Times are hard in the job world for a lot of people right now. Clearly there are still millions of us gainfully employed, as well as many of us moving easily between jobs, often having taken a pick from several opportunities. But there are big groups of job hunters who are not finding it so easy. From the thousands of graduates finding it hard to get work, to the groups of recently, or not so recently laid off who have not yet found a way back to employment, there are thousands of job seekers who could do with an edge.
Working for a recruitment process outsourcing company, you get to see a lot of CVs, and speak to a lot of applicants for all sorts of different jobs and different clients. Therefore here are my sure-fire tips to what to do, and what to avoid during the application process in terms of making yourself more employable.
In desperation perhaps, many applicants send their CVs off to many, many roles on a weekly basis. This technique has a couple of major flaws. Number one, your work experience as an applicant probably doesn’t suit 40 opportunities every week, leading you to become frustrated by the lack of response and success. Perhaps worse, in your enthusiasm (or otherwise) to send out todays target of job applications, you will miss the detail that might get you a step closer to the few roles that you do suit. I regularly review CVs where the name of the company in the covering letter, or the job title referred to, isn’t the same as the one that I am recruiting for.
Two rules – keep it brief – no more than 3 medium length paragraphs (if an employer wants much more than a CV, then they will likely ask you to complete an on-line application form), and make it specific to the role and employer – show why you are both relevant and excited by the opportunity. Include some insight into your knowledge of the company if you can at this stage.
Gaps on your CV
Simple – don’t have any. If you have been out of work for a while, put an explanation. ‘Actively looking for work’, along with some details on how you are staying occupied is much better than a gap.
On a job board, you are asked for your current job title. Don’t put “unemployed”!! As professional recruiters, we are trained to look beyond this one or two word field, but trust me – many less diligent recruiters will have moved on down their list once they see this. Put you most recent job title, or perhaps desired job title.
This one is directed at graduates. Employers love to see work experience on your CV. If you don’t have any, you can’t make it up, but you can be expansive on what you have done. We all know what for example what a shop assistant in a shoe shop does on a daily basis. But don’t make or let me assume what the experience meant to you – tell me. “Assisting customers with selecting and purchasing footwear. I really enjoyed meeting a wide variety of people” potentially tells me something completely different about you than – ”Working with a small team of salespeople to hit weekly store sales targets”. Both statements might be true – the point is to include them on your CV, not just a job title and employer name.
Sure, training is more relevant for some roles than others, but never as relevant as your actual work experience. So position it on your CV accordingly! I have seen CVs with personal details on page one, training courses and awards on page 2, and on page 3 that many recruiters will not bother getting to, the work experience. Whilst most organisations want or need staff with first aid qualifications, they almost never recruit for candidates based on this qualification! I have seen several CVs recently where the a first aid qualification is more prominent than the work skills and experience (I was recruiting for office staff, not ambulance drivers)
Many job application forms have a word limit for many of the questions. Use this as a guide – if there is a limit of 250 words, and you have only written 50, then you may not be fulfilling the employers expectations!
Remember – rightly or wrongly, for most roles you are being assessed at every stage of the process. Remain upbeat, positive and confident with whoever you are speaking to – don’t just save it for the face to face interview. And be excited about the role – don’t say to the prospective employers recruitment team (as someone said to me last week) “well I guess it’s better than what I’m doing at the moment” – I don’t recall what that was, but he’s still doing it!
And one last anecdote – I called an applicant recently and asked if he had time to run through his application with me – “Can you call me back please – I’m just jumping in the shower”
Remember – just because it’s not a face to face interview, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be showing yourself in the best light at all times
If you made it this far, then I hope then at least one or two of these tips have been useful. They won’t guarantee that you will get a job, but at least you will get past the first couple of stages (at least you will if I am involved!)