I was engaged in a recruitment activity recently and I made it my business to intently observe the reactions of all participants – what stands out and what doesn’t, what’s unacceptable, what can be improved, what’s the correct approach. I have summarized my recommendations, based on my previous recruitment experience and on this particular consulting engagement, for all people on a job search quest who would like to make the right impression and secure the job interview.
1. The resume
The first impression, your personal business card, the door opener. All clichés and all true. Make it easy for the person sifting through the CVs to choose you, above other candidates, for the next phases. Follow several recurring mistakes, which I have been emphasizing on time and again:
- Nobody reads documents longer than 2 pages. Really. You can totally make a 7-page CV a 1- or 2-pager if you carefully read the job ad and focus on the important and applicable. If you have 3 or more years of professional experience, you don’t need to list your internships. You first job as a financial accountant doesn’t belong in a project management CV.
- If you theoretically divide the first page in 3 sections, the second piece is where the reviewer spends most time and attention. That’s why, make sure you put your most relevant narrative there.
- The European CV format is really standard and is hence boring and tiring.
- Why would you put your profile summary at the last page of a 4-page CV, I really don’t get.
2. The attitude
Recruiters and hiring managers are people, too – just like you, and they like authenticity and personal attitude:
- The detailed read of the job ad and the careful preparation of the application documents to match the requirements always make a good impression.
- If you know you have red flags in your CV – insufficient experience, job hopping, a year of sabbatical leave – don’t try to conceal them, instead, focus your readers’ attention on them and explain, as early in the application process as possible. Quite often, these red flags are the rejection reasons early in the recruitment process.
- The knowledge about company basics is always good.
- As is the preliminary research about everything related to the position.
3. Read the job ad carefully
Quite obvious and yet it’s surprising how many candidates fail to do it. I am writing about this quite often, and I won’t get tired of saying it, most job ads on are written according to the 80-20 rule. 80% of the requirements are really *required*, the other 20% are included for completeness and prestige. I recommend you don’t limit your applications only to a 100%-fit opportunities, but, still, if you can’t offer some of the 80% skills or experience, your job interview chances are quite slim. You can consult a friend working in the industry or a professional career coach on how to distinguish between the mandatory and the optional.
4. You don’t comply with all requirements
Building on my previous point – you like a particular career opportunity very much, you are sure you can do the job, but you don’t have all the required skills or experience. What should you do? My advice – approach the situation with honesty and courage. Even if it’s not requested, put together a motivation letter or contact the recruiter or the hiring manager via LinkedIn. Describe why you believe you are the most appropriate person, even though you are not the most experienced. Describe how you plan to compensate. Show you are motivated and resourceful and this will seriously increase your chances for a personal meeting.
5. You have gaps in your professional history or other circumstances that call for an explanation
This is another situation, in which the letter of intent works, even if it’s not a required application component. Two of the most common situations include:
- Frequent change of employers in the last few years. It’s clear that the people who are looking at your resume would have second thoughts and would raise a few eyebrows when they see this – is it lack of loyalty or is it something else? Help them understand by focusing your cover letter on the frequent changes and provide reasonable explanations.
- You are working abroad and would like to come back to Bulgaria. It’s also quite clear that if you currently working abroad, the recruiters and the hiring managers would like to understand more about your reasons and would like to make sure that they would not waste their time on your application if your expectations are too high. Be proactive and explain. Motivation letters are not scary – a few sentences would be enough. I have a personal matter and I don’t have unrealistic expectations regarding the responsibilities and the compensation. I know I can contribute and, at the same time, I don’t expect special treatment, just because I decided to work in Bulgaria.
Proactively offering more information on a disturbing circumstance or questionable professional move will significantly increase your chances to go to the interview stage. Failing to do so will let the concern prevail resulting in your documents ending up in the rejection list.
Look out for the next article drawing up on this consulting engagement, where I would examine the most common mistakes in the job interviews and would provide practical advice on how to avoid them.
If you need a career consultant who will guide you through the process of preparation, will create you a CV and motivation letter that are easy to follow and will get noticed, and who will encourage and assist you, get in touch with me.