Application time

There seems to a plethora of people sharing advice via various social media channels recently on how to secure that perfect position. Some of it I agree with, some of it seems ineffective but not detrimental to an application and some tips, if followed, would make me move the application to the reject pile immediately.

I've conducted interviews in large company environments where the behemoth that is corporate HR have already dwindled the applicants down to their chosen 'top' 5% based via computer algorithms and online aptitude tests and I have also been responsible for recruitment from initial advert to the final job offer phone call here at Reach Separations.

So here are my dos and don'ts for securing a perfect job with a smaller company like Reach Separations.

Application stage

Tailor your application to the role. Have one master CV with all your skills in then remove those not relevant to the role in hand and reorder the points so the most relevant is at the top. The most relevant is the one listed top of the requirements on the advert.

Follow the instructions on the advert. If it asks for a cover letter provide one, the email you send is not a cover letter. If it asks for a specific file format use that format.

If you use Word, when at the final version of your CV, copy the whole document into a new file and save that one. Or change preferences to disable 'Allow fast saves'. If you don't recruiters will look through the revision history.

Have your CV proof read by someone else, ideally 2 people, one a scientist and one an English teacher. It needs to be mistake free. Humans tend to read what they think they wrote rather than what is their, therefore proof reading your own prose is hard. A spell check is not enough (see the last sentence).

Do not include a photo, DOB or your religion. Do not put the years you achieved them next to your qualifications. The only dates should be for periods of employment.

Do have a sensible email address for applications. A throw away gmail account is fine, isn't.

Do some research on the person who will initially review the application. If the advert says to apply to the Technical Director, go to the website and find out his/her name. Use that as the salutation in your cover letter.

Your file name should be yourname_roleappliedfor_cv.extenstion – it makes it much easier for recruiters to find your CV in a folder with 10 other CVs all called CV.doc

Normally more than one person will review applications for shortlisting – find out the interests of those people likely to be looking at your CV. If there is a match with your hobbies make sure you include them. Our last recruitment campaign ended up with 3 candidates that were 'good enough' – the one that got the role was the one the staff that would be working with them felt they had the most in common with.

Notes on social media

Recruiters will look you up on social media (usually after being shortlisted due to discrimination concerns) but consider how your perfectly legal opinions may sync with the organisation's and those of the people you might end up working with. It's legal to have views at an extreme end of the politic spectrum but perhaps don't share them with recruiters.

Have an up to date, professional Linkedin profile. At the very least you'll get to know someone from the organisation looked at your profile and you were seriously considered for the role.

Facebook/Google+: Make it friends only. Lock it down during job application time. Even on a private account some information is still visible. Log out and look at it from the outside to check what can be seen.

Twitter: Lock your account to friends only whilst applying. Remove anything inappropriate.

Google yourself. If anything bad appears see if it is removable. Delete those sweary forum posts – you'll be surprised how far recruiters will dig in order to tweak the shortlist.......

Interview day.

Arrive in the area an hour early. Have a coffee off site. Arrive at the site 15 minutes early.

Dress appropriately. For men this a suit/tie and polished shoes. For women it is a skirt/trouser suit, clean shoes and blouse. If you need to bring documents then a professional folio should be used - do not bring a scruffy rucksack into the interview.

This should be obvious – but have a shower and wash your hair the morning of the interview. Don’t go overboard with the perfume/cologne.

If you are offered a drink take it. Even if not thirsty a sip of water is a great way to collect your thoughts and calm yourself down prior to answering a question.

Shake hands firmly (practice if needed!) and make eye contact when you meet the interviewers. (There should be at least 2 – probably at least one man and one woman). Memorise their names.

When asked general questions talk confidently – you know the answers about yourself/your experiences better than the interviewer does. If you've finished answering and the interviewer pauses as if expecting you to continue don't waffle – just ask what else they would like to know.

Unless the role involves working under pressure, a good interviewer will be trying to relax you as much as possible. They want to see the best of the candidates and that comes with building a rapport, not terrifying people.

Be prepared to talk about the company / your understanding of the role and why you are applying for it. It is a very easy start to an interview and allows recruiters to see what background / effort you have put in.

If there is a technical section, spend a day trying to guess what questions you would ask if you were the interviewer. Even if you don't guess correctly you will have a much better grounding in the area of interest. What does the advert say what is required technically? Does this point to where technical questions might come from?

When asked if you have any questions make sure you ask some. There are plenty of good suggestions on the internet – but some good examples;

What are the company's growth plans over the next few years?
What do you see the most significant challenges the company will face in the future and how would this role impact on them?
If I got the position, what would be required to get a 'gold star/top rating' on my performance reviews?
What type of people thrive in this organisation?

And some bad ones;

How many holidays would I get?
What is the salary (if you don't know prior to accepting an interview that is the time to ask)
Would I have to work overtime?
What is the sick leave policy?

Finally, your interview starts once at the site, and ends when you leave. People escorting you around between buildings/interviews/tours etc will be asked for their feedback. I've known one candidate lose the forthcoming job offer with one throw-away comment on the way out of the building when they dropped their guard and relaxed too soon.

Rejections are learning opportunities

Initial application;

If you get an rejection prior to interview ask what area of your application was weakest. Ask specifically or else you run the risk of getting a stock answer of 'stronger candidates'. Asking what areas of your CV or cover letter were the weakest is much easier to answer honestly for a recruiter.

After interview;

If you fail after interview stage ideally ask the interviewer via email to call you to discuss your interview. This isn't about confrontation and it is an awkward phone call for both parties – you need to ask for specific feedback on where you could have improved. A response of 'another candidate was better' is not useful feedback. Ask what you could have done better in order for them to have considered you as the strongest candidate.

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