A job seeker’s conundrum is the balance between wanting to stand out of the crowd and the need for efficiency. You want your application to shine amongst 100s, however, you also need to apply for many roles and have limited time. So, how do you tailor-make an application efficiently?
1 // Make sure your foundations/basics are flawless.
There are generally two types of applications you will come across. Those that are for traditional companies or traditional roles, and those that are for more creative roles/companies (think law firm vs startup). If your potential applications go across both types then you should have two basic CVs & cover letters to work with.
Each set needs to be perfect i.e. complete (without gaps in your story), well formatted, of a reasonable length (ideally under 2 pages) and without ANY spelling mistakes (take the time to read it backwards, spell check is not enough).
Ask someone who hires frequently, to tear your CV and letter apart – rinse and repeat until you are sure there are no mistakes.
2 // Update the parts that you think you can tailor easily.
Literally, grab three colours and highlight:
Basic details like name of person you are applying to, role, organisation etc.
This is self explanatory. Anyone who applies for a role with us with the wrong name or wrong organisation is immediately pushed aside.
This is basic attention to detail which every employer expects. In a pool of more than 50 applicants (which is the case for most jobs at entry level), these mistakes will cost you the next stage.
Information about you that would need to be updated.
You are a complex person and so is your experience. You can cut your CV in many different ways, and they will all tell a different story. The hard part is working out what story will resonate better with the hirer. A few tips:
- Read the job ad and highlight (yes again), key words which indicate what they are looking for. Embed those words in your application, particularly in your cover letter.
- Clearly explain (ideally in the letter) how you possess the skills they are looking for. List their skills and your corresponding strengths/achievements. Make this as tangible as possible and easy to read (e.g. as a bulleted list)
- When it comes to your CV you might simply want to update your summary section to reflect the role you are applying for.
- Also make sure you link your education with the role. Unless you are going for a straight up profession like an accountant or a lawyer, the link with your area of study might not be immediately obvious to the hirer. Explain how what you are studying (have studied) can help and if there isn’t a direct link explain why you are applying for the role.
Information about the organisation you are applying to.
Show the hirer that you have spent some time looking them up – both them personally (e.g. on LinkedIn) and the organisation.
Don’t just read through their website, go through their blogs and social channels. That’s where you will get a sense for their culture, language and values. Use that as the opener in your cover letter. Find a way to combine your experience/personality with theirs. Give them a chance to see that there might be a match.
You are likely going to find that you are tailoring your cover letter more than your CV which is completely fine. Remember that the goal here is to help the hirer see a clear fit between you and your experience and the role and company culture.
3 // Ensure that you are following the correct application process.
Resist the temptation to be efficient and simply email in your CV and cover letter. Pay attention to the application instructions and follow them to the tee. Some employers will embed tricks or application clues in the job ad, just to make sure that you are taking the time to read it properly and you are able to follow instructions.
Generally a mis-step automatically removes you from consideration. What to watch out for:
- Name of the person that needs to be addressed. If it says ‘Nadine’ then address it to Nadine not Madam, The Hiring Manager, Ms Zrinzo or the most common ‘to whom it may concern’.
- How to apply. Is there a special application form or link you need to use. Then use it. In our last job round 30% of applications applied directly through Seek instead of our form. None were considered.
- What pieces of information they are after e.g. CV, cover letter etc. They might ask for more like a portfolio, answers to questions, reference letters or other. Ensure your application is complete.
- Anything else. Did they ask you to colour the first word of your cover letter in blue? Do it. Even if you think it is weird! You can always make light of it in your letter if it’s appropriate.
- If you are applying via email (not through a system) then pay attention to what your email says too. It’s another opportunity to stand out of the crowd. Don’t waste it.