Even though we concentrate on the unconventional way of the recruitment process, there is still the need of having a full application portfolio at hand all the time. Human Resources will basically always need your CV, cover letter and all educational documents. Let us begin with the CV, also called Resume.
Before you even think about applying
Do your homework and gather information about that company. Why would you apply for a job at a company if you do not even know what they produce? If I apply for a job, I want to know as much about the company as possible to make sure, it is the right decision.
If you are unemployed since some time, you might consider more jobs than you usually would. This is completely fine, but still make sure you apply for suitable positions only. This will also determine how well prepared you are in the possible interview and also how enthusiastic you can tell your future employer why you want that job and why you of all people should receive it.
There are some amazing tools these days to gather the information you need online. Try the company website, Google and LinkedIn to find press releases, statistics, annual reports, company size, employees’ profiles and much more.
The Resume is a comprehensive summary of your skills and experience as well as some personality aspects. It shows your education, personal details and work history.
Depending on where you live, it provides other relevant details like age, nationality, gender, hobbies, etc. The length of a Resume is usually discussed intensely and there is no right or wrong. In my opinion it should be in the range of one to eight pages long depending on your age and experience.
As mentioned above, which personal details are on your CV, depends very much on where you live. In Switzerland, for example, you usually include everything in your CV, i.e. nationality, age and full address. In the U.S. most of these details are not provided. Please check what is applicable within your location.
In many European countries it is also common to include a photo in the CV. If this is applicable to your location I highly recommend you do this. Make sure the picture is as professional as possible and let a photographer take it if you do not have a good one.
This summary allows you to present your personality in written form before the interview. Summarise your strengths, expertise and goals. If you do this part carefully, it can lead to a great advantage compared to your competition, as it sells yourself directly on the CV.
If you are a seasoned professional this part should make the biggest part of your CV. List every position that you have obtained for the last years. The main question here is normally how detailed and how long can or must it be. There is no right or wrong and I am going to tell you what I have experienced in the last years in my Recruitment career. There are both, too long and too short CVs. You should strive for a middle way.
My suggestion is to start with the most recent position at the top with the most details as this is the most relevant one. List projects, tasks, accomplishments and technologies if applicable. The first 3-5 positions (depending on how long you have been in these roles) should be in great detail. After that you can only list the most important projects or accomplishments. Everything that is more than 20 years back can only be listed as a date, company and job title. This process will keep your CV detailed and at an average length.
Accomplishments are one of the best ways to sell yourself in the work history section of your CV. Pick 1-3 accomplishments per position and add them at the end or on the side of the job. Only use 1 line per accomplishment and start with an action verb like achieved, reduced, etc. For example, instead of “As a member of the team I managed a project of $20 million” use “Completed project of $20 million on time”.
The education section is also important, but you do not need to list every single 4-hour-course you have ever attended. I normally go by the rule of listing only trainings that lasted over 3 days and are truly relevant to what I want to do. If I apply for a Software Development role I do not need to list my cooking course and the 8-hour sales workshop from 15 years ago.
The cover letter is a much neglected part of the application portfolio. It is here to sell you in the first place. Other than the professional summary on the CV, the cover letter should be adjusted for every single company and position as they are all different.
The cover letter can be creative, but be careful that it does not sound too cheesy. You do not want to sound like a cheesy salesman if you apply for a Software Developer or Controller role. Rather make sure you inform yourself enough about the position, the company and the company culture so you can tailor the letter to it.
Follow up after applying
This is also a crucial part where you can separate yourself from the competitors very easily. After sending in your application for a position, follow up. Pick up the phone and dial the hiring manager’s or HR’s number. Ask whether they received all the documents and if they need anything else from you to move forward with the process.
This is because of two reasons. First, you know if they have all the information they need from your side to continue and second, you put your name into the decision maker’s head. If I have a pile of applications for a position on my table and a candidate calls, I look up the CV and will remember his or her name later. Furthermore, the CV of that candidate is now at the top of my pile to sort through and I can put a voice to the name.
Based on experience, less than 5% of the candidates follow up after the application. Unfortunately, from these 5% there are not many doing it correctly. I already mentioned it before but please do not overdo it with the phone calls.
If a Recruiter or HR person tells you that it will take some time to sift through the applicants the first time you call, there is NO need to call the day after. Wait a week if they tell you it takes time. Even better, ask them in the first call how long it will take approximately and put it in your task management system to follow up that day.
Action steps for week 5
- Search the job boards for positions you would consider applying for
- Search for relevant information about the companies before applying and store them with the job
- Review your CV and cover letter to see if you made any severe mistakes and update them accordingly
- If you have applications pending at companies, call them up today and ask for a status update. If you did not start applying yet, make sure you do and follow through after.