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How To Stand Out To Employers And Get Interviews

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Our definitive guide to improving your application success rate.

Have you ever been frustrated that you didn’t receive a response from a job application? Are you unsure how to stand out from the crowd and ensure that you get call backs and interviews?

If you can nail the following 3 areas, then you will significantly increase your application success rate and you will be a step closer to receiving a job offer.

  • Your CV
  • Your Applications
  • Your First Contact

Your CV

There is often confusion when it comes to CV’s, so let me start by being very clear… your CV is a sales document. It is not an autobiography; it is not a catalogue or list of your previous jobs, and it certainly isn’t something you update at the beginning of your search, never to be reviewed again.

Your CV serves just ONE purpose, to influence a recruiter or hiring manager into contacting you to discuss a job opportunity.

If your CV is not a sales focused document, if it’s not a document designed to influence decision makers, then it is not doing its job and the result will be fewer interviews and fewer offers.

So, what makes a great CV? What must a CV become to increase your chances of getting a call back from every application?

  • It must be specific, tailored and targeted to its audience.
  • It must be well constructed, crisp, and easy to digest.
  • It must outline your key offering, demonstrate value, and be clear about what problems you can solve.
  • It must provide enough information and context to elicit a response.
  • It must be accurate and true.
  • It must never include any spelling or grammar mistakes.

To increase your chances of securing an interview, you MUST tailor your CV for every single job application.

Initially, you may have limited information on the job opportunity, perhaps you’ll have an online job specification or an advert. Although limited, this information will include the key skills and experience that the hiring company is seeking. If you possess the skills and experience listed, then you must ensure that they are present and prioritised within your CV.

e.g. If the first bullet point on the job specification asks for ‘4 years’ experience in PHP’, then the most important point that must come across on your CV is that you have 4+ years’ experience in PHP.

Your PHP experience should not be hidden in a ‘Skills Summary’ on page 2.
It should not require the reader to spend time searching amongst a list of 9 other programming languages.
It should jump off the page within the first 3 seconds of reading.

After you have identified and addressed the most important required skill, move on to the next – perhaps point number two is ‘leadership experience’…

Is your leadership experience easy to identify within your CV? Have you simply written ‘leading a team of 5’ or have you gone into detail, talked about your training, your successes, and your achievements?

Have you effectively demonstrated (sold) the value that you can bring?

Continue to identify and work through the top 3 to 5 requirements on each job advert and spend time tailoring your CV, going into detail on the most important areas.

Yes, it will take you HOURS to get this done the first time -but if you’re not willing to put in HOURS of work to secure the job that you want to hold for the next 3-5 years then I would suggest that you’re not motivated enough to find a new job.

The good news is that you won’t need to spend hours tailoring your CV for every application. After a few tailored applications, you’ll start to understand the structure of your CV and that it’s very modular, allowing you to move and adjust the priority and tone of its content.

10 Year Rule – DO NOT waste CV real estate by filling it with detailed information on jobs that you have held beyond the last 10 years.

The last 5-10 years of your experience is the most powerful and most relevant to a new employer so 75% of your CV must be focused on this period.

e.g. Writing 2 full paragraphs about your work experience between 1990 to 1999 will add little value to any application, it’s unlikely to help to sell your ability, and it wastes valuable space on your CV.

Language Matters – Think carefully about terminology, focus on YOUR individual contributions, achievements, and impact rather than the achievements of your team.

e.g.

“Worked in a team that was responsible for developing the company SaaS product”

This statement would be more powerful with additional information and a focus on individual contribution.

“I was responsible for developing the user registration feature of the company SaaS product. Due to my xx experience, I was able to deliver the project 2 months ahead of schedule, enabling the product launch to be brought forward by 4 weeks”

If you have very industry specific experience and use abbreviations and acronyms that relate only to this industry then be even more aware of your audience. Industry specific language is fine if you’re applying for jobs within the same industry but they are a disaster if you’re applying to jobs in another industry sector.

Nothing will switch a reader off faster than being unable to understand the language in which your CV is written.

Your Applications

Applying to a higher volume of jobs will not increase your chances of securing more interviews, it will, in fact, have the opposite effect. As the volume of your increases, the quality will decrease, especially if you’re also working and have limited time in your day.

Spend your time applying to fewer jobs but the right jobs. Focus on jobs that align to your experience and your ability and jobs where you can clearly identify how and where you could add value. Spend your valuable time tailoring your CV for the jobs which suit your experience.

e.g. Just as making 10 well researched sales calls will give you a higher chance of success than 100 poorly researched cold calls, 10 tailored and targeted applications will give you a higher success rate than 100 generic untargeted applications.

Track and Record – You must track every one of your job applications. Use a spreadsheet and include bullet points that outline why you applied for each position, along with a link to the advert and the name of the agency / company.

Recruiters (inhouse and agency) speak to a huge number of applicants and the first question you may be asked is;

“What appealed to you about this particular opportunity?”

Around 80% of applicants cannot answer this important question. Many have applied to 30+ jobs in the past 24 hours and do not effectively track their applications.

What impression do you think this leaves in the mind of the caller?

You should expect a phone call and when the call arrives you must be prepared. If you can demonstrate that you have thought about your application and the value that you could bring then you will already be in the top 20% of applicants.

Having no recollection of the job you have applied for, or why you applied, is a sure-fire way to get discounted very early in the process.

Your First Contact

When you receive a phone call from a recruiter or company, it’s your opportunity to ask questions, gather information, identify pain points and SELL!

Because you now have a list of your applications, you can easily have questions prepared to ask any callers, and those questions should have two clear goals;

They should give you additional information about the opportunity so that you can validate your interest level and ensure it’s a good fit for you.
They should also enable you to further understand the requirement, helping you to sell your experience, and securing an interview.

e.g.

“What are some of the key challenges being faced by the department that his role will help solve?” or “Which of the desirable skills are most important?”

These question gives you valuable insight into the vacancy and also allow you to share how you have helped overcome similar problems, highlighting the value that your experience can offer.

If you are called by a recruiter, ask for feedback on your suitability, ask for their concerns and what you can do to increase your chances of securing an interview. Be prepared to do some additional work to support your application. If the recruiter says that your CV is already perfect for the job and doesn’t need tailoring, then challenge them to find just one area that it could be improved.

Remember, you get to submit your CV just ONCE – make it count.

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