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If you’ve ever had to look through CVs and applications at work, you’ll know how quickly decisions are made about whether to put someone forward for interview. Often, good applicants are discarded because of poor presentation, spelling errors or other more spurious reasons. When you’re seeking a role on a job board or other site, or even when approaching a company direct, you’re often asked to apply via email. Here are our top tips on how to stand out from the crowd…
It’s amazing how many people skim read or even skip the most important part of applying for a job – the instructions.
You may need to email a specific person or state specific skills or competencies that you have. Don’t miss out on a role because you’ve missed out a key step.
Never rely on a generic CV and covering letter. Tailor it for the position – it will show that you’re keen on the role and that you’re taking the opportunity seriously.
Seek out every opportunity to make your application memorable. Start off with an attractive subject line. For example, a subject line of “Accountant with 10 years’ experience for [Name of Company]” works so much better than “Application for accountant role”. Keep your title fairly short to avoid falling foul of spam filters.
Greet the recipient by their name if you have it. Then, present a personable and engaging message – perhaps mentioning how you heard about the job, why you’re interested and your key skills. Then refer them to your enclosed CV and cover letter.
End your email with a personal sign-off and make sure your signature contains your contact information.
A cover letter is hugely important. It should act as the link between your CV and the company you’re applying to. The aim is to draw out your skills and experience that match the role profile, to show why you’re a great candidate for the job.
The letter needs to be concise – don’t go over one page of A4. Include an introduction, where you express your interest in the role and why it appeals to you, then demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Highlight your skills and how they relate to the stated requirements for the available position. Don’t copy and paste from your CV. Your letter should be unique, targeted for the position and company.
Take every opportunity to tweak your CV so that it aligns to the role. Use the same words from the job advertisement wherever you can. Your personal contact details should be at the top, followed by a paragraph describing yourself. This is a great opportunity to tailor your CV to the company and role. Here’s an example: “HR professional with 10 years’ experience in financial services, seeking a role in a dynamic, customer-focused company” – using words from the ‘About Us’ section of the company website.
Focus then on your work experience – with the most recent at the top. State your positions, dates and key responsibilities. Highlight past successes if you have space.
Close with educational achievements and a line or two giving a flavour of your interests outside work. Make sure your CV is no longer than 2 pages of A4.
Before you click the send button, make sure you check your email for grammar and spelling mistakes. If possible, get someone else to read it through. Some recruiters will instantly reject an application that contains an obvious error.
Check your attachments – are they both there, and definitely the right files? The danger of tailored letters and CVs is in sending the wrong one!
Finally, be aware of the application deadline. Most companies will wait until the deadline before shortlisting applications, so it could be a few weeks before you hear back.
Good luck with the job hunting!