You think that you know what the average employer is looking for? Qualifications, right? Surprisingly research suggests that even though qualifications might get you a foot in the door (usually in the shape of an interview, if you’re lucky) there’s more than meets the eye to the selection process than most of us think. That’s good news for you if you’re currently looking for a job, in the process of being made redundant or a graduate wondering what your next move should be. Let’s take a look at the research and how you can use it to your advantage.
Research into what employers are looking for indicates that overall, employers are “less demanding of technical skills, considering them trainable, if candidates exhibit employability, soft skills, and positive attributes” (Winterbotham et al., 2001). Whilst qualifications are often used to inform the initial screening of any recruitment process, an application demonstrating transferable skills, enthusiasm and willingness to learn goes a long way.
Now more than ever there is increasing emphasis on soft skills, for example, enthusiasm, ability to communicate and emotional intelligence. Amongst the core characteristics that employers look for are motivation and flexibility, alongside willingness to work, to learn, appearance, behaviour, confidence, positive gestures and mannerisms (Bunt, 2005). The trick is to convince your potential employer at the application stage by conveying these key characteristics in your CV, covering letter or application before it hits the recycling bin. But how can you do that?
Use the findings of this research to your advantage by being specific about what you will bring to the role in your application, CV and covering letter. One obvious, but often overlooked strategy is to avoid a ‘one size fits all’ template approach to your applications. Imagine sifting through hundreds of standard application forms or CVs, those that really stand out are the ones that match exactly what the organisation is looking for, applicants who have considered what the job entails, the key qualities needed to fulfil the role and how their own skills complement what the organisation requires. CVs aren’t a numbers game, churning out a hundred identical applications and firing them off in the hope that one will stick doesn’t work in the current economic climate. Employers need you to tell them why they should hire you….so let’s get started.
Personality profiling tells us it’s human nature to identify with those who we feel we have something in common, so search for clues in the job description, person specification and company profile. Convince the selection panel that you are just like them, someone who will fit right in with their team or organisational culture. Think ‘bespoke’ and study each job advertisement rigorously for cues that will enable you to tailor make your application to exactly what the organisation needs.
Is the company innovative? Tell them how creative you are. If the organisation values tradition then demonstrate traditional values in your application. Does the advert emphasise teamwork? Show them that you’re a team player by accentuating how effectively you’ve performed in teams in the past. Relate your experience to the post you are applying for and show how your skills and experience will benefit their organisation. Let them know about the great skills, abilities and characteristics you will bring to their team, you want them to wonder how they have been managing without you all this time.
Target your skills and knowledge to those required by your potential employer by highlighting areas of your own experience that match their specification. Use positive, active language to demonstrate your skills. Let the organisation know what you can do, what you have achieved, what the results were and how you contributed to the success of previous teams, departments and organisations. Did you implement a new system that saved time? Did you increase sales revenue by 100%? Did you improve customer satisfaction rates? Whatever you did, let them know about it.
If you are a graduate with little or no work experience remember that experience is everything that you do, it isn’t confined to the workplace. Draw upon any voluntary roles you have undertaken, teams you’ve been part of, leadership roles you’ve volunteered for and part time jobs you’ve undertaken whether they were paid or not. Shine the spotlight on the skills, characteristics and talents that you bring with you. Build on your personal qualities and willingness to learn. You may not meet all the requirements of a person specification but an enthusiastic application which displays flexibility, keenness and a passion for the job will give you the very best shot at gaining an interview where you can convince them, in person, that you’re right for the role.
Whatever the role you are applying for or the type of job you want to find, remember, there are undiscovered clues buried in most job adverts that your competitors will just skim over and miss. Arm yourself with some simple sleuthing techniques, find out what your potential employer is really looking for, tailor your application to the job and give yourself a head start. Good luck.