Recruiters generally receive dozens, if not hundreds of applications for every role they advertise which means that it’s crucial you find a way to make yourself stand out from the crowd in both the application and interview process.
Here’s how to do it.
Few people actually apply for jobs well, so a good way to stand out is to get the basics right. During the application process it’s absolutely vital to make sure that your cover letter and CV are all rigorously spell and grammar checked. It may sound obvious but it would shock you to find out how many people fail to do this and it sends a subconscious message to the recruiter, and not a particularly positive one. You should also try and keep it as short and concise as possible. The average hiring consultant spends around 10 seconds reviewing CVs the first time round so they don’t want to be faced with a truncated version of War and Peace.
In your CV it’s important to list your achievements and best bits first like an inverted pyramid with recreational activities at the bottom. The best applicants tend to follow up their submission with a quick phone call. It can make all the difference when a consultant is looking at a number of similar people at the same time. You should also look to include examples of when and how you’ve achieved something, rather than just saying you have experience of it.
This also applies in the interview stage as you need to back up and validate what you’re saying. If you’ve saved your employer thousands of pounds, for example, explain how you did it, rather than just saying you’ve done it. This is your opportunity to really sell yourself and, crucially, find out more about the company. The ideal interview will develop into more of a conversation rather than a Q&A and by asking questions you’re more likely to come across as someone who’s actually interested in the role and the company.
First things first, you should get there early, but not too early as that suggests desperation rather than efficiency. What you wear is also, obviously, important. If you can find out what the dress code in the office is – and a good recruiter will know this – then look to dress one level up from that. For example, if you’re applying for a role at a firm with a smart casual dress code, then wear a business suit. If they’re more relaxed then reflect that by going for something a little less formal. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted into dressing down, it’s a chance to impress not to try to assimilate with the rest of the firm’s employees.
A good way to make yourself memorable is to close the interview yourself by asking questions like, “Is there anything else on my CV that you’d like to discuss?” This puts you in the power position and will make you appear more authoritative and professional. It’s also likely that very few of your rivals for the position will have done the same, so should stand you out in the eyes of the hirer.
Again, after the interview look to follow up with a phone call or email to say thanks for the opportunity and if there are any areas that the hirer would like more detail on. This should again set you apart from other interviewees and make you memorable to the recruiting team.
You could obviously try the alternative approach and dress zanily, send cakes to the recruiter – (although this would go down well here) – or have a gimmicky, alternative CV. But while they will make you memorable in the eyes of the employer and recruiter, it won’t help your cause if you’re applying for a professional position and will only serve to make you seem like an oddball, rather than a potential employee. The best approach is to get the basics right, you’d be surprised by how uncommon this is.
Lynn Sedgwick is Managing Director of Clayton Legal