I’ve been doing some recruiting recently and have been disappointed with the standard of many of the applicants. I thought I’d offer some guidance as to the things I would expect as a minimum from anyone applying for a job.
Firstly, if the job advert asks for a covering letter then you had better send a covering letter with your CV. From approximately 120 people applying only around 40 people followed this basic request – the rest of them went in the bin. Don’t waste your time (and mine) applying if you can’t even follow these basic instructions.
Secondly, don’t send in a CV or covering letter with spelling mistakes in it. I’m sure that a spell checker is something anyone working with computers is familiar with, and has access to. It’s not that hard to read through your application before you send it – so do it. You can
get away with a couple of typo’s, but any more is just sloppy and who wants to work with someone who is sloppy?
Slightly less obvious, but none the less important, is that if you don’t match the requirements for the job perfectly, you need to address the areas you are lacking and emphasise your strong points in the application. This includes modifying your CV to fit as well. I’ve seen a few applicants write me a wonderful covering letter, but then send me a CV that doesn’t match what they’ve just said. Here’s a secret that I don’t think they told many people at school – it’s OK to have more than 1 CV. In fact I’d recommend having a different CV for every job you apply for. Perhaps that means keeping one huge CV that you can cut and paste from each time. The reason for this? That is covered in my next point – providing evidence.
When you’ve read hundreds of job applications, some of them can start to sound the same. Many people think that just saying that they are “hard-working”, “an asset to the company” or other such generic platitudes is enough. Let me tell you it isn’t! It all sounds a bit hollow and ultimately disappointing when you can’t find any evidence.
Here’s another secret they don’t tell you at school. I really want you to succeed. If I could open every application and conduct every interview knowing that every person had ‘passed’ my criteria it would make my life easier. I have a genuine need to add some more people to
the team – I want to find a superstar and get them started as soon as possible. Rejecting people is no fun and my team suffers from being understaffed in the mean time.
Finally, keep it brief. You might be proud of the intricate design of all 27 products you worked on, but I don’t have time to read them all. Tell me the things I’ve asked for on the job advert and not a lot else. As I said before, I want you to succeed, and as any good programmer knows there can’t be bugs in code that doesn’t exist. In the same way, you can’t put mistakes into words that aren’t there. It is possible to say too little on your application, which is why you need to address the items that have been requested on the advert, but any more is usually just a waste of time. I want to put your application in the ‘interview’ pile as soon as possible, don’t delay me with stuff that isn’t relevant.
I see applying for a job as a bit of a game – or as one person who I recently hired said
“It’s a dance. You need to know the right moves, when your partner sways one way, you sway with them. When they sway the other, you again move with them. The movement must be coordinated otherwise it just looks wrong.”
I make the first move with the job advert. I put the criteria in place for the application – how to apply, the skills and experience I am looking for. You then need to respond, dance to my beat, follow my lead, sway with me. Send me a covering letter, an error free and targeted CV that shows me why you are right for the job. If you do your own thing it will look like you are dancing to a different tune – and that’s an embarrassment that no-one wants!