When times are tough, competition for the jobs that ARE available increases. I've seen from recent experience that people are applying for positions for which they are not qualified - and rushing to get as many applications in as possible means that they don't read the instructions properly.
Simply by ensuring you're properly qualified and providing all the information required is very likely to get you an interview. Here are 10 tips to help you stand out from the crowd.
- Apply only for positions for which you meet all the criteria. If you don't tick all the boxes, don't waste your or the recruiter/employer's time. It shows you haven't read - or worse, understood - the brief properly. If you feel you have something amazing to offer, but don't have all the necessary skills or experience, then extra effort and a killer application is needed to persuade the powers that you deserve consideration.
- Read the brief properly. If the ‘how to apply' instructions ask for a covering letter, your CV and three professional, contactable references, best you be sure to send all of those, or your application may be binned immediately. If you can't follow those simple instructions, why should your potential employer imagine that you'd be able to follow instructions on the job? This also shows poor attention to detail, which is a quality most companies are looking for. It astounds me how many people get this wrong.
- Let your personality shine through in an intelligent and enthusiastic covering letter. While it's better to stick to the facts in your CV, your covering letter is an opportunity to make yourself memorable (preferably for the right reasons!). People hire people that they think they will enjoy working with, not just those with the right skills. Psychologically, if your covering letter strikes a good note, the reader will already be in a positive frame of mind when they open your CV. For this reason, put your covering letter in the body of your application email; don't include it as an attachment. And personalise it by including the name of the person you're sending it to in the salutation.
- Keep it relevant. Tweak and tailor your CV to suit the position you're applying for, playing up your strengths appropriately. Employers are really not interested that you entered a cake baking competition when you were five years old. (Seriously, a colleague recently received a CV which contained this gem.)
- Be honest. In the days of Googling people, it's pretty easy to check up on candidates. References will be checked if you're shortlisted and it's very easy to call your previous employers (who you didn't list as referees) to find out more about you.
- Lay your CV out neatly, consistently and in reverse chronological order. Employers want to see what you are doing NOW, not have to wade through old school exam results before getting to the good stuff. And don't typeset your CV in Comic Sans. Ever. Use a default typeface such Arial or Times Roman. They're neutral, easy to read and everyone has them, meaning your formatting won't mess up because the reader doesn't have your font installed (converting your CV to a PDF also helps with this - but is still no excuse for kooky fonts).
- Keep it succinct. There's no reason for anyone to have a CV longer than two pages. Seriously, nobody will read much more than that. If the employer is interested in knowing more about you, you'll be called in for an interview.
- Make a little extra effort. Include any online presence you may have in your CV - e.g. add a link to your blog, LinkedIn profile, Twitter feed or - if it's suitable - Facebook listing. Again, keep it relevant and professional, but this can definitely score you points, particularly if you are applying for marketing or media jobs as it shows you're engaged in the online conversation. Online profiles are also great places to showcase your portfolio, work examples and detail that's too long to be included in your CV.
- Get your application proofread by a sharp-eyed grammar nazi. My all-time favourite CV blooper was from a young guy who had been an ‘Ass Manager at Musica'. A close second is the woman who rather saucily stated that ‘After my honours I wanted to do my Master'. Make sure there's no ambiguity - and in this era of spell-checkers, there's no excuse for typos.
- If you're sending out your CV on spec (ie unsolicited and not in response to a specific job ad) to a number of recruiters or companies, for heaven's sake, take five minutes to email each person individually, customising the salutation to ‘Dear [name]'. Emailing your CV to a group of people and putting everyone's email addresses in the cc field is just rude. All the recipients can see who else you're contacting and you're essentially spamming them.
And the biggest no-no of all time: Sending out your CV as a word attachment, with no covering letter, from someone else's email entirely. What's with that? You have to get your mom or girl/boyfriend to send out your CV for you? Spend a couple of hours at an internet café, get your own email address, write a personalised covering letter and put your CV together nicely. Make a bit of an effort. The job of your dreams is worth it, isn't it?
About Jo Duxbury
Jo Duxbury has been providing a platform for marketers to find thousands of industry freelancers since she launched www.freelancentral.co.za in early 2006. January 2010 saw her launch Peppermint Source
, which offers a full outsourced marketing strategy and management service to companies that don't have the time, skills or staff to handle their marketing themselves. Jo is also a fine art, travel and portrait photographer - view her work at www.joduxbury.com or follow @JoDuxbury