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Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 78 – Job Application Feedback

If you have applied for a job recently, but did not receive an offer of employment, it is important to get as much feedback as you can. Feedback gives you the opportunity to make adjustments to your job applications and interview techniques.

There are many reasons why we need feedback, not least of which is – if your last job application didn’t get you to the interview stage of the employment process, would you still send it out for the next job you are planning to apply for, without changes? You would be surprised by how many people do just that, and then wonder why they’re not having any success.

Bear in mind that your application may be the only thing the employer sees, so if you cannot prove on paper that you are the best person for the job on offer, you will not be doing it in person at an interview. So, before you send the next round of applications – get some feedback first and improve your chances of success.

We would like to thank you in advance for forwarding this edition onto friends, colleagues and other interested readers. Please note that all back issues of this edition, as well as our main edition can be read and/or downloaded from the publications pages of our web site – http://www.iea.com.au should any of the topics be of interest and use.

Kind Regards

Lorraine Bradshaw
Marketing Coordinator & Projects Officer

In this issue we will look at:

• Your job application
o Your CV / Resume
o The importance of keywords
o The importance of proof reading your application
o Format of your application
• Getting a second opinion
• Getting feedback from the prospective employer

Your job application:
Your job application may be the only thing a prospective employer will ever see. So, how does your job application portray you?

Will a prospective employer be impressed or not when they open your application?

If you want to test this theory for yourself – send yourself a copy of your own job application. When you open the envelope what do you see? Do the 3 fold creases add or detract from your application? Would a larger envelope be better?

Did you include everything they asked for in the job application package? Please don’t make the assumption that you did. Get out the application information and check. Did you include things they didn’t ask for? You might say – but that doesn’t matter. Let me put it to you this way:

Everything matters.

If one of the selection criteria was “attention to detail” would you have passed or failed that test?

Once you have determined you have all the information you need to make a sound judgement on your application (employers like to compare apples with apples, and will be marking your application in entirety), you can start to read the application itself.

When you read the covering letter, can you determine:
• Who it should have been addressed to and received by?
• Would it have arrived on time? (Play along with me on that one).
• Can you tell in the first one or two lines, which position you had applied for?
• Have you provided a neat summary of why the person should continue reading your application?
• Have you been polite or rude in asking to be considered for an interview?
• How many spelling errors can you find? And if you can find them – so will they! Again, this does show “attention to detail” in the most obvious way.

The CV / Resume:
Does the first page of your CV contain a summary of your skills and abilities? Can the prospective employer tell what educational standard you reached, or which pieces of software you are proficient in? During your recap of your employment history – do you make mention of the software you use? Is this information on the front page? Have you provided a summary of your key abilities and attributes, additional skills and certificates, awards and memberships?

Going back to the application package for just a minute, do they need you to “have” anything? For example, a police clearance, drivers licence, citizenship or a certain language? Are these mentioned on the first page of the CV? And if this seems like a lot of information to put onto a CV, it isn’t if the CV is formatted in such a way that it can be done – and easily read too. You don’t need an essay – bullet points will suffice.

For example:

SOFTWARE & COMPUTING EXPERIENCE:
    Microsoft Office Suite of Products
    Internet and Email
    A Library Management piece of software
    A Records Management piece of software
    MYOB

OTHER QUALIFICATIONS:
Drivers Licence – New “C” Class (Previously WA Class “A”) Class

WORK STATUS:
Australian Citizen.  I am authorised to work in Australia for any employer.

And you can also format the table so the grid lines don’t show – makes for a very professional look when it is printed.

An employer is looking for progression of you as a person through the many roles you have undertaken to date. Does your CV prove that is the case or does the prospective employer need to read between the lines? Two additional points about your CV. Always make sure you begin your employment history with the job you are currently doing (or the last job you had) and go backwards in time. The second important point is to ensure these are easy to read. A single paragraph outlining your duties does not make it easy to find the relevant information. Use bullet points to highlight your duties. But then add a second section to each of the positions you have held called “Significant achievements”. Each position should have given you a chance to prove yourself in some way. Use this section to highlight what you have achieved during your time with an organisation. These are important because they can form the basis for your answers to any selection criteria you may have been asked to write.

WORK HISTORY & EXPERIENCE:
June 2007 – Present
Duties:

Significant Achievements:

Name of Organisation

Position in Organisation (state also if this job was a contract position and who it was with)

List duties in bullet form

List any significant achievements whilst working with the organisation

The Importance of Keywords:
What keywords? Did you know that some employers use software to weed out CV’s that do not contain the correct mix of keywords? Well some of them do.  Imagine getting several hundred applications for every position that is advertised.  The first cull of unsuitable persons will be people who have failed to add into their application (covering letter, statement addressing the selection criteria and the CV).  Important keywords and key phrases used by the employer in their adverts and application packages. Adding these to your application proves you have read and understood the position requirements and you are worthy of a closer look.

