Five Things Recruiters Wished You Knew

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Recently it was reported that recruiters spend an average of eight seconds scanning a CV or application before deciding whether it either deserves further attention or - more likely - ends up on the reject pile. With so many applicants for some desirable positions it is essential that candidates format their application in a way that will instantly appeal to the recruitment team. Of course, it's no guarantee of success, but the best way of minimising the chances of being instantly rejected is to follow these five guidelines.

1. Be transparent & chronological

An applicant's previous work history is the first thing that a prospective employer will look at. As proud as a candidate may be of their sterling academic success, the fact is that the recruiter will already presume that these match the job description. Any vagueness or unexplained gaps are a huge no-no because it will lead them to presume the worst, that you may have been fired or stormed out in a blaze of self-righteous fury.

List employment and relevant work experience in an accurately dated list in reverse chronology, briefly outlining key responsibilities, competencies and reasons for leaving in only a couple of sentences. You can elucidate further in your personal statement later on, just make it accessible and simple to follow in a very brief scan. Ideally this ought to show a clearly structured career that shows regular internal progress or open minded career development by switching companies. Gaps between employment need to show effort being made to stay relevant to the sector - even if it's just maintaining a blog while between jobs.

2. Apply only for jobs you are qualified for

It's so frustrating for a recruiter to scan through application after application just to see that certain criteria stipulated in the job description haven't been met. If the position demands a minimum of three years' experience, it's a pointless waste of time to apply if you only have two. Likewise, skills, qualifications or professional memberships need to be in place - do not apply if anything is pending or if you 'intend' on achieving these. 

What might stand in an underqualified candidates favour is to keep up to date with a company's blog and social media. When vacancies are announced - or even better re-advertised - why not send a tweet or message asking if it may be worth applying. It may work, it may not - but at the very least it will show that you are very keen to work for the company. Just don't overdo it!

3. Show how you can add value through competencies

The last thing a recruiter wants to hear is what you want. The fact that you are applying is enough to show that you are interested, there's no need to preach on about how exciting or marvellous opportunity it would be to work for the company. It can be easy to slip into this trap so gear personal statements around how you fit the competencies for the position. Never forget that recruiters are looking for people who can solve the needs of their company, and gear every application explicitly towards this.

A quick example: A competency is "excellent communication skills with colleagues and clients". A strong answer would be to explain how you used social media to keep in touch with clients via the company blog, and used it also to ask questions between internal departments to solve customer queries. This shows desirable knowledge of contemporary communications being used efficiently and with imagination.

4. Be realistic with demands

Everyone would like a well-paid job where they can work flexible hours and maybe even from home once or twice a week. The worst thing a candidate can do is put forward a wonderful application just to turn up for interview or assessment and start making presumptions that because they've made it this far they can talk about such perks. Companies usually use these working practices to reward good service and encourage retention. The same goes for pay and bonuses - unless you are truly at the top of your field then don't go about setting minimum levels of remuneration; doing so displays ego and lack of tact.

5. References are very important

Recruiters will check up on your previous workplace experience much more thoroughly than you may expect. This isn't just to check out that dates and duties match, it will often be just as much about how you performed on a daily basis, how easy you were to get along with and ultimately to determine if you are a candidate likely to settle in with your new team. This is why so many employers place new employees under probationary periods; it's not to see if you're going to steal anything, it's to check you are a good 'fit' for the role.

Candidates should be aware that many companies now use Human Resources software to help assess and manage applications. Be straight up, professional, honest and respectfully confident when making any application for employment and you won't go far wrong.

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