A Recruiter’s View – Do’s and Don’ts When Applying for a Job

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In the past month, I have been involved in the recruitment of three new people to our team, two of whom I will be line managing. This has meant reading 161 applications and interviewing 13 short-listed candidates in total – a tiring process but rewarding once you find the right person for the job. What really struck me however is how many seemingly obvious things people got wrong! So here are some hints and tips from a recruiter’s viewpoint…

The application 

  1. Do save all the details of the job (incl. advert) to your computer before you apply – once the closing date goes, you won’t be able to access these online and you will need them to prepare for an interview. If you don’t keep them, you may end up seeming like you weren’t interested enough to read the job in detail!
  2. Do read the application form thoroughly and do what you are asked – eg don’t ignore the evidence of suitability for the role box and just attach a c.v. instead – most recruiters will put this straight in the bin because it demonstrates that you can’t follow simple instructions! 
  3. Don’t write a story about your career history! Do address the specific job description in a structured way.
  4. Do keep it concise – 2 sides maximum for the evidence of suitability section. If we have 50 applications to read, we don’t want to read 10 pages on each and if you write this much, the important parts you want us to read will be buried in the waffle!
  5. Don’t forget to start and finish with why you want the job. In this job market there will be lots of people with relevant experience but very few include this vital info – we want to see some passion for the role.
  6. Do check your application for spelling and grammar and ask someone else to read it. It is amazing how many applications for quite senior jobs have several mistakes in. Especially don’t make a spelling mistake in the sentence you’ve written about showing excellent attention to detail!

The interview

  1. If asked to give a presentation, do ask how many people you will be presenting to - this may affect the style or approach you use and means that you will know how many handouts to produce if you want to do this.
  2. Do prepare well! Read up on any specifics mentioned in the job description. If you can’t find it, contact the recruiter and ask if they can direct you to more information (preferably before you apply). We want to know that you are interested enough to have investigated the specifics of the job.
  3. Do think before you answer the questions.  A well-considered clear answer is better than a rushed one off the top of your head. A good technique is to answer in summary first and then to expand.
  4. Don’t rely on only one example to answer questions because it will look as if you only have one relevant example. Before you go to interview, think about several example projects or pieces of work that you have been involved in, what went well, what your contribution was and how you could use each example to answer interview questions such as “Give us an example of when you have used initiative” or “Give us an example of when you have used your influencing skills”.

So in summary, make sure your application gives the best impression possible so that it stands out from the pile – take time over it and check it through for mistakes several times. When asked for interview, the key word is preparation and make sure you demonstrate both your skills and your passion for the role. Good luck!

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