27 Sep 2013

Does wit woo?

I’ve had a bit of a week for ‘humorous’ CVs.    One candidate adorned the CV with pictures of himself with various zoo animals in reclining poses, another talked about space travel being a hobby and this morning I’ve had a Jedi Knight apply for a job.

So, does wit woo?  Erm, no. 

Your CV is not the place for jokes or trying to be funny.  You might think that you’re trying to get across your 'unique' personality and that it’ll show you to be light hearted or with a fun character but really, the chance of your CV landing on the desk of a hiring manager who fortuitously has the same sense of humour as you is really very small. Whereas the chance of it landing on the desk of a hiring manager who’ll think you’re a bit of a plonker, is just too great to risk it.

In honesty, the only person you’ll get a laugh out of is the recruitment consultant who’ll probably share it with their team and you’ll be remembered...for all the wrong reasons.  I know several recruiters who have a ‘wall of shame’ – imagine your CV up there.

You’d think it’d be junior and inexperienced candidates who try to be a bit ‘different’ but no, often seniors can be guilty too.  Creatives too often get it wrong by being too ‘creative’ with their CV.  Copywriters? don’t get me started!

It’s important never to forget that people judge you all the time, even subconsciously.  Don’t give them the opportunity with your CV....Keep it succinct, keep it skills based, keep it professional.   I’m increasingly seeing dodgy email addresses too.  What sort of impression does ‘dumbblonde@.’ Or ‘sexonlegs@..’ give?  Seriously, have some common sense!

You have the interview to wow the employer with your wit and charm. Don’t use the CV to prove your comic genius, unless you’re applying to be a Jester.

6 Sep 2013

Covering Letters...

I never used to think that covering letters were worth much.  I don't think I'm giving away too many recruitment industry insider secrets by saying that whenever an email arrives with a CV and a covering letter, the letter is rarely opened.  On the occasions that I have opened them, they are largely blurb and my eyes glaze over as I read the same old cliches.  In recruitment eyes, it's the CV that is the all important determinant for whether you've got the right skills and experience for the job - we look at education, the relevant work history, length of time in roles etc etc.  Generally speaking, I still think this is true. If you're applying for agency roles, it's your CV that you need to spend time perfecting, rather than a cover letter.  The exception may be when applying directly for opportunities, particularly clientside ones but generally I find that a couple of lines that just stipulate what you're looking for, reason for leaving and salary expectation work just fine.  I receive so many CVs each day that my action will be to open the CV, scan it for relevance to current opportunities (again, I don't just consider an individual for the role they applied for, I'll mentally cross reference the CV across all the opportunities we're handling), then I'll pick up the phone and fill in the gaps and any questions that come to mind.  Whenever I send a CV to a client, I accompany it with a mini profile that denotes key details (salary, reason for leaving & notice period) and also what particular skills in the CV make this candidate relevant to this particular role or opportunity.


Recently I failed to notice that the applications from one of the online recruitment advertising sites that I use had dried up.  I noticed it this week and after not very long discovered that they were all going into my spam folder.  Yes, all 632 of them (over 3 weeks....you'd have thought I might have twigged, although in my defence it was holiday season).  So, I had quite a big job on my hands to run through all the applications. This isn't so much about covering letters, but the modern day equivalent which is the online advertising site application note.  On most of the online advertising sites, they allow candidates to have a profile and this denotes name, current role, where you live, salary expectation etc.  When the candidate applies for a specific role, this profile is given along with their few lines that go with (supposedly specific to) this application.  Normally I don't take too much notice but with a window of a day to go through all the applications, I needed to use a filter and so I used the profiles and started to read the application blurb rather than individually open all 632 CVs.  So...

Some words of advice when using online advertising recruitment sites:

1.  Make sure your profile is up to date & accurate
2. Make sure your profile has no typos
3. Make sure you address the application to the right person - I ditched everyone who had sent theirs to Kate, Jo, Peter, David etc
4.  Make the application specific to the actual role you are applying for - I read several times how someone was absolutely sure they were the perfect candidate for.....a totally different role
5. Make sure you check what City/Region you are applying for jobs in...
6.  Keep it brief. You don't need to write War and Peace.  General rule of recruitment thumb is the more someone writes on the application note, the less 'right' they are for the job.
7. Make sure your most up to date CV is on the site - I might delete it without actually knowing that in the last two years you have actually been doing a role that does make you relevant for the application...
8.  Keep a note of what you have applied for, when and from which jobsite.  I often ring candidates who have absolutely no idea what role they have applied for.  And...this is when their cover note is telling me why they are absolutely perfect for THIS very job....bizarre.
9.  Imagine a recruiter reading the note. Imagine someone trying to filter through 632 applications and  feel their frustration with all of the above. Imagine that if it's full of typos, inconsistencies and addressed to the wrong person -  your CV will be unceremoniously deleted. 

So in the modern world, I'd say that it is rarely worth writing a cover letter unless it is specifically asked for (this may vary in other sectors).  However, I'd also say that it is absolutely essential to keep your profile information on jobsites absolutely up to date and accurate and to make all applications specific.  I do know how hard it is out there and I do know that candidates can be sending out 30 applications a day from various jobsites.  Remember though - it's about quality not quantity.  Recruiters really do use these profiles to filter and you need to make sure you don't lose out through sloppy application technique.  Attention to detail, in all things, is key.