Applying for a job is like attempting to please someone when you have never met them before. They give you some clues as to what they want from you in their job advertisement, but you really don't know them or how to convince them that you're the best person for the job.
So, why not put yourself in their position? They probably have hundreds of job applications to look at, and not a lot of time to do it! As this is the case, it may be best to iron out any obvious issues before sending your CV, resume or job application. One of the biggest reasons for job application rejection is - of course - bad language usage; grammar, spelling and syntactical errors are all things that help to easily judge a job applicant. But, what else needs attention? Here are some tips to help to improve your CV, resume and overall job application in other ways.
Reduce your word count!
Cutting out unnecessary words is a guaranteed way to ensure that somebody will read more of your job application. So, try to replace some sentences with bullet points to make it more punchy. This can be done in small parts or entire sections of your CV or resume. It's up to you to choose your style, maybe you'll just choose to change your education, hobbies and references to a bullet point style and leave the work experience and personal statement in full descriptive text for a maximum impact. Many people choose to write their whole CV or resume in a bullet point style, others do not, the choice is yours.
A great strategy to change sentences into bullet points is to look to remove all of the subjects from your sentences. So, instead of writing:
I was responsible for the quality control of the carpets.
Change it to a bullet point that says:
- Responsible for the quality control of the carpets.
The 'subject' (I) and the verb 'to be' (was) has been removed from the sentence, but the word count of the bullet point can still be cut down like this:
- Responsible for carpet quality control.
The shortest possible bullet point is achieved by removing all of the articles 'the' and placing the noun 'carpet' in front of 'quality control' to form the compound noun 'carpet quality control'.
By transforming a series of sentences into bullet points you will vastly reduce the word count, and make your writing sharper and much quicker to read. Just remember that this rule really only applies if you choose to write in bullet points, full sentences must always be written in full with correct grammar at all times.
Use action verbs (solved, ran, led, etc.) instead of linking 'to be' verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, been, being)
Action verbs are more interesting to read, they actually describe some sort of accomplishment. Linking ‘to be’ verbs are boring, they only link the subject to additional information, but they don’t actually demonstrate that any action was performed.
I was a leader on the team building exercises.
Swap the verb to be (was) and job title (leader) for an action verb to get:
I led the team building exercises.
You may remove the pronoun for a bullet point to make:
- Led the team building exercises.
Although these sentences convey the same message, the second and third examples with the action verb puts the job seeker in the action seat. There is a comprehensive list of suitable action verbs for a job application here.
Jobs are usually field specific, which means that it could be tempting to fill a CV or resume with subject specific jargon. Job applicants must not assume that the person reading their application also works in that field and will understand what they mean, never make this assumption. You should always write as if anyone off the street could be reading your CV or resume to determine who should get an interview. If your job application is peppered with subject specific jargon, then you might miss out on the job simply because it was not understood or it was misinterpreted. You can’t explain yourself unless you get asked for an interview and if their first impression of you (your CV or resume) is confusing, then you may not even get the chance to clarify yourself. Use subject specific words when necessary, but try to avoid too many!
Using the right keywords
When job descriptions are posted and applicant specifications are listed, a job seeker should pay attention to their specific wording to find keywords that act as clues to point out exactly what the employer is looking for in a job applicant. Look through the job description and any other information relating to the job to pull out the keywords and adjectives they use relating to the type of person and qualifications that they are looking for; they have written them for a reason! Once the keywords have been identified job applicants should find a way to work those words into their CV, resume and job application to make them stand out. They shouldn't fabricate things to fit these important words into their application, merely consider how their past experiences could be explained while using these keywords.
It's important to note that sometimes a job website that receives a high level of job applicant response may use an algorithm to weed through the applications and discard ones that don’t match keyword criteria.
Show don’t tell
Giving your potential employers a list of the responsibilities at your last job just tells them what was required of you; it doesn’t mean that you actually accomplished them or have anything to show for it.
Instead of just saying:
I managed the customer service department.
Try saying something like:
I managed the customer service department with a 100% satisfaction rating from satisfied customers.
Giving more context helps a future employer to better understand your accomplishments and what you are capable of achieving for them.
Proofread, proofread, proofread!
A job application with formatting errors, spelling mistakes or incorrect grammar and punctuation will not even get a second look. The job applicant may be the perfect candidate for a job with all of the necessary skills, but why would an employer try to discover all of the wonderful things that you have to offer if they can’t even be bothered to take the time to create a job application without basic mistakes? So, consider this and then read through your job application one more time, the peace of mind is worth the extra work.
Once you’ve finished with it and you are 100% satisfied with what you’ve written then ask someone else to look over it for you. A fresh set of eyes and a different perspective might find errors that you would never have seen, better to be safe than sorry, and jobless... right?