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Planning your application and tailoring your CV

The secret to planning your application and tailoring your CV; to ensure you present yourself as best as you possibly can for the role you are applying for, no matter how diverse and varied your career choices are.

The number of people that have said to me – I could do that job, but I didn’t even get shortlisted?  My reply:  ‘I’ know you can do that job, ‘you’ know that you can do that job, everyone else that has applied can probably do that job, but the imperative question here is, does your CV demonstrate that you can do that job and do that job better than the competition?

Fair question.  Only easier said than done, right?

The secret is .. you just need to know how to play the system ..

Remember Hirers will make shortlisting decisions based on the evidence and information presented at that time.  They will not know what you do not tell them.  It is easy to fall into the ’assumptions trap’ at this juncture, so be careful.  Just because you know what your company does, do not assume everyone else will.  Selectors will make decisions based wholly on what information is presented to them.  You know you are brilliant for this role.   And guess what, it is down to you to provide a compelling and convincing proposition, as to why you are worth shortlisting.

The information you provide to decision-makers, fuels their mindset, emotions and gut-feel,  if of course, they are ‘human’ decision-makers.  Remember decision-makers can also be in the form of automated ‘bots’ reading and scanning your details, albeit in a similar way, for keywords, phrases, dates and language patterns.  A gut feel is essentially a human algorithm after all.  Remember CVs are not actually read – they are scanned … whether by a human or a bot.  It’s a bit like SEO (search engine optimisation) but for CVs instead of web-pages. 

Either, or – scanning involves a structured decision-making process, to determine whether you land in the yes, no or maybe pile.   So how do you convince any hirer that your application is a ‘no-brainer’ and one for the ‘yes’ pile? To do that, we need to look a little closer at the short-listing process.

Let’s turn this around, to when you might have previously shortlisted candidates for a role .. Reflect, how did you do this?  What were you looking for in a CV?  What were your essential qualifiers for an ideal fit for the role?  I am going to repeat this as this is important – what were the essential qualifiers? Not to be confused with the nice-to-haves.   Typically a qualifier would include location (are you in the right geography); package (are you affordable), and; industry/work experience  – this is the qualifier that is explored the most and crucial to your application.  Any role, whatever it might be, will have pre-determined key qualifiers.  

10 out of 10 boxes ticked

Pay very close attention to any information you have concerning the role; the job advert, the person spec or a probing conversation with the recruitment agent. Understand what the Hirer’s key industry experience qualifiers are for each specific role - and then be sure to include and evidence in your application.  You can then look to leverage your application by ensuring ALL YOUR RELEVANT EXPERIENCE, KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE is reflected in your application. 

 Evidence is everything and assume nothing.  

Ideally, you want to be ticking (and matching) ten out of ten boxes.  

Remember you are competing, except in this race you do not know who the competition is, seems a little unfair, when you cannot even see the whites of their eyes or weigh up the competition.  So, you have to work a little harder and tactically to compete in this race.  Remember winners tick more boxes.

Gender differences

Research suggests that men typically overestimate their skills and a study by Hewitt Packard suggested “more men applied for a job when they only meet 60% of the qualifications, but woman apply if they meet 100% of them”. (Male?) experts attribute this differential to women lacking more in confidence.  As a woman, I attribute this to woman being more pragmatic about their likely outcome v best of use their valuable time! 

Either way, you’ve got to be in-it to win-it.  If you don’t apply and ‘scratch that itch’, you will never know.   what’s the worse that can happen?  The trick is, when you do apply, to present the best possible version of you.  

It is all about evidence

Evidence is like great big red arrows pointing to that part of your career and screaming “look! I did this and I did it well” .. Evidence supports your cause and not only demonstrates that you have the relevant experience Hirers are looking for, but also demonstrates how you have positively contributed to the workplace.  Evidence lifts a routine task off the page and provides gravitas to a sweeping statement.  Evidence provides more confidence in your ability to do a job, more credibility in the statement in your CV and chips away at reducing the risk in employing you.  Remember, Employers want to be assured that you can hit the ground running and make that positive immediate impact.  They do not like taking risks – the more you can evidence you are less of a risk, the more likely your CV will gravitate towards the YES pile. 

