Fiona Wainrit knows what bosses are looking for. To help you win that dream job, she has shared some tips on avoiding common job application pitfalls to help you make your application stand out from the crowd.
1. Avoid long, wordy cover letters and CVs
Having worked in both recruitment agencies as well as with in-house recruitment teams, Fiona knows that most recruiters simply don’t have time to read through long-winded cover letters.
One way to keep it brief is by using bullet points to address the key selection criteria. Remember, the aim is to spark the recruiter’s interest to open your CV.
As far as your CV goes and as tempting as it may be to outline every single job you’ve ever worked in, try to spare recruiters the details.
You only need to detail the past five-to-eight years of employment. You should provide a brief summary under ‘Previous Employment’ for anything that dates earlier (your job title, company and dates).
The general rule of thumb is to limit your CV to no more than two-to-three pages.
2. Avoid generic CVs
When you are trying to cover the same basic information as the next applicant, after a while, generic-sounding CVs can be boring to read.
Regardless of the industry you’re in – community sector, retail, factory, IT or finance – there’s always room for some creativity.
You can start with a succinct career objective that captures your personal branding – the essence of what makes you unique, along with your key skills/experience.
This should be tied into no more than two-to-three sentences communicating why this makes you an asset to an organisation.
3. Never send your photo with your CV
Unless you are a super model or are applying for an acting/ TV personality position that requires a ‘headshot’, there is absolutely no need to include your picture.
You want to be judged on the merit of your skills, education and work history, not your race, age, hairstyle, weight or eye colour.
4. Forget the ‘I’m just calling to check you’ve received my CV’ phone call
In this day and age of online applications, there is rarely much of a delay between you sending your CV and it reaching the recruiter’s database/ inbox.
Many recruiters send an automated reply to prevent such calls, yet I’m still amazed at how many candidates still take this approach.
Follow up calls can be gold if they are executed correctly. Why not try asking an intelligent question that isn’t covered in the ad/PD (position description)?
Or simply call to let them know how excited you are that there’s finally a position which merges your expertise with an industry you are passionate about; then ask if an interview is possible.
It may be a bit cheeky, but it could also work and impress the recruiter enough to win you that interview.
5. Do not send your CV as a PDF – send it as a Word attachment
Unless specifically requested otherwise, your CV should be sent as a PC-based Word attachment. Do not send your CV as a PDF, Mac file, or zip file. A recruiter simply does not have time to download and convert special files.
6. Carefully check for spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar. In the world of technology and ‘Spell Check’, you would be amazed how many CVs come through with errors!
Your CV provides a first impression of who you are. First and foremost, always do a spell check using the ‘review’ tab in your Word program. Next, find a trusty pal to proof read it if necessary. Also check for consistency in your use of past/present tense
7. Avoid getting dates wrong or not including them
A CV that does not include dates sends out ‘red flags’ about a candidate’s background and is immediately disregarded.
The obvious assumption is that the candidate is trying to hide something. Furthermore, be honest about your dates of employment.
When providing dates, work history should be in reverse chronological order (start with the most recent job). The general consensus among recruiters is to place the employer info, title and location to the left-hand side of the screen. Your employment dates should be aligned to the right so that your reader can easily ‘skim’ down the page. If you have a proven track record of staying in a job for a while, absolutely make sure that your employment dates JUMP out at your reader. This is a real selling point about you as a candidate.
8. Don’t make your CV too ‘duties oriented’
A common complaint among recruiters is reading a CV that is too ‘duties oriented’. CVs need to describe more than just work duties.
A good CV must also detail your accomplishments. Provide specific examples of how the company benefited from your performance, outlining your direct results and successes.
Think about what the employer is looking for and highlight accordingly. This may include financial or client wins, changing a system, or streamlining a process.
Quantify how the organisation benefitted from it. For instance: “I successfully managed the tender process which resulted in changing our transport supplier, saving the company $25K per annum”.
9. Do not lie or give misleading information
We all know the temptation is there to beef up your background by stretching the truth here and there to land that job.
BEWARE! It is becoming more commonplace for companies to do extensive background and reference checks on a candidate’s background prior to hiring.
Here are some of the most common examples of misleading information being put in CVs:
– Inflated titles and embellished duties
– Inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps of employment
– 1/2 finished degrees, inflated education, or ‘purchased’ degrees that do not mean anything
– Inflated salaries
– Exaggerated accomplishments
– Out and out lies in regards to specific roles and duties
10. Never, ever bag your former/current employer
Finally, if you’ve managed to get past the application stage and have scored an interview, one of the biggest no-no’s is to say unflattering things about your current or past employers. Recruiters mention this as a pet peeve time and time again and it can
detract from an otherwise good candidate. No matter how disgruntled you may be, a job application or an interview is not the
place to vent your frustrations. Save these for discussions with your partner, friends or family