How to be noticed when applying for a job

You know what Boo Boo? It’s not hard to be smarter than the average bear when applying for a job.

Nine out of ten, or perhaps more, of the CVs that come across my desk are poorly constructed and put the applicant at a disadvantage during the initial assessment.

The truth is that if you are a good fit for a job you are already ahead IF your CV clearly and concisely conveys that message to the recruiter.

Your first test in the selection process is to make the recruiter’s job as easy as possible so that you get considered. You are much more likely to achieve this if you make it quick and simple for the recruiter to determine how well you fit the criteria for the job.

Conversely if you make it hard to find where and how you meet the selection criteria, your CV is likely to be put to one side while more appropriately constructed applications are evaluated.

If you follow the simple guidelines below you are out of the blocks and well ahead of the pack from the get-go. These tips will put you in front in the jobs race.

1) Write a cover letter specifically addressing the selection criteria

Every advertised job will have a list of criteria against which the selection panel (starting with the recruiter) will measure candidate suitability.

You will make it easy for the recruiter and other people involved in shortlisting for the role to choose you if you specifically and briefly address each of the criteria in a cover letter.

Try not to waffle. Be specific and to the point. If the panel want five years experience baking cakes and you have this experience then tell them so; if you have three years then tell them that; AND if you have never baked a cake try looking for another advertised role. This one probably isn’t for you.

If you can’t be bothered reading the job description and addressing the selection criteria specifically then buy a lottery ticket instead. You will have much more chance of winning because the people screening your application have better things to do than trying to match a generalised CV to a specific requirement.

2) In your Curriculum Vitae (CV) lay out the facts and ONLY the facts.

When screening a CV there is nothing more off-putting than finding an introduction written in the third person extolling the wonders of your skills, performance and experience that purports to be about you but was clearly written by you.

This is fantasy material and generally ignored, worse it makes you look like, not to put too fine a point on it, a tosser.

If you know that you are particularly good at something then have the guts to say so yourself, in the first person, without the hyperbole. This way you can be challenged on the statement and given an opportunity to argue your case.

Don’t put third person quotes in your CV that are unsigned and not credited with the author’s name and contact details so that they can be verified by the third party.

3) In your CV provide truthful, reference-able claims to education, certification and memberships

If your were awarded a Master of Business Administration then spell it out, don’t use acronyms.

Acronyms are often seen as an attempt to mislead and confuse. It’s a big big world out there and I can give you 90 different interpretations for the acronym “MBA”.

A well cited education qualification would include the full title of the degree including the specialty (i.e. Master of Science in Computer Applications), the name and location of the institution that awarded the degree (Mickey Mouse University, Florida, USA), and the year the degree was awarded.

If an organisation has certified that you have achieved a level of expertise then you will have a certificate number.

Specify in your CV exactly what was certified, the unique number of the certificate, who certified it, and when the they certified it. If you were not awarded a certificate then put it down as “Training”, credible certifying bodies carefully track, through the use of a certificate or candidate number, the people they have certified.

If you are a member of a professional group or organisation then list enough detail that the recruiter could check if they need to. Provide the membership type, membership number, organisation, location and year that you joined.

4) In your CV provide a brief factual and complete history of your past employment and achievements

It is very important that the recruiter can determine how your career developed over time so put in a full list that accounts for all of your activities since school or university.

For each role you have had list your job title, the name of the organisation that you worked for, the location of the office from which you worked, the month and year you started work and the month and year you finished work.

Note what I said, list your JOB TITLE, this will be on your contract of employment. The recruiter and selection panel really won’t care what you THINK that you did, or what you thought you should have been called, if truly necessary we can discuss that at interview. Just list your actual job title, it is laughable how often people try to fake the job title and end up with something ludicrous. Credibility… gone.

The name and location of the company you worked for is important. The name alone tells the recruiter almost nothing and your credibility again takes a hit. A name and location is reference-able and gives the recruiter the opportunity to research a little more about size and nature of the business on the Internet.

The month AND year that you started and finished work is also important. Hiring managers are human and will generally understand if an applicant has taken a few months of career break at various times in their career. We do however want to know what was going on when such breaks lasted six months or more.

If you took a long break in your career, for National Service for example, or to complete a course of study, or even to hitch hike around the world, then show it. Honesty will get you further than obfuscation.

5) Highlighting achievements in your CV

Sometimes you will want to highlight achievements in your CV, projects you delivered, particular accomplishments that were above and beyond the day to day duties of a role. If so, great, but… keep it brief and put these in context.

Generally one or two bullet points for each role, indicating the special contribution that you made, will be very helpful to the hiring manager. A long list of day to day activities that would be expected from any half-competent person in the role is a waste of time and an attention killer.

6) Only after putting all of the above in your CV include other pertinent facts

You may have undertaken training, written books or papers, speak more than one language, or have given presentations. You may have some skills that you wish to highlight. List these things under appropriate headings at THE END of your CV. Include enough information to make your claim credible (for example cite books, papers, and presentations professionally using Harvard style; list the title of any training course alongside the name of the provider and the year you undertook the training; and when listing awards tell us who made the award, what it was for and when it was made).

7) Make sure your name and key contact details are on your CV

Don’t laugh… it happens.

There is nothing more distressing for a recruiter than to find what looks like the perfect candidate and then find that we can’t contact them because they have supplied an incorrect email address or phone number.

One, simple, email address and one phone number, as well as your name should appear at the start of the CV and you might consider putting these in the header or footer as well so that they appear on each page.


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