Applying for a job can be both exciting and daunting – if you have not been in the market for a new job for a while; you are likely to be unaware of the changes in how recruitment works. For a start you are meeting heavy competition; no longer can you expect to receive a response from employers about your application. Although some employers do endeavour to respond, HR teams have been streamlined and are inundated with applications making it increasingly hard for them to respond to everyone. The competition may not be as daunting as you think though as a large proportion of applications are unsuitable for the roles, however there will always be a few which meet the selection criteria for HR staff. By writing a strong cover letter (note earlier blog) and ensuring your CV is up to date with relevant information to the role and business you are applying to you can ensure you are ticking the boxes and should be placed in the interview shortlist.
Do not assume that applying for a role less senior to your current status is going to put you ahead of the selection process. I have seen a number of instances where a project manager has applied for a project coordinator role and this has brought into question why the individual wants to take a step backwards. In some cases it has been clear that the line manager felt intimidated by the seniority of an applicant as they had more experience than them. If there is a particular reason you are applying for something deemed more junior to you, explain. But in reality, a lot of candidates applying for roles which are more junior do it because they cannot get a role in the current market at their own level. Not a good reason to apply, employers fear that as the market picks up the candidate will move on.
Try to get the balance right – apply for roles which are at a level with your skills and experience or slightly above, demonstrating your appetite for career progression. Carefully pick roles which are well suited to your abilities and ensure you place the job description next to your CV – then tick off the competencies listed on the JD against your CV. If they are asking for something which you haven’t covered in your CV but have done – add a bullet point addressing it. Take out bullets which are not asked for which will allow room for the additions.
Take time applying for roles – do not just send your CV in the excitement of seeing something you would love to do, if you are really that excited then it is clear you need to make the application right.
The CV Righter offers careers guidance as part of the professional CV writing service – for a free CV review and the opportunity to discuss your applications, get in touch today: www.thecvrighter.co.uk
“As a senior project manager with experience of working on some high profile projects with large names in financial services I have been applying for a number of project management jobs recently and had a few calls but still no interviews – what am I doing wrong? I am clearly attracting some interest but not a lot and I don’t seem to be getting further that the initial recruiter call and promise of being put forward to the client.” John Senior PM London
Without looking at your CV it is hard to say but I can make an educated guess at where you are going wrong John – for a start, the fact you have worked on high profile projects for reputable businesses will always attract some interest from recruiters. However the experience alone won’t cut it with the employers and this part is the most frustrating for the recruiters, your CV clearly isn’t selling you positively so the recruiters are taking a punt by putting you forward for roles but you are being rejected against your peers who have a much stronger CV.
Be sure to tell us about the projects – what was involved and what they achieved but don’t write an essay, keep it clear and concise (we don’t need to know sq ft just general scale). Then tell us how you work – think about the job description, it should contain a list of wants, are you addressing these wants on your CV?? And not just a list of skills, use the space to talk through context so we know exactly who, how, when, why etc. Do not assume the reviewer will know you work in a particular way, having the PM badges doesn’t excuse you from talking about method in your CV.
Filling out job applications is all about advertising your skills to potential employers. You might have a wide skill set built up over many years, or you might have had a more focused career, but the trick is in working out which of your talents would be of the most value to an employer and placing more emphasis on them in your application. Of course, this might mean that each application form or speculative letter will have a different emphasis depending on the company you’re applying to.
But within the specialist skills that each of us has is a set of skills that are almost universally valuable in the workplace. We’ve listed the most crucial here.
No matter what field you’re working in, you’ll have to be able to communicate instructions, reports and opinions to colleagues. Clarity of speech, a mature, professional manner of speech and confidence to express yourself are all of value. It’s also important to be able to tune your voice to fit the purpose – you’ll communicate with clients differently than you would with suppliers and colleagues, for example. You could be the first voice a potential client hears when they contact your company, so they’ll be placing great importance on how well you can pull it off.
Written Communication Skills
It’s the same with the written word. If you can express yourself on the page and on the screen you’ll be an asset to any company. If you’re prone to spelling mistakes, make sure you get someone to proof your application forms, CVs and speculative mail. Spelling, grammar and punctuation errors are a huge turn-off and could be the difference between getting the job and missing out.
It’s not all about talking to other people. Communication is a two-way street, and listening is key to successful navigation of it. After all, the excellent talking skills you’ve cultivated might not be gifts of those who communicate with you, and you might find yourself having to not only listen intently to what they are saying but also to interpret subtext and make sense of it all.
It’s hard to show good judgement in an application form or a CV, but a shrewd employer will be able to see evidence of it in your past actions. They’ll be able to judge the career path you’ve taken so far and discern whether your judgement has ever been rash or immature. That’s not to say failure is a detrimental factor; most employers will recognise the value of an entrepreneurial spirit when applied to a promising project, even if the situation doesn’t quite work out. Indeed, failure is an important part of character-building.
Above Average Computer Skills
Nobody wants to take an employee on and spend the first weeks teaching them how to use Windows, Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint, or popular but specialist solutions such as Photoshop, Digital Publishing Suite or MySQL if they’re appropriate to the task. You might be fine with a good working knowledge of the main solutions, but all of them feature hot keys, advanced workarounds and uncommon features that can greatly enhance your productivity.
Ability to Absorb Knowledge
All jobs will require a blend of the skills and knowledge you bring to the company and the specific skills that are unique to the job. You’ll be expected to treat your existing knowledge as a base on which to add the skills of the new job, and the quicker you can do that, the better it is for the company. If we take your existing skills as a given (assuming you haven’t overworked them on your application), it is a good idea to give evidence of times in the past when you’ve picked up new skills and put them to good effect.
Adaptability and Flexibility
Companies taking you on are investing in you, and if you can show you’ll be able to give a long-term return on that investment, so much the better. We’ve all seen how quickly technology has moved along in the past decade, and there’s no reason to suspect it has stopped. Anyone who has proved unable to adapt to the new reality will have fallen by the wayside, but to employers, that represents a big expense if they aim to replace them. It’s far preferable to companies to have people who know their jobs and how to adapt them when change comes – as it always will.
Charlie Reynolds has over 10 years’ experience working in HR and been a writer for the past 12 years. Charlie now uses his field expertise as a copywriter for Skills Arena.