Be the Yes in a sea of Nos

Part of my time lately has been spent working through a large number of applications for jobs we have advertised online. This has meant that I have seen a very wide range of applications over a very short period of time, and have quickly learned that the first thing a recruiter does when looking through a large number of CVs is to look for a reason to say no. Don’t give them a reason:

  1. Always attach a cover letter and make it relevant to the position you are applying for.
Finding a job, any job is tough. And if you have been looking unsuccessfully for a while it is tempting to go through and apply for as many jobs as you can, as quickly as you can. However, by doing this you are not likely to catch anything, and failing to include a cover letter indicates that you are on a quantity over quality rampage. Either that or you think your CV is so hot you don’t need to bother writing one to stand out from the crowd (read: arrogant).
Instead of opting for quantity you should narrow your search and spend time finding jobs that match your skills and experience, and companies that you actually want to work for. Write a cover letter that demonstrates that you understand the company’s business and can see how your skills would enhance their operations. Don’t give the recruiter a reason to say no.

2. Address any elephants in the room early on.

Even the most impartial judge would have a hard time not forming an opinion of a person based on the words they have typed on an application. So if there is something about you that you know they will infer or conclude (whether founded or not), the best thing to do is to address it early on.

Is English your second language? State it and break down its impact by demonstrating great English in your covering letter and giving examples of how little this impacts your performance in the role, or even better, how your bilingual abilities can benefit an employer. Maybe you don’t have the skills or experience required for the role, but you are very passionate about the company and the business it is in. Show how this is reflected in your personal life. Or maybe you have been off work for a few years? Explain the reasons for this and how your experience during this time would benefit the company.

I’ve stressed how the recruiter will be looking primarily for reasons to say no, they will also be looking at hundreds of CVs which are all seemingly the same. Find ways to positively differentiate yourself from the sea of sameness, while staying afloat in the sea of Yes.

3. Apply for jobs that match your skills and experience (or personal passions).

This goes equally for jobs which you don’t have enough skills for and for jobs which you are over qualified for. There are going to be many people applying for the same job, and recruiters are looking for matches (…and reasons to say no).

4. Please no pictures

Don’t ever include a photo on your CV or covering letter unless you are applying to a talent or modelling agency. These don’t help good looking people as much as they don’t help the less aesthetically pleasing ones. There is no reason for a photo, other than to prove you are a person, not a cat. We’ll get that from your interview.

5. Lastly but not leastly

I can’t stress enough the importance of good spelling, grammar and clarity of writing. Obviously some jobs place less emphasis on your written ability than others, but in professional roles, you will need a well thought out, well presented CV and cover letter. Remember: lots of CVs + little time = looking for reasons to say no.

I’m not saying that these points will get you employed, but consideration of them will mean that you get past an initial “no pile” and onto the “maybe pile”. Which is a great place to be as it is the first step to Yes.

UPDATE! Also, never ever refer to yourself in the third person. You’ll give off one of two vibes: either you are too lazy to write your own CV so someone else did it for you, or you are crazy.

4 thoughts on “Be the Yes in a sea of Nos

  1. Well written Stacey, however I do have to side with some of the poor souls out there who are getting desperate. Unlike the fantastic effort you are putting in, many applications simply get meta-data searched and that is it. The only reason I know of this from personal experience was I got a call from a recruitment agent who had shortlisted me for a position – I asked her if she had read my CV. “Oh yes (some nervous clicking” *silence* “Oh my!”. We both cracked up laughing when she realized the only reason I got short listed was the meta-data filter had picked up that I had copy-pasted the job description into my CV.

    So while you get my hats off to you to putting the hard work into the selection processes, do realize that most applicants are not used to dealing with someone with as much dedication to their job.
    Sadly many recruiters these days rest on their high horse…….
    Good reading here
    http://riceconsulting.co.nz/thewhiteboard/

    1. Oh that’s funny but unfortunate! I guess my advice would kick in for when they actually get around to opening your CV in this instance. And Stew, they are the ones missing out 😉

      1. Don’t even get me started about recruiters who don’t know what an MBA is! But out of curiosity what type of roles are you advertising? Apparently certain types apply for certain roles – which could be part of your CV/Cover-letter issues. My england is not that awesome – but I read a software engineers cv recently and it was hard not to cry……laughing was compulsory.
        It was very wrong of me – but I couldn’t stop it.

      2. I’m doing a very wide range of jobs, some which spelling and grammar are essential (marketing and comms) or expected (senior management), and some (like software engineer) which you can let it slide a little. So I have different filters on depending on the role. I’ll admit I’ve had a coupe of laughs. Mostly due to photos though, they get me every time!

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