The Do's and Don’ts of Job Applications: A Recruiter’s Perspective
“I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs, but not one callback!”
Ten years ago, even retail stores recruiting for Christmas casuals would send a letter IN THE POST letting you know your application was unsuccessful. It was a great, because you knew where you stood with each business, and could mentally move on to the next job vacancy ad, actively improving your resume’ style as you went.
Back in the day, jobs were advertised in business windows and in the paper. To look and apply for a job was to put in an effort. Your application, although at times unsuccessful, was appreciated because the recruiter could noted your determination: you often used public computers at the library to write and print your resume, visited the post office to buy an envelope and a stamp, and posted your application via snail mail; or you boldly handed your resume to the business manager to make a good first impression – something rarely encouraged today, what with the huge increase in online job platforms like Seek and Indeed.
Job hunting these days is MUCH SIMPLER. So much so that recruiters are inundated with hundreds of applications per vacancy – the majority of which are not tailored to the job they are applying for.
As a recruiter, I have seen it all:
A cover letter written in under 20 words
One of only 5 bullet points and nothing more
Cover letters explaining they’re only applying so that Centrelink will pay their dole
Cover letters expressing how much they want to work for another organisation (they hadn’t edited the company field),
The list goes on…
If you are serious about finding employment, here are 6 MANDATORY RULES to keep in mind when writing and submitting your application:
HIGHLIGHT AND NOTATE THE JOB AD
What is the recruiter looking for? Look for keywords and highlight them; this will help you isolate what you need to reflect in your cover letter. (Yes, recruiters read them!)
COMPLY WITH REQUIREMENTS
If the job ad requests a resume and cover letter, you MUST supply both. Failure to submit one will result in automatic exclusion from the pool of applicants.
For example, if the job ad states that ‘exceptional writing skills’ is mandatory and you fail to submit a cover letter, how can that recruiter determine whether you have superb written skills? It also shows laziness and a lack of attention: two qualities disadvantageous to your chances of scoring a job.
FORMATTING IS EVERYTHING
Make an effort! If your cover letter lacks formatting, does not address the job criteria, and is anything less than ¾ a page, you will not be shortlisted.
Likewise, if your resume is crammed with content, appears ‘too busy’ or does not structure the basic information (job title, years worked, company worked for etc) in an accessible manner, you’re unfortunately hurting your chances at standing out.
Formatting is especially important when you’re applying for office roles, as many office jobs will require letter writing and document collating skills. For such jobs, basic formatting is not something your future employer wants to waste time training you in – especially when the internet is ripe with tutorials.
Using your name or the word ’Resume’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ as your heading is absolutely fine… but keep it to size 18 or smaller. The heading shouldn’t ‘shout’ at the recruitment officer. And when the heading is your name, it unfortunately screams ‘vain’.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
Get the job details right! If you refer to the position as any title other than the one being advertised, you will not be shortlisted.
The same goes for other details listed in the job advertisement. For example, the job is located in Melbourne, but you write “I look forward to hearing from you regarding the position in your Randwick office.” Wrong.
Getting the details incorrect tells the recruiting officer that you have no investment in the hiring company – evidenced by a lack of attention to the job ad details, and are potentially using a stock application. Keeping a generic cover letter on hand is fine, but you MUST edit the details and modify for every job you apply for. They are taking the time to read hundreds of applications – make yours count.
GETTING TOO PERSONAL
Give a little of yourself in your cover letter, but not a lot.
What I mean is, mentioning why the job opportunity suits you on a personal level is fine, but don’t go into details that cause concern for the recruiter. For example, avoid negative honesty such as “I was working for [A Company] for a while, but due to unexpected medical issues and travel difficulties, I’m now looking for work again.” Try instead “I am looking for a position that challenges me on a daily basis – one that I can thrive in professionally.”
Recruiters want to know what you can do, not what prevents you from performing your duties.
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