Get Noticed! Animal Protection Agency Managers Speak Out

By Paula Fitzsimmons

You may possess an incredible work ethic, be super skilled, and passionately in love with animals – the kind of worker that could really make a difference in an organization and the animal protection community. But if you don’t impress potential employers at the start – beginning with your application, resume or CV – you won’t get past the initial step in the hiring process. While you may know what you have to offer is good, they may not.

I’ve asked managers from an assortment of animal advocacy organizations, including National Audubon Society, Foster Parrots, Save the Chimps, Born Free USA, and Dane County Humane Society, for their input. They’ve graciously offered their best tips for what it takes to wow your future employer.

Every organization is different. Each may seek different types of skills, levels of experience, and personality traits. Yet there are some themes that are universal, including attitude and professionalism. In your quest to advocate for animals and see the bigger picture, don’t neglect the basics . . . courtesy, attitude, level of professionalism are still important. Animal nonprofits are still places of employment, so expect to offer the same level of competence as you would for a business.


Yi-Shuan Chou is Human Resources Manager at National Audubon Society.

Yi-Shuan Chou, Human Resources Manager at National Audubon Society

Yi-Shuan Chou of National Audubon Society: “Attention to detail is important when applying to a position. You’ll want to make sure that your cover letter addresses the correct contact or organization. Correct spelling and grammar is important. It’s also important to showcase your unique experiences through your cover letter and resume. This is where you can tell your story about your work experience and related hobbies. Cover letters can highlight your personality and demonstrate that you’ve done research on the organization. This often helps employers perceive if the applicant is tied to the mission and goals of their organization. Following the company website and their social media accounts can help you get a sense to what is important to the organization and company culture.”


Karen Windsor, executive director at Foster Parrots, with JubJub, a blue-throated macaw

Karen Windsor, Executive Director at Foster Parrots, with JubJub, a blue-throated macaw

Karen Windsor of Foster Parrots: “Research the organization you are applying to!  Know their mission and history, their accomplishments. Who is interviewing you? Have they done something significant in the field?

“With regards to your resume or CV: “Make sure these highlight volunteer or work situations that demonstrate the skills that will be valued by the interviewer.  One can tell me that they’re “a people person” or that they’re “a quick learner” or “a problem solver”.  But their previous work or volunteer history will either demonstrate that or not.”

Pam McCloud Smith is Executive Director of Dane County Humane Society (photo not available): “Volunteer experience, well written resume and cover letter, follow up with thank you card, dress professionally, clear communications, positive attitude and smile.”



Adam Roberts is CEO of Born Free USA.

Adam Roberts is CEO of Born Free USA.

Adam Roberts of Born Free USA: “A desire to work in the animal advocacy field is not unique in and of itself, so if you have a particular talent, experience, or a niche knowledge base that sets you apart, make this clear in your application materials.

“It is crucial that you show a specific direct interest in the advertised job and the organization, not just a general job at any organization – this is not one size fits all. Be sure to have skills that are advertised in the job you are applying for.”


Forest leaf
J. Christopher Scott is Human Resource Generalist & Executive Assistant at Save the Chimps.

J. Christopher Scott is Human Resource Generalist & Executive Assistant at Save the Chimps.

J. Christopher Scott of Save the Chimps: “Friendliness, openness and an eagerness to learn more about what our sanctuary does – and how you can contribute – is a great way to make a good impression. Positive people who avoid gossip and other monkey business are a great – we’ll be listening if you badmouth your last employer.”Appearance isn’t everything, but you should be neatly dressed in well-kept clothing. You may be interacting with guests or donors at some point, so make sure your appearance is tasteful and respectful!”

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