Top 10 conservation job application mistakes to avoid

Did you know that about 90% of conservation job applications are of ‘poor quality’, and that nearly 85% of conservationists are burnt-out from applying to conservation jobs unsuccessfully?

Many barriers can stop you from landing a conservation job – but sometimes the biggest barriers are your own assumptions.

Here are the 10 biggest mistakes people make when applying for conservation jobs, and what to do instead.

Ready to demystify conservation job applications? Let’s go!

#1. Worrying that there are not many jobs available

Wrong! The conservation industry is a booming sector, with more jobs available than ever before. At Conservation Careers we post 250 new jobs every week, and we estimate that there are 36,500 conservation jobs available worldwide each year.

Why do people think there aren’t many jobs out there? Because many employers (often small charities) don’t have big budgets for advertising, and their opportunities don’t get promoted widely online.

What to do instead:

  • Focus on finding less competitive jobs 
  • Use a matrix to track job opportunities with specific employers – check out our webinar How to Apply for Any Conservation Job for an example!

#2. Thinking if you put in enough applications, you’ll get an interview

Wrong! Playing the numbers game doesn’t guarantee success, and the likelihood is if you’re firing out applications quicker than bullets from Arnie’s Uzi 9mm then chances are you’re (i) not spending much time on each application to ensure it’s perfectly suited to the job you’re after, and (ii) you’re not very focussed and applying for lots of different types of roles.

Either way, there’s nearly always going to be someone putting in a better application and with a more focused background to each job opportunity.

What to do instead:

  • Give yourself time to produce quality applications. Each one takes time to build from the ground up!
  • Focus on a fewer & better quality applications. 

The Terminator’s Uzi 9mm. Photo from

#3. Reusing your CV or resume many times

Wrong! Every application needs to be carefully crafted to fit the role in question. This means totally reshaping your CV/resume (and cover letter) each time to ensure the best possible fit against the employer’s criteria.

Using the same CV/resume each time means asking the employer to work too hard to find the evidence of your skills, and a higher likelihood they’ll miss how good you are… 

What to do instead:

  • Learn to deconstruct a job application to understand exactly what the employer needs
  • Then write your ‘How I help’ mission statement, and build your application around this key message.
  • Check out our webinar How to Apply for Any Conservation Job for examples of both!

When applying for jobs, you need to clearly identify how you help an employer (we’re not suggesting you hold hands with a primate!)

#4. Not using evidence

Wrong! Employers are considering investing in you, and they need to see concrete evidence that you meet their criteria, and can do the job.

Rather than a list of your duties or responsibilities, they need PROOF of what you’ve done, what you’ve achieved and the type of person you are.

What to do instead:

  • Use an Evidence Matrix to set yourself up for success.
  • Craft career success stories to showcase your evidence.
  • Check out our webinar How to Apply for Any Conservation Job for examples of both!

#5. Making an employer’s job difficult in shortlisting

Wrong! Employers spend about 3 minutes reviewing an application (sometimes fewer than 6 seconds!) If you want to be shortlisted, you need to make their job as EASY as possible, and help them find your evidence against their criteria at a glance

What to do instead:

  • Identify your most relevant, impressive evidence
  • Summarise it at the top of your CV/resume and cover letter
  • Back it up with evidence in the form of career success stories

Check out an example in our webinar How to Apply for Any Conservation Job.

#6. Thinking more = better

Wrong! While you’re puzzling over how you can squeeze all 10 of your volunteer placements into page 2 by using size 9.5 font, an employer is spending their precious minutes (or seconds!) scanning for evidence of their top criteria.

What to do instead:

Use the test: ‘Does this [paragraph / sentence / word] contribute to my message?’ If it doesn’t, remove it. Be ruthless!

The less information you include in your application, the more your key evidence stands out, and the easier the employer’s job is. Less is more!

Making an employer search through lots of information to find evidence of their criteria is a quick way to land your application in the ‘bin’!

#7. Using vague statements

Wrong! Phrases like “passionate conservation graduate with extensive research experience” or “looking to apply my diverse fundraising experience to the conservation of wildlife” sound great… until you consider just how many other conservation job applicants could write the exact same statements. 

What to do instead:

Use the simple test, ‘Could somebody else write this?’ If the answer is yes, you need to be more specific and use evidence to showcase your own unique value.

#8. Not using an employer’s language

Wrong! If an employer listed ‘problem solving’ or ‘working to deadlines’ in their criteria, make sure those words appear in your application. This will 1) increase the chances of your application passing through any screening process, and 2) help the employer find evidence against their criteria at a glance.

What to do instead:

Look for keywords and keyphrases in the job advertisement and make sure you include them in your application!

#9. Worrying that employment gaps are deal-breakers

Wrong! Employers aren’t scanning your applications for career gaps – they’re looking for evidence that you meet their criteria and can succeed in the job.

What to do instead:

Focus on showing what a great match you are for the role. You can always answer questions during an interview if they come up.

#10. Thinking that career switchers must compete with recently-trained graduates

Wrong! Most good conservation employers recognise the need for diverse skill-sets and experience, and intentionally seek team members who bring fresh skills and perspectives.

What to do instead:

Focus on what you have to offer that’s unique, rather than what you think you might lack compared to other applicants.

Start landing more interviews!

Want to avoid all these mistakes and start landing more interviews? Learn how to make your applications stand out in our webinar How to Apply for Any Conservation Job.


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