What your potential employer really thinks of your CV

Applying for a job online? Make sure your submission is the perfect fit!

This month, I’m thrilled to share a guest blog post with you. Cate Caruth, owner of content experts Creative Words talks us through her experience of recruiting via online job sites.

In autumn 2022, I decided to recruit a business development officer. It wasn’t a hasty decision – and of course I took advice from Jo Moss, as well as from other business owners. I carefully drafted a job description and asked other people to check it to make sure it was clear, specific and not too overwhelming. At the start of September, I posted it on a recruitment website.

My experience following that post was something of a revelation. I’m sure other business owners will read this and say: “Oh, yes. That always happens.” But, since content is my “thing” and a job application is just as much a piece of content as a blog or a brochure, I wanted to share a few tips for anyone who is seeking work right now.

1 Follow the instructions

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Of the applications I received, 70 percent didn’t answer all the questions.

My question to all jobseekers who don’t follow application instructions is why would an employer want to interview you on the strength of you not finishing the first task they have set? Always, always, take the time to complete all of the questions and tasks set in an application. Remember how many people you are potentially competing with – you have to stand out.

2 Tailor your application

I know how boring it is filling out endless applications and I understand how tempting it is to always use the same CV. Let me assure you, as an employer, it is just as boring looking through piles of applications that look all the same, trying to find a good fit.

While a lot of your CV can stay the same (your A levels, for example), always tailor your personal statement to highlight the things that make you brilliant for this job.

3 “Talk” to me

A personal statement is an opportunity to express yourself to your potential employer – to start a conversation which, you hope, will continue in a call or interview.

If you make your personal statement a list of bullet points, I feel as if I’m under fire. If you use long words and try to sound “clever”, that isn’t the impression you give. They actually make you hard to understand.

Read your personal statement out loud (actually out loud, not just in your head). Would you ever say what you just read out? No? Then don’t write it, either!

4 Check your submission

Get someone else to check – and spellcheck – your application. Assume that anyone who is reading your submission is one of those crazy people who insists that apostrophes are in the right place and hates it when you use the wrong version of to, two or too.

5 Follow up

Of all the applications I saw, only one person took the time to find me elsewhere online and drop me a line:

“Hello Cate, I’ve just submitted an application for the role. I really hope to work with you and look forward to speaking with you again further.”

Since I was looking for someone in a sales role, guess who just scored points for their initiative? After all, follow-up is a key component of business development. Don’t be afraid to follow up politely. Make sure your application has arrived and put yourself firmly on the recruiter’s radar. Leave it at that though, pestering is going to make you stand out in all the wrong ways.

6 Don’t try to “squeeze” into being a good fit

Check out the role you are applying for. What does “business development” entail? It ought to be in the job description, but you can research online, too.

If you don’t have the right skills, don’t apply. I can promise you that one closer inspection of your CV will tell a recruiter that you’re not a good fit.

If you have held a role where the title and the experience didn’t line up (for example, if you were a “consultant” but did a lot of work on business development) draw that out in both your personal statement and in the role description, so it doesn’t get missed.

And finally… follow the instructions

I know, I have already said this, but… honestly! Check what is being asked. Check it again. And answer the questions!

So that’s my perspective. I really hope this is a helpful guide for anyone who is looking for a job right now. Perhaps it will also spare a few business-owners from the frustrations I experienced.

Thanks so much, Cate. Attention to detail and a little research into the role you’re applying for will always stand you in good stead. And if you’re a business-owner who needs to expand your team and would like some recruitment advice, please get in touch.


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