The Assumption Trap

And then you are faced with the biggest threat of all that permeates the entire recruitment process. Candidates, recruitment agents, interviewers and hirers are all guilty of this, sometimes consciously and sometimes unwittingly.  That is to make assumptions; to ‘fill in the gaps’ and to ‘suppose’.  CVs should answer questions, not create them. And in recruitment, there are many ‘default’ assumptions, particularly when hirers are interpreting your CV, for example;

  • No dates on your career history;  What are you hiding? 
  • No earlier career history;  Did you not work?  
  • Gaps in your CV;  Why?  Creates suspicion.
  • No location; You are not local? Distance could be an issue.

Mirror Keywords in your CV

Mirror in your CV/Application qualifier keywords found in the role information and make sure you provide success stories to evidence the personal contribution in the workplace that you made.  So you provide more information than just the task.  Your evidencing information should bring the task alive.  Your success stories often include useful keywords and desirable experience, not necessarily requested anyway, but will appeal to the Hirer, again helping to tip the balance and secure your place in the ‘yes’ pile.

10 Top Tips to Tailoring your CV

  • If you are studying for a required qualification but not yet awarded – do not hold off displaying this in your CV.  Evidence this qualification as “studying [qualification name] and due for completion [date].
  • Have a look at Udemy and Skillshare.  Great skills websites for short-circuiting a new skill and receiving top-line training.  It may not be the full qualification, but it is a quick way to learn new skills and get this represented in your PDR/training section of your CV.  LinkedIn also offers some great skills training (free with LinkedIn premium) and some courses offer a certification badge, which is pinned to your LinkedIn profile on completion and publicly displayed.
  • Obtain colleague testimonials to evidence particular skills and success stories, which you can reference in our CV.
  • If the role is advertised, sometimes you can see the advert ‘keywords’ which is a great steer. On LinkedIn (Premium) you can see the top 10 skills other applicants have, which again can help you to compete. 
  • Use the Job Title of the job you are applying for, to describe what you are.  Define your area of specialism in your headline statement.  For example, if you are applying for a Production Manager role in the Manufacturing Sector – then describe yourself as this.  Tag this strapline next to your name in your CV and then describe yourself as this in the first line of your professional summary.  Make it as easy as possible for Hirers to identify you in a search and very quickly understand what you are. 
  • Make sure your skills profile list includes all relevant keywords (and qualifiers).
  • Your CV should not be a list of tasks – elaborate to include what you did with each task – this helps provide essential evidence, build trust and include supplementary skills and experience.
  • Speak the same language as the reader.  But be careful not to use internal language only used within your organisation.  Unfamiliar language is a turn-off in a CV as is cliches and buzzwords.   But specific related industry language illustrates knowledge and familiarity.  
  • Do not be afraid to boast about your career.  That’s exactly what your CV is for; but don’t waffle, keep it concise.  
  • Avoid offbeat job titles in your CV and standardize where possible – ‘Customer Service’ is more likely to be searched for and understood than ‘Guru’.  Tangible differences here might just affect which pile you end up in.   Make sure your CV stands out for the right reasons.

In conclusion, the one constant here is how brilliant you are.  The variable is – how do Hirers know you are brilliant and a perfect fit for them? .. Now go back and look at your CV – does it truly reflect your brilliance?  Would you employ you based on the information in your CV?  Does it evidence all the ‘good stuff’ in your career and all the information a hirer really wants to know, or is it just a list of tasks, that you would expect anyone in your professional to be doing – i.e. ordinary? 

The secret is, like I mentioned, knowing how to play the system.  An average application = an average candidate.  A well thought out application = a great fit candidate. 

Do not underestimate the power of the information you provide. It could unlock your next step career move and that all important job offer. 



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