Job Applications, a managers perspective

I’ve just spent half of my day yesterday reviewing the applications for an IT job here at the Clinical School Computing Service.  As I waded my way through applications both good and bad, it struck me how many people I might be missing because their application lets them down, and I thought ‘why not give applicants the chance to see it from the recruiting managers point of view?’  This is the perspective of the people you are trying to impress with your application, and an insight into the short-listing process can be a great help when putting your application together.  So here it is, job applications from the managers perspective.

Rule 1 – Read the advert

This should be a given, but so many people miss out because they don’t read the advert correctly, in particular the part which states exactly how they should apply for the role.  In this case, the advert clearly states;

   “Email your completed CHRIS 6 Application Form in MS WORD (including details of three referees who may be consulted before interview), covering letter, Curriculum Vitae, to ***@medschl.cam.ac.uk by 5pm on 9 December 2012”.

Over 1/5 applicants did not complete the CHRIS 6 form, which was a significant negative score on their application.

Tip 1: before you send your application, double-check that you have provided anything you were asked to.

Rule 2 – Spelling and Grammar

My internal scoring system doesn’t place a huge amount of weight on spelling and grammar, I’m prepared to overlook one or two errors, understanding that (a) this isn’t the most important aspect of the applicants skill set, (b) many job seekers are completing several applications in a day, which can affect their accuracy, and (c) I don’t always get it right either!

However, when an application is riddled with spelling errors, and the sentence structure is poor, this will affect my view of the applicant, and again will go down as a negative score.  In particular, when applying for a job in IT, make sure any particular technology or product you claim to have knowledge of is spelled exactly as the manufacturer spells it (e.g. PowerPoint rather than Powerpoint, NetApp rather than Netapp).

Tip 2: use a spell checker, and if possible give your CV and covering letter to someone to proof read with fresh eyes.

Rule 3 – Tailor your CV to the post you are applying for

This isn’t being dishonest, it’s just common sense.  I’m not suggesting you make things up, but your CV should highlight the qualifications and experience which makes you an excellent candidate for this particular role.  It should not list in minute detail every part of every job you have ever done.

As an applicant I would put each job in date order (latest first), and have bullet points under each one highlighting the parts of that job which most relate to the job I was applying for.  If that previous role didn’t relate to the one I was applying for I’d summarise the role in one bullet point.

When you’re looking at your CV and trying to highlight the bits which most relate to the role look at the key duties and responsibilities section, and try to tie each of your bullet points to the key parts of the role.

Tip 3: show you’ve read the job description and can demonstrate suitability for the role

Rule 4 – Keep it brief

Going through job applications is hard work.  In most cases the prospective employer will be reviewing between 50-100 applications.  Assuming they want to get this done in a day they’ll need to spend between 5-10 minutes on each application.  You want to make it easy for the prospective employer to read both your covering letter and your CV, and you want the things they’re looking for to jump out at them.  Not only will you be short-listed if you can do that, you’ve already made a positive impression on the employer which they’ll be reminded of in the interview when they glance at your CV again.

Tip 4: Keep your covering letter to 3 short paragraphs and your CV to two sides of A4

Follow those four tips you will make your application stronger, easier to read, and far more likely to get you an interview.

Richard Bartlett

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