Imagine your company is hiring. Great! Now imagine you’re the person who has to review all the applications. Mmmm. So, what would you like to see when you start opening those files? What would make you dismiss an application straight away? What would stand out? Think from the other side of the table and it’s easier to see what to do – and what not to do – when writing a job application.

1.   Name files logically

You’re just starting your task of reviewing the applications. When you open your file manager with all the applications you have to screen, do you want to see 10 files called Cover letter.doc? Why not? Because to screen applicants efficiently you’ll need to rename all the files first. As an applicant, think of the recruiter and avoid giving them extra work by calling your file something logical like Grace Murphy CV Proj Manager.doc.

2.   Keep it short

Staying in your role as recruiter – do you want to wade through chunks of text? Probably not. ‘Keep it short’ is the most important rule of all in this context. A CV is not a thesis or a novel. Give all information relevant to the job you’re applying for, describing education and work experience succinctly. This means giving all relevant information but in as concise a way as possible.

3.   Tailor your application to the company

Tailoring your application is important; it shows you have spent time considering how your skills match the requirements. Recruiters want to know what you can do for them, not just what you can do or have done.

Recruiters to a financial or pharmaceutical company don’t need to know you worked in a bar during college. So unless you’re just starting out, don’t list this type of work, unless of course it is specifically relevant to the role. If you want to account for a couple of short-term jobs together, put something like ‘General retail/hotel/bar work experience 2016–2018’.

4.   Use bullet points

Bullet points are your friend in job applications. Recruiters have minimal time to spend on each application, so use bullet points in most sections of the CV. For example, instead of:

  • In my role as a project worker from June to December 2018 I had many important functions. One of my main duties was to take detailed minutes of the daily project meetings. This involved typing up the minutes and sending them to the team. Another task was to proofread reports from the team. I was the first reviewer, which meant I had to carefully examine each one and check anything that wasn’t clear …


  Project worker, June–December 2018


·         Taking meeting minutes, proofreading reports

Although the first format is clear, it’s too long and the recruiter will likely skim it without taking the information in.

5.   Be specific

It’s tempting sometimes in CVs to be vague, especially if you’re not sure exactly how to describe an aspect of a job. However, the recruiter is looking for specific qualifications and experience, so if you have these you need to be clear that you do. For example, if you have good administration experience within a research team, instead of:

·         Key member of team leading research with partner organisations and educational institutions


·         Administrator with research team

6.   Use simple language and avoid jargon

You may have the experience the recruiter wants, but if you hide it in jargon the person reviewing your application might miss it. For example, what does this mean:

·         Took a leading role in strategic thinking around developing a future expansion framework

Maybe it means something like:

·         Took part in planning the expansion of the company, including putting forward ideas and writing parts of report

If so, they’re good skills to have. The recruiter doesn’t have time to decipher convoluted writing like the example here, so use simple language and get your message across.

7.   Mention any gaps in dates in the cover letter

Gaps can occur in CVs for any number of reasons – travel, family, illness, study – and recruiters are used to seeing them. Whatever the reason it needs to be explained. If you leave a gap the recruiter will probably query it at or before interview. Again, being upfront in the CV leaves no room for doubt and gives the recruiter one more reason to keep your CV in the pile.

8.   Use the interests section well

You may be the life and soul of the party but your CV doesn't care. Use the interests section to briefly mention any major achievements in sports, the arts or whatever, or to indicate that you are a rounded, responsible person by choosing one or two things you are genuinely involved in. If you volunteer you could mention that here. Don’t feel you need to put in interests if there’s nothing you particularly want to mention.

Takeaway: Say clearly and succinctly how your skills and experience match the recruiter’s requirements, and above all, don’t put the recruiter to sleep!

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