Everyone thinks they know what it takes to find a great new job. There are lots of factors to take into account when preparing to enter or re-enter the job market and a lot of work to do on the essentials, like that all-important CV. With so much to do in a pretty short space of time, it is no surprise that mistakes can be made by the best of candidates - it’s what those mistakes actually are that can be the surprising part. Here we discuss some of the most common but easily remedied blunders - make sure you’re not guilty of them too.
Candidates often fall into the trap of just adding to their CV as the years go by. They allow each section to remain fixed in place and gradually grow, with each new qualification and job adding more lines, until they’re shrinking the font size to fit everything in the CV on two pages or adding more pages to a document that is quietly raging out of control. Letting this happen has the undesirable effect of drowning a lot of your most relevant and important accomplishments in meaningless detail. Twenty years down the line does anyone really care what date you left high school? Be prepared to be bold with the redesign of your CV every time you change role, completely restructuring if necessary to ensure your strongest assets are given priority, whether that’s a particular skill set or a new, more advanced qualification.
Try not to get too obsessed with what you think your CV should look like as there are many different types depending on your chosen sector. If you’re not sure what suits your ideal job role, search for examples of what other people in your particular field have used by looking for ‘Marketing CV’ or ‘HR consultant CV’ online. Many people advocate rewriting sections of your CV to pull out what’s most relevant to the particular job you’re applying for and this is certainly a very effective tactic in many cases, but it can get very labour intensive. Most people agree that it’s worth having a complete CV that you feel comfortable submitting to your ideal job on file. This way, if you find out about a position that could close quickly, you can get this sent over right away.
A job advert is often broken down into a description of the role itself and then a description of the person they want to fill it. The description of the person is frequently split into ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ characteristics. Qualities listed under ‘essential’ should generally be considered non-negotiable, while those listed as ‘desirable’ just take a candidate from ‘very good’ to ‘excellent’.
All too often candidates will not pay enough attention to these and miss or ignore the fact that they do not have one of the items on the ‘essential’ list, applying anyway. Depending on how many other people actually have the essentials the company wants, this could be completely pointless. You will be weeded out at the first stage and waste your time.
A simple rule of thumb is; if you are lacking more than one of the ‘essentials’ in the person description, it’s probably not worth applying for this job. If you have everything else they want bar one thing on the essential list, you may want to chance your arm - but ensure that you explain what you have that you feel is an equivalent in any covering letter or email as early on as possible, and highlight what extra quality you could bring to the role, perhaps by picking up on one of the things listed under ‘desirable’.
Securing an interview is great but if you don’t bother looking into the company you’re meeting with, you’re dramatically reducing your chances of success. The employer is interested in finding out about you, but they also want to see if you’ve done your research on them. Candidates have actually shown up in complete ignorance of the sector they will be working in and what the organisation they supposedly want to work for even does. One memorable interview fail came when a young lady had to admit she didn’t know who she would be working directly for - she’d applied to be the PA for the firm’s chief executive.
Never forget to look into what’s going on for the firm you want to work for. Check out their web pages, look at their recent announcements, and see if they appear in any news bulletins. Nothing makes an interviewer happier than a candidate referencing their big new product or project in an interview. It shows they’re really interested in the business and gives the right impression; that they would be an asset to the team.
Finally, and one could argue, most importantly, candidates are often guilty of doggedly clinging to job search methods which worked for them in the past and they are convinced will eventually work again, whether that’s going back to the same old employment agency or revisiting the same website. But the ways that people recruit are evolving all the time and choosing to ignore this means candidates will miss out on many opportunities. There is a better way to secure your dream job.
Georgina has in-depth expertise within tech and innovation. You can find Georgina using her skills to help fellow creative industry leaders through inspiring research pieces or lecturing at Oxford College of Marketing.