I think I have a slight obsession with applying for jobs.
WARNING: If my current employers are reading this please don’t be too alarmed – it’s not for myself but for other people.
There is just something really satisfying about re-doing a bad CV and turning it into a great one, not to mention the thrill of writing a covering letter which could help make your application stand out against all the others.
I recently re-wrote my mum’s CV which, once uploaded online, resulted in her being headhunted for a high-paid position as a commissioner for a mental health company.
I’ve also re written my boyfriends, my best friends and now I’m moving onto my dads with the hope of helping him secure a management position in the hospitality industry in Cheltenham (if anyone from Cheltenham Racecourse is reading this – that’s his dream job and he’d be great at it!)
Anyway, I’m not big headed enough to think it was my writing skills that have made these results happen – after all, even the best written CV can’t hide lack of experience and poor qualifications.
But I do think that having the insight of a PR helps.
After all, a CV is about selling yourself, your services and everything else you can offer to a prospective employer.
It’s that ‘selling’ via the written word that PRs know how to do.
So, here are my top tips on using PR to sell yourself:
1. ITS IN THE DETAIL
Detail is really important – and by this I don’t mean lengthy paragraphs and flowery language. Just be precise. For example if you work in marketing and look after a database, don’t just say ‘I manage a database.’ Make it clear – ‘I manage a database of 50,000 contacts, which I cleanse and update on a daily basis.’
2. GET YOUR DATES RIGHT
PRs are a stickler for accuracy. If I were to send something to the press which had wrong dates or product information it could spell disaster, and the same goes for your CV. Make sure the dates for each position are right. If you’ve got exact dates, great, but usually the month and year should suffice.
3. CHECK, CHECK AND CHECK AGAIN
A recent Ranstad survey suggested that poor spelling and grammar was the biggest turn off when it came to CVs and covering letters. Forum 3 agree and suggest that CVs without these mistakes are 61% more likely to get a reply. So, make sure you proof read carefully – don’t just rely on the spellchecker (and make sure this is set to English UK and not English USA). Some of the common words not to get picked up by spellchecker are fro instead of for, grate instead of great, liased instead of liaised and stationary instead of stationery. Other tips include reading it backwards, or, in an ideal world getting someone else to glance over it too.
4. BE PERSISTENT
If I were to give up on coverage simply because a press release got rejected by one publication then I would never get results for my clients. Be persistent. It’s not rocket science – the more CV’s you send out the more likely it is that it will get picked up and you’ll get that interview you’ve been after. But that doesn’t mean littering recruitment agencies and companies across the city with the same CV – which brings be on nicely to my next point.
5. TAILOR IT TO YOUR AUDIENCE
Like newspapers and media outlets, jobs and companies aren’t all the same. They require different skills sets and different approaches. By all means have a CV which is your master version – but tailor it to each job. Read the job specification carefully and make sure you’re ticking all the boxes and drawing your relevant experience to the reader’s attention.
6. GET YOUR CONTACTS RIGHT
I wouldn’t send a business story to the news desk or a fashion feature to the sports desk and a similar rule applies in the job hunting process. Make sure you send it to the right person – if the job advert gives you a name then address it to that person. If you’re sending out speculative applications then do your research and find out who deals with HR or recruitment. If in doubt put in a call and find out.
7. ITS ALL IN THE RESEARCH
A lot of people think that the research part comes in when you get an interview, but I feel it’s also important to show knowledge of the company at the application stage. The CV may not be the best platform for this but the covering letter allows room to draw attention to projects the company are undertaking that you find exciting – this then gives you a chance to mention your skill set and what you can offer to the business.
8. KEEP IT CONCISE
A huge turn off for journalists is when they receive a press release cluttered with useless information that they then have to wade through to get to the main point of the story. Employers are in a similar situation – they receive hundreds of applications for jobs and don’t have the time to read through everything. Keep your CV to two pages of A4 and only use the relevant information – don’t include information no one needs to know.
9. MAKE IT LOOK PRETTY
And no I don’t mean flowery stationary, and script font. And certainly not spraying it with your favourite Gucci perfume (you know who you are!). Simply make it look good. Use a simple to read font such as Ariel or Times New Roman and make the font size readable – 11pt usually works. Make sure the formatting is right and that all the paragraphs are aligned and the headings are in bold.
10. RESEARCH YOUR MARKET
Sometimes you can have a great story but not know what to do with it. And there are plenty of people, especially in the current market, who are perhaps feeling the same. But if the jobs aren’t there then you need to create your own chances and be proactive. Start researching companies you’d like to work for and send out speculative applications. You never know what opportunities might present themselves.