The importance of proof reading your application:
You should ideally leave several days between writing your application, sending it to yourself and now reading it. Doing so, , you will notice errors far more easily than if you tried to edit your work as you typed. If you are stressed or rushed, it will show in your writing.

One typo may be considered to be OK, two typos and you are on your way to the FILE 13 pile of thanks but no thanx.  If you think this is a little harsh, consider the statement that asks for someone with “Good attention to detail” – well if you have failed to prrof reed your document, you have just proven that you do knot have the necessary pride in your own work that they are lokking for, and your attention too detail is schoking.

I hope you spotted ALL the deliberate mistakes – if you didn’t I suggest you re-read that last paragraph.

But one word of caution – do not rely on spell check alone. Whilst it can weed out some of the more obvious grammatical and spelling errors, it probably won’t find a correctly spelt word used in the wrong context. Know for no, Know for now, Stile for style and so on.

If you don’t have time to send your application to yourself, I would recommend you leave at least one day between writing your application and proof-reading and editing the document. You will be surprised at how things like emotions and tiredness can impact on your writing. But the biggest surprise may come from the tone of the writing. If you have been unfortunate enough to have been made redundant, you may not be feeling particularly “happy” and positive about your last employer. Believe me when I say this – it can show in your writing whether you are in a positive or negative frame of mind. Anyone skilled in the art of reading applications will be able to tell instantly what your frame of mind was – when you wrote the application.

Format of your application:
Unless specified by the application package, you are free to use whatever font, format and style of writing, paper and colour you choose. But I wouldn’t recommend it. And the reason is simple – unless you are going for a job as a graphic designer, most prospective employers would expect to see a professional and business like document. Would you be happy to receive a yellow letter, pink CV and a green statement addressing the selection criteria? Of course not – but if you use a different font size and style for each separate piece of your application, you might as well have added colour as well.

We want to make it as easy as possible for a prospective employer to like us. And we can only do that through our written application in the first instance. So a few suggestions: Unless it tells you otherwise in the application package, these are considered unnecessary:

• You do not need to add a front page to your CV or Resume, as it usually only says what the document is and who is sending it.
• Don’t bind your CV – unless they specifically ask you to as it usually photocopied.
• Do not use coloured paper and/or coloured text. Your application will probably be photocopied, and coloured paper and/or writing does not photocopy as well as plain white paper with black text.
• Photographs – assumptions can and will be made about people by others – based on nothing more than what you look like, so if you are not sure that you will be shown in the best light by the photograph that you have chosen to put on your application, then leave it off.  If someone wants to know what you look like they can ask you to attend an interview.
• Choose the font you use carefully, make sure you use one that is easily read (verdana & ariel are good ones to use and are easily read in 10 or 11 font) – and keep CAPITALS to a minimum.
• Be consistent with all of your correspondence.  If you use ariel font size 11 for your CV, please ensure that this is the same font that you use to send your covering letter and  the statement addressing the selection criteria too.
• One CV does not fit all.  You will need to make sure that you create a specific CV for each position that you apply for, so that you can ensure that you have added the correct mix of keywords and key phrases. Remember your application may be subjected to software that is not able to read between the lines.

Getting a second opinion:
Once you have gone through your own application and corrected any obvious mistakes and errors in writing. It is a good idea to get a second opinion of a person who you admire in the business world. Try not to give your application to a member of the family. Two reasons, one they may be tempted to tell you that your application is wonderful – regardless of whether it is or not. Or as is more usually the case, they won’t have the first idea about the job you are applying for and will not be able to offer any constructive opinion as to what is missing from your application, or what should be removed.

Getting feedback from the employer:
An employer may not be able to, or have the time to give you written feedback on your application. However, if you are unsuccessful it may be worth a telephone call to see if you can speak to someone about your application. If they don’t have the time they will let you know. But whilst they may not have the time to give feedback on everyone’s written application, they should be able to give you feedback on your interview.

• Did the other candidates interview better?
• Did you fail to answer the questions properly?
• Did your sense of dress let you down?
• Did you chatter aimlessly without getting to the point?
• Were you late?

When it comes to job applications and interviews, everything matters.

We hope you enjoyed reading, have a great week.

With many thoughts

Lorraine