I decided to write this post because I have been involved in recruitment many times in various countries and I am amazed by what I experience every time. You would think that people applying for jobs would take care to avoid any mistakes that might stop them being called to an interview. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact I come across so many CVs or job applications which would deserve an interview just to be told how bad they are.
I strongly believe this is somehow the result of many educational programmes which do not put any emphasis on what happens after somebody has obtained a degree. I strongly believe that writing a CV and a cover letter, experiencing an interview and interviewing people should be part of every university course as this is what people need to do in order to get jobs.
So, I decided to write this article to the benefit of the younger readers with the hope that some of the mistakes listed here will be avoided. I will use examples of what I have experienced and provide some advice.
So, here it goes. Normally the job application process starts from having read/known about a job you would like to apply to. Here is what you need to do:
1) Read the job advert thoroughly (I mean read it many times and thoroughly!). The main things that people miss are the job requirements and skills.
- If the job requires “at least 3-5 years experience in a similar role” and you graduated yesterday or are about to graduate you should not apply, it means it is not for you.
- If the job is relatively senior such as a “Head of”, “Director of”, “Ceo” etc. etc. it means it is for somebody with A LOT of experience.
- For example, if the position is for a strength and conditioning coach with at least a master degree in sports science and relevant experience and you are qualified as a massage therapist, I am afraid the job is not for you.
- Where in the World is this job? What language skills do you need? If the business language is English and your level is not enough to read/write/communicate effectively you have no chance to succeed.
2) If you think your profile matches what the potential employer is looking for, it is now the time to do some research.
- What does the company/employer do?
- What is the history?
- Who works there?
- You need to find out as much as possible in order to use the information to really decide if you want to apply.
- Also employers are likely to ask you in the interview about what you know of the company
3) So by now you found out everything about the company and you really think you should apply. It is now time to draft the cover letter.
- The cover letter is an incredibly powerful way to communicate with your new potential employer. It is in fact a letter you write to “sell” your CV and make sure somebody reads it.
- The cover letter is your opportunity to tell the potential employer about yourself, about what you do and what you are good at and most of all it should provide details on why they should employ you instead of someone else.
- Everybody applying states that they are honest and reliable, what else can you write to capture the interest of the potential employer?
- Check how good is your cover letter, ask somebody to read it. Spelling/grammar mistakes together with poor formatting help directing your application to the bin.
- Don’t name names if you have not worked with them (it is a small World, everybody can find out easily what you did or did not do!)
- Don’t say you have done things you have not actually done (see above!)
- Don’t claim knowing techniques or having skills you don’t (you will be found out at the interview if you get there)
- Don’t sound too cocky
- Don’t sound too desperate
4) Cover letter done. Now it is time to sort out the CV
- Get a dictionary and check the spelling! Have you ever heard of a “Strength and Cognitioning Coach”?
- It’s a CV, not your life story. Potential employers may not be interested in your gardening efforts if you are applying for a job as a research assistant in a biochemistry department
- Organise each section of your CV in a logical manner. In the Education section make sure degrees are listed first, courses/specializations after (again, a “5th Dan black belt course” in martial arts is not really what will get you a job in a physiology department, unless the lab has issues with security!)
- In the work experience section only write jobs you have actually done (doing one massage session to an Olympic athlete does not give you the right to put on your CV “Team GB Massage Therapist”)
- Make sure you provide your contact details (employers might not have telepathic powers and be able to contact you with the power of their minds)
- If you use your personal contact details, make sure you use a “serious” email account. Potential employers might be uneasy in sending an interview offer to “firstname.lastname@example.org”
- Don’t use silly fonts!
- Make sure the CV is written in the relevant language and it is not a computer translation (have somebody checking it before you apply!)
- Wrong chronological order, bad formatting, spelling mistakes and misleading information have the deleterious effect of condemning your CV to the bin
- References. This is my favorite, as few times I had the pleasure to find out that the references indicated in a CV did not know the candidate. If you decide to have references on your CV, make sure they know about you and your application. Don’t put someone’s name just because you met them once at a dinner party
- Make sure you “clean” your social media profiles. Employers do check people out on social media!
5) Your CV and cover letter impressed the recruiters, you have received an invitation to attend an interview
- Make sure you arrive on time and you are dressed appropriately
- How NOT TO dress appropriately: ripped jeans, ripped T-shirts, see through tops/bottoms, excessively short skirts, and the list can go on. The potential employer needs to see you and talk to you. Unnecessary flesh should not be on show
- If you have been asked to do a skype interview, wearing a PJ might not be the best choice of attire
- Take your time to answer the questions. If you don’t know something, just admit it, potential employers have a bullshit radar which works well most of the times and people like honest answers (you wrote you were honest on your cover letter, didn’t you?)
- Be careful when you say “we did…” your potential employer wants to know what YOU did
- If you are given the opportunity to ask questions, ASK! You might want to know more about the place, the package, benefits, lifestyle (if you are moving to another country) etc. etc.
What happens next? If your application was successful you will be contacted by the HR department for an interview. If not, you may not hear anything from the company and/or receive feedback. Sometimes the volume of applications is so large that HR departments and/or individuals involved in the hiring process would have no time to write back to each application and send feedback. If you were not shortlisted for an interview it is likely that:
- Other people had a better CV/more relevant experience/better fit to the job ad
- Maybe you do not have the relevant experience/skills/expertise (see above)
Keep in mind that this is not a failure. Also, venting your frustration to the potential employer is not going to help you. Submitting a job application is just like a football competition. Sometimes you win (and get a job offer), sometimes you lose (nobody contacts you), sometimes you get an interview but no offer and/or you do not like the offer. Just like football if you protest once you have been shown the red card, the referee (the employer) is not going to change his/her mind, so it is pointless to remonstrate. Just accept it and ask for feedback, it might come handy when you apply to the next job.
Finally, if you are trying to get a job in high performance sport and you think you will walk into a glamorous life, you should read this post by Gary Anderson (GB bobsleigh performance director). I totally agree with every single word written there. So, before you hit “send” on your email client, ask yourself if you are ready for it.
I hope this advice will be helpful to job hunters!
Good luck to everybody looking for a job.