There are few things in life more frustrating than firing off application after application for your ideal career opportunities, only to be met with a barrage of “unsuccessful application” emails, or worse still, not hearing anything from the companies ever again.
Now of course it could be that the companies you’ve applied to have been so overwhelmed by outstanding candidates for their roles that you just haven’t quite made the cut. The media would have you believe that this is highly likely, with fear-mongering stories of job shortages, backed up by examples like “that one time 1700 people applied for a job at Costa”. I think I can speak on behalf of all recruiters (internal and external) when I say that if we were receiving dozens of highly suitable for candidates for advertised roles we might as well shut up shop now – who would need us?
The harsh reality is that the reason you’re not getting call backs or invitations to attend interviews is probably more to do with your CV than anything else, and whilst I can’t promise that fixing it will get you an interview with NASA for its latest Planetary Protection Officer position (not even joking – I’ve included a link below to apply if you feel you have the right skills and experience to defend Earth from alien invasion…) – what I can say is that by ensuring you’ve got these 6 things right you’ll surely improve your chances.
So here are my tops tips for making your CV the best it can possibly be, and improving your chances of getting hired:
Apply for the right jobs
Ok, so it may sound like I’m stating the obvious but I really can’t stress this enough. Before you hit “apply” READ the job spec thoroughly and ensure that you can honestly justify why it is you have the right skills and experience to apply. If the job spec says something like “candidates must have direct experience of outbound sales within the telecommunications sector” and you don’t have this experience, you’re quite literally wasting your time. Instead of playing a numbers game and applying for every job in sight, you’re far better using your time more wisely by selecting a few jobs that you know your skills match perfectly, and putting more effort into those applications.
Tailor your CV/Cover Letter
I’d go as far as to say that this will have the biggest impact on your application to interview ratio of all. It does require a little time and effort up front but I guarantee it will be worth it when the phone rings and it’s the company you’ve been desperate to get in front of, offering you a chance to impress them at interview. Going on from point 1, once you’ve identified the specific jobs you want to target based on your experience you should tailor your CV to suit, and ideally include a cover letter/email stating exactly why you think you’re a good fit, and if you know which company you’re applying to – include what you know about them and why you want to work there. How do you tailor your CV for a role? Look at the key duties of the role you’re applying for on the job spec, and the chances are you’ll have done some or all of them in your previous positions, but have perhaps not thought them worth mentioning on your CV. If this is the case, go back through your CV and add these in so that the company you’re applying to can clearly see you have directly relevant experience.
Alarmingly, I have twice heard during separate conversations with extended friends and family over the past month or so that it’s no longer necessary to put dates of employment on your CV. Where is this coming from?! I can only assume it’s down to conflicting advice with regard to including your age on your CV, which of course is optional. It’s also fine if you are later in your career to remove some of your earlier/irrelevant roles from your CV however, certainly for your last 10 years of employment it is critical to include dates of employment. How else does the company you’re applying to know how much experience you have in these positions? How do they deem that your work history is stable enough for them?
Explain Reasons for Leaving
It’s important for prospective employers to be confident that you’re going to stick with them long-term – recruiting is a timely and costly affair for companies, and as such they are naturally inclined to err on the side of caution for fear of getting it wrong, and having to start the whole process again if their newest recruit ups sticks and leaves within the first 3 months. As such, if you have moved companies a few times it’s crucial to detail the reasons why if there are simple explanations for this. If you were made redundant say so, and if it was a temp role explain the length and reason for cover e.g. “6-week temporary placement covering employee sickness absence”. This could be the difference between your CV going in the reject pile, and “I think it might be worth meeting this person” conversations between hiring managers.
When writing your CV you need to bear in mind that the person who will be viewing it may be doing so quickly as they could have dozens of applicants to go through. As such it’s important to get the information you want to them in the quickest and easiest way possible, which is to bullet point. If under every employment stint you have a paragraph starting “I am currently employed by xxxxxxx as a xxxxxx in which I am responsible for…” remove it now. Whilst it may be tempting to construct long, articulate, and well-constructed paragraphs detailing your employment history, you run the risk that the hiring manager will just skim read, and could miss information that’s relevant to your application. Not to mention it also saves you valuable time writing your CV – win-win!
Include Location (and Contact Details!)
Firstly, always include your location on your CV, whether that be your address or if you’re field-based the areas in which you can cover – potential employers want to know that you are going to be able to get to work easily and therefore are more likely to be reliable. Finally, and incredible though it may sound I am often taken aback by the number of applicants who don’t include their contact details, whether they be missing altogether or out of date i.e. old mobile number. Out of date contact details are easily overlooked, especially when applying for jobs using sites such as Monster, Reed, CV Library, Totaljobs etc. This is because when you signed up all those years ago you created an account using your contact details at the time, so if you haven’t done so in a while make sure you check your account settings to make sure everything is up to date.
There are other obvious things to look out for – namely correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, and making sure everything is in the same font (I’m a big Calibri 11 fan but feel free to deviate, just not too much…anybody who told you a brightly coloured font will make your application stand out wasn’t doing you a favour).
In the main though, if you’re currently job hunting and you apply these 6 key points when making applications, you will stand yourself in the best possible stead at getting in front of the companies you want, and hopefully signing your next offer of employment letter – happy job hunting!