March 2, 2016
Every project needs a careful plan and a job application is no different. As a recruiter, you can trawl through hundreds of applications for a single job and you can spot a mile off if an applicant hasn’t taken the time and effort with their CV or cover letter.
There is a real difference between a good application and a bad one. If an application has not been tailored to the job, then it’s likely a bad one.
With careful planning and taking the time to tailor your experience to the job specification, you can maximise chances of being considered for an interview.
An application is an investment of your time so make sure you’re spending that time wisely. If you’re actively looking for a new challenge then the likelihood is that you will have a number of jobs that ‘suit’ your skillset. To narrow this down, ask yourself two questions:
1. What do you want to get out of your next role in terms of training and personal development
2. What sort of company culture would you like to work in?
Once you’ve pinpointed the answers to the first question, read the job specification to see whether or not it fits your plans. Next, have a look at the company website and see if their training programmes fall in line with your goals.
To answer the second question, you will need to delve deeper into understanding the company culture. The company website is the obvious first port of call, but do also look at their social media channels and company review sites such as Glassdoor. Where possible opinions from within your personal network are also highly insightful, providing the source is reliable.
With such a competitive job market, it’s not enough to submit a generic ‘one size fits all’ CV. The further you progress into your career, the more experience and responsibilities you gain. Even a graduate often has a slew of jobs, internships and work experience under their belt. As a rule of thumb, your CV should be no longer than two sides of A4 so being concise is essential. For each application try to ensure the skills necessary for the role match the experience you have – this will differ from company to company, so tailor it accordingly.
Try not to overcomplicate your CV – keep your points clear and clean. A CV isn’t a place for long flowery language and you want to assist the recruiter by getting the salient information across as directly as possible.
A good personal statement (usually at the top of a CV) gives the recruiter a useful insight to your character, your work background and what you are searching for in your next role. It is up to you whether you feel you should include a personal statement or not. If you do, make your intentions clear and ensure you are highlighting your strengths as a candidate. Space is precious on a CV and if you are compiling a cover letter you will be aiming to get these points across there anyway.
Never force a recruiter to read between the lines. There is one essential thing you need to do when crafting your CV: show you can perform the key duties of the role and make sure this is immediately obvious wherever possible.
Always list your relevant experience chronologically with your most recent role first. Many of us have some experience that’s not strictly relevant to the job in question. If that’s the case, split your experience into ‘Relevant Experience’ followed by ‘Other Experience’ using these as headers.
For all roles, identify parallels between the duties advertised and the responsibilities you have gained and list these first. Again, don’t force managers to read between the lines: if you are clearly able to demonstrate that you can easily perform core parts of the role then show this straight away. Include your other responsibilities too but remember that this doesn’t need to be a definitive list if it’s not strengthening your candidacy.
Your education background, including the schools and university that you attended, should always be included on your CV. If you are looking for a graduate or entry level role then it is preferable to feature this at the top of your CV. If you’re already well into your career, then put this after your experience.
Space permitting, you should include any extra-curricular activities you have participated in; employers want to see that you are proactive outside of work and education so things like playing for a sports team demonstrate team working and emphasise commitment.
A cover letter gives you the opportunity to expand upon what you have written about in your CV, perhaps highlighting general areas of expertise and relevant achievement. This should be no longer than a couple of paragraphs (unless otherwise specified).
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when writing a cover letter but you do want to get these main points:
As you would when writing an essay, use a paragraph for each point ensuring that every sentence supports your case.
As with any letter, formatting and writing style play a decisive role in piquing the reader’s interest so pay plenty of attention to these areas. This is essentially your ‘elevator pitch’ once the recruiter has reviewed your CV. Stick to your points and talk up your strengths.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is a useful mantra to adhere to throughout the application process, from submitting your CV and cover letter through to interview stages. Your written application is just the beginning and by putting the effort in here, you are setting yourself up for an engaged recruitment process. Applying for a job works both ways; to be one hundred percent sure a job is worth the time and effort on your part, the more preparation and research undertaken, the better.