair (or a 1-2 week matching period) where the Finalists have an opportunity to meet and interview with their pool of nonprofits.  After the candidate has conducted 3-5 interviews, the candidate will rank order their preferences.  Matches will be made with Finalists and Nonprofits that select each other as their #1 or sometimes #2 pick.  Even though there are 40-50 Finalists, this will be narrowed down to 30 to be the Ally class starting in the fall.

This post is just looking at the first phase:  The Interview Matching Phase.  Here are some of our “best thinking” to set yourself up for success in this phase:

Complete the Application Completely.  Seriously, you’d think this is a no-brainer, but unfortunately, we get our share of applications in which applicants fail to complete the short answer sections.  Usually sites will send an e-mail follow-up to make sure there wasn’t a mistake, as sometimes there are technical glitches.  It’s also important to consider your application’s appearance — if you’re mailing it in, make sure that it’s printed clearly.  If you’re completing it online, be sure that you have checked for typos.

Know where you want to go.   This has been covered in other posts, but all selection is local.  That means if you check every box, the local staffer will assume that you’re not as serious about that site.  If you do select multiple sites, be sure to note in the application why you’ve chosen that site.  Do your homework and learn the compelling issues of that community/city, and identify where your skill set (or career aspirations) meshes with that city.

Specific Stories over Glittering Generalities.  Reviewers want to know your ability to learn from your experiences.  The application is set up for you to tell a short story about how you practiced leadership, so take advantage by thoroughly examining that story with specific insights, and how it relates to where you want to go.  It’s great that “you want to help people,” but a more compelling answer would explore the specific ways you would want to help, and how your skills and aspirations would create a specific type of contribution.

Good Recommendations. This can be tough for some folks because this might be the first time they’ve asked someone for a recommendation.  Again, advise your recommenders to use specific stories to highlight your strengths AND your weaknesses.  (Or as we like to say, “growth edges.”)  Also, this can be tough for some of you high-achievers out there, because your recommender might just cut and paste your Teach For America recommendation to our application.  In that case, be sure that they actually replace all of the Teach For America references with Public Allies, or else that just leaves a bad taste in the mouths of our reviewers.

The three key questions. The application is constructed for us to learn three key questions about you:

  • Can this person perform the Apprenticeship? (work at a nonprofit, contribute in the learning space, be a great teammate in the team service project)?  We are looking for ambitious, open-minded individuals with a humble service ethic.
  • Does this person have intentions that are aligned with what the Apprenticeship experience? This program is intended for individuals who want to build a career in advancing nonprofits, communities and civic participation.  80% of our 3,000 alumni still work in the public sector.  If you’re looking for a place to sit pretty before grad school, then we’ll smoke that out either in this stage or the next.
  • Does this person bring a unique skill-set, experience, and/or worldview to the Ally class? We want to create an Ally class comprised of diverse experience, talents and world-views.

If you answer those three questions well with your application, you’ll put yourself in a good position to survive and advance.

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5 Responses to “FAQ: How to crush the application phase”

  1. Amanda S. Says:

    I was wondering just when to expect the phone calls from Public Allies for the first round of interviews. I know that the late deadline isn’t yet closed, but I’d just like to know when/what to expect. (The suspense is killing me!) ^_^+ Thanks!

    • macarthura Says:

      Hey Amanda! Unless you submitted for early deadline, odds are you’ll have to wait 2-3 weeks after the final deadline before you hear about your status. Thanks for stopping by, and if you have any further questions, I’ll be happy to answer ’em.

      • Bon Says:

        I submitted mine the 26, and heard back today! Hope that helps as far as timelines. I applied to Miami.

  2. Sarah Says:

    You implied that applicants looking to go to grad school aren’t necessarily the right fit for Public Allies. I want to go on to graduate school eventually in non-profit management or community psychology, but want to establish myself professionally first. Do you think mentioning graduate school in my application will be a dealbreaker? Unfortunately, I already submitted it, so now I’m just curious.

    • macarthura Says:

      Sarah,
      I may have been clumsy in my explanation. We love candidates that take education seriously, and who aspire to improve themselves through continuous learning.

      However, we’re less enthusiastic about folks who use us as a place to kill time before grad school, or who want this strictly as a resume sweetener. We’ve found that folks who are of that Ilk to be less successful in the apprenticeship. From your comment it sounds like you are much more aligned with the better intentions of successful candidates.

      Again, thanks for your question and best of luck!


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