Saving threatened habitats worldwide

CVs: Advice to job applicants

4 November, 2014 - 11:31 -- John Burton

Over the years I have had the opportunity to read hundreds of CVs submitted by applicants for jobs at World Land Trust (WLT). It is clear that at least 50 per cent of those applying for a job do not seriously consider the application from the perspective of the employer.

CV training recommends making an application stand out. But, leaving aside fancy typography and coloured diagrams, which can be off-putting, what really makes a CV stand out?

Not so long ago I was confronted by a pile of 120 applications. Of these, 20 were non-starters, which left 100 suitably qualified applications to choose from. Even at three minutes per application, it was going to take me five hours to go through them all. And some took a good five minutes to read. (At that rate to read 100 would take my working day.)

In reality, my decision to put any application on a long list of say 20, will be based on a few key indicators. Does the applicant’s list of interests include anything relevant to the job? Has the applicant tailored the application to the job? (Too many obviously send a standard CV to every job they apply for.) Is the covering letter literate, and not too long? (A letter that takes five minutes to read almost certainly will not be read to the end.) Do the first three lines of the covering letter emphasise  the suitability of the candidate? And does the rest of the letter add new information, or simply repeat the content of the CV? Does the application address all the requirements of the job description?

An applicant may well spend hours, even days, preparing an application, and after all that trouble, someone like me will take just a few minutes to decide whether or not to put it  on the long list. This may sound harsh, but I am sure it is true in other organisations.

Being selected for the long list is the first step in a successful application, because without getting that far you will never get on the short list, let alone be called for interview. Organisations larger than WLT will have specialist personnel dealing with applications and sifting those for interview, but in essence the process is the same. To get on a long list, your application MUST tick a few key boxes.

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