by Andrew Smith on 15/06/09 at 10:54 pm
I am involved in recruiting the next Yuppiechef employee, and once again I am struck by the lack of basic skills that would really help job-searchers everywhere. I understand that applying for a job can be a long process with no feedback from literally hundreds of companies. It’s important to also understand that the average position can easily receive a hundred responses, and for yours to be noticed it has to get a few basic things right:
1) Research the company that you’re applying for
This is usually as simple as spending 30 seconds on Google and 5 minutes on the company website. It makes a huge difference if your application mentions what the company does and why it’s a good fit for you.
2) Understand the position
90 out of a 100 applications are going to say, “I would like to apply for the position your company advertised. I feel I’m perfect for it. Here is my CV.” Your cover letter needs to at least say, “I would like to apply for the Customer Services position at Yuppiechef. My experience proves that I have the ability to understand the needs of customers, deal with many e-mails and phonecalls at one time, and cope with the high-pressure environment of an e-commerce store.”
3) Make the cover letter professional
Apart from the cover letter being relevant (see points 1 and 2), it must be professional. Most applications are via e-mail these days*, and I’ve seen a couple of shockers:
– An application for a previous job, including the old cover letter, dug out of the Sent folder and forwarded on
– Numerous e-mails from “mom”, saying “Johnnie is too busy so I’m sending his CV to you”
– References to a different position at a different company, and how that’s the dream job they’ve always wanted
– From address like firstname.lastname@example.org, complete with flashing pink stationery and a hundred animated smiley icons
*(On a side note – if the advert asks for applications via e-mail, don’t be a wise-guy and drop off a printed copy. It is likely that the employer is sorting through the other 99 applications digitally, and yours is not going to have anywhere to go)
4) Answer the key questions in cover letter
“Yes, I have my own transport, I can start immediately, and I’m delighted about the opportunity to travel for long periods.” It proves you’ve read the advert, and it shows the employer you’re not here to waste time.
5) Keep your CV filesize small
Does your CV really need to be 12mb in size? It will clog up the employer’s mail box, or even worse, never arrive. Drop the 12 scanned certificates and prize you won in Grade 8. If the employer needs the proof they’ll ask for it.
6) Keep your CV short
More than 4 pages is just not going to get read, and the good bits will get lost.
7) Make the first page of your CV an “Executive Summary”
Opening pages are usually filled entirely with fluff like name, ID number, physical address and driver’s license. That need only take up a few lines, and the rest of the first page can contain the highlights of your qualifications, and a line for each job and position you’ve worked in.
8) Make your CV look professional
Ask a friend who knows their way around Microsoft Word or equivalent. There are plenty of elegant and simple CV templates that you can use.
9) Check and double-check your grammar
It’s not good enough to trust the spell checker – terrible grammatical mistakes still get through, and instantly tarnish your first impression. Get someone else to check what you’ve written, preferably before you send each cover letter out.
10) Check your social media presence
This one is a bit left-field, but be aware of what’s on your Facebook profile, Twitter stream or Myspace page. It’s the first place we look when recruiting, and it’s frightening to see people slagging off about their current employer and posting drunken office party pictures.
All of this may sound like a lot of work, but I would advise that you apply properly to 10 companies, rather than firing off bad applications to a hundred companies.
And finally, if there are any high school English teachers reading this – how about you cover one less Shakesperian sonnet this year, and teach school leavers how to apply for a job? I certainly wish I’d learnt these lessons before being dumped into the real world.
Andrew Smith is the pedantic systems guy behind Live Alchemy, a SA e-commerce company. Andrew writes for Ideate in an attempt to make the world a more efficient place. View more articles by Andrew Smith.