With the sheer number of applicants making the task of standing out in a job search more challenging than ever, making a good impression is something that most job seekers set out to achieve. However, we see so many candidates doing the exact opposite (unintentionally of course!). So, how can you stand out from other applicants, particularly when there are so many others competing for the same job? Based on some of the common job search mistakes, we’ve put together a few tips to help you build a compelling application and increase your chances of landing on the ‘yes’ pile.
Making a Phone Call Before Applying
Before picking up the phone and speaking to the recruiter or hiring manager, ask yourself this important question: why do you want to call before sending in an application? If it is to make a lasting impression or be memorable, then great – that’s exactly what it’s for! However, if you’re asking questions that have already been answered in the job ad, it can set things off on the wrong foot.
Try to start the conversation with a simple introduction; it may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often people (probably due to nerves) will jump straight into their questions or pitch without even saying their name first!
Our main advice is to treat this call as a verbal cover letter: use it to make an impression and really sell yourself. A great place to start is to mention what interests you from the advert or why you believe you’re a great candidate for the role. Having these topics prepared shows that a) you have read the advert and b) you are fully engaged and ready to learn more.
Writing a Compelling Cover Letter
A cover letter is a crucial part of any job search, as it provides a first impression to the employer and encourages them to find out more. With this in mind, there are some simple pieces of cover letter advice that will help to make your job application compelling.
Since it’s all about catching attention, rather than starting with “Dear Sir/Madam” (which is quite impersonal), use the recruiter or hiring manager’s name whenever possible. In most cases, you’ll find it somewhere on the advert.
Another common error we see is candidates copying and pasting the same cover letter for each application. Instead, use the job ad as a springboard to pull in details specific to the role. Similar to what was suggested earlier with the phone call, be sure to touch on aspects such as why the job has interested you or what you can bring to the table. However, rather than merely repeating your CV, provide further context through additional achievements or the details of something you have been proud of in a recent role. Just remember to qualify your statements; we see a lot of vague buzz words such ‘attention to detail’, ‘business acumen’ and ‘broad experience’, which mean little without examples to support them.
The cover letter is also the perfect place to discuss anything that needs to be explained from your CV – for example, any large gaps between roles in your work history. Essentially, if there are any areas of your CV that might raise questions, use the cover letter to answer them in advance.
Tailoring Your CV
When writing your CV, it may be tempting to have one copy that you use for all the roles you’re applying to, but the best piece of CV advice we can give is this: taking a few extra minutes to tailor it to specific jobs will go a long way towards getting yourself on the shortlist.
Have you clearly shown that you meet the experience/role requirements? Getting this across could be as simple as changing the order of your current job duties and skills so that the most relevant details are seen first. If the job ad is requesting specific experience, make sure you list those that you’ve been exposed to. In addition, remember to list any pertinent achievements that will help you stand out amongst fellow candidates.
While we hope these application, cover letter and CV tips make a difference for your next job search, it’s important not to forget the basics along the way. One of the most common and easily preventable errors that we see are spelling or grammar mistakes; CVs and cover letters that are riddled with these kinds of mistakes will not fill an employer with confidence. Set your spell check to English (New Zealand) and triple check before it goes out. The last thing you want is to state you have high attention to detail but spell ‘detail’ wrong (yes, we’ve seen this happen countless times!).
Ultimately, putting in a little extra effort can go a long way towards making your application stand out. If you need more advice or are looking for the next step in your career, get in touch.