Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Gettin' Paper

I was inspired to write about this topic yesterday after titling my post 'shift'. The word always brings back a terribly embarrassing memory for me, which I will share with you shortly.

In my most recent three jobs, I've worked in offices, and have periodically been called upon to cast an eye over job applications when superiors have been recruiting new staff. I've also held several different roles myself over the five years since I left high school, so I'm sharing with you a few little tips I've learned about applying for jobs.

Use your own judgement when applying for particular roles of course, and don't hold me responsible if these things don't help you gain a job! These tips are really targeted towards entry level-type jobs like I've worked in, particularly in offices, and are just some things I've noticed many people do that I wouldn't do myself (or my own mistakes I've learned from).

Creating your CV
First up is your CV (curriculum vitae/resume) itself. I imagine the majority of employers are going to do exactly what my bosses have done when recruiting- print out a stack of applications in black and white to sort through. This means the beautiful colour scheme and backgrounds you worked on will be boring and monochrome... and often quite ugly. Solid black text on a white background is going to look crisp and clean even on the dodgiest printer.

Keep it simple
Keep the number of fonts you use to a maximum of two, and the same with font sizes (although I've usually put my name slightly larger at the top with my contact information underneath). I usually have a bold heading for each section of my CV, and then simply underline the company name for each previous employer and training establishment. Keep it simple, and easy to read. And list your previous jobs and education in reverse chronological order, with the most recent places at the top.

Check your spelling and grammar
Proof read, oh my god, proof read. And then get everyone you know to proof read as well. Remember the terribly embarrassing moment mentioned earlier? When I applied for my previous role as a receptionist, I landed an interview and went along dressed up and enthusiastic. My interviewer talked with me a while, and then pulled the rug out from under my feet by pointing out a spelling error on my CV. Alongside each of my previous roles, I'd written the type of contract I'd held there- full time, fixed term etc. Alongside my waitressing job, I'd accurately but unintentionally labelled it 'shit work'. To this day I quadruple check the spelling every time I type the word 'shift'! I was very fortunate in that instance that the interviewer had worked in hospitality herself so we were able to joke about it- many people would have put my CV in the shredder upon noticing that error (or, perhaps in some cases, passed it around a few people for a giggle) and I wouldn't have got an interview let alone the role itself.

A sometimes-risky move is to include a self-portrait on your CV. Some employers will think this makes you stand out, while others will hate it, so it can be a bit of a gamble. If you decide to include one, make sure it's clear and nicely cropped... and don't pile on too much make up.

Cover letters
No matter how you're applying for a job, even in a question/answer application online, if there's an opportunity for you to send a cover letter with your CV then take it. It's fine to have a basic cover letter saved when applying for multiple jobs, but make sure you tailor it for each role. You're definitely going to have a better chance at progressing in the hiring process if you've shown knowledge about the company or role you're applying for, and highlighted your unique qualities that will make you suitable for it. Employers can definitely tell when you're sending in a cut-and-paste letter, and I've personally had the most success when I've started from scratch and written every word with the job I'm applying for in mind.

Sending your application
Something I always do is send both my cover letter and CV as a PDF, rather than a Word document or similar. It ensures your application will display on the recipients screen/print out as you intended. For my last two roles I applied with a full one page cover letter and one page CV. Obviously for some jobs this won't be enough, but I personally think less is more; provided the 'less' is relevant information that will make employers want to know more about you.

The online you
I'm sure even the most amateur of job applicant knows this, but make sure your Facebook profile presents you as employable. Obviously the best thing to do is make sure your profile is set to private if you have some potentially embarrassing party photos floating around, but don't forget to also check your 'friends-of-friends' settings too- especially in my city, there are so many 'mutual friends' among my peers that a prospective employee's profile can sometimes be viewed by their potential colleagues, or even the employer themselves.

It's also valuable to set up a LinkedIn account if you don't already have one, and connect with people you already know- especially if you're trying to break into an office role without previous experience.

Gaining an interview
If you have been fortunate enough to land an interview, when you go to appointment make sure you are super sweet to other staff there. Particularly in an office environment, smile at and greet the receptionist before asking after your interviewer. Always assume they will have some input into the hiring process, because chances are the interviewer will ask the receptionist for the their 'first impression' thoughts. My predecessor at a previous reception job became a good friend of mine, and she told me that of all the people interviewed for my role, I was the only one to stop, greet her, and ask her how she was- and in that case and she passed this information on to the interviewer. It seems obvious, but having worked as a receptionist myself you would be amazed at how many people charge in and respond to your welcome with a blunt "I have an interview with ___".

Never be late, but don't be too early either- I'd say five minutes max. You don't want to make the interviewer flustered if they are not quite ready to see you yet. If you're super early, hang out down the road or in the lobby until it's time- and remember that anyone walking past is a potential future colleague.

I can't really offer you much advice for once you're in the interview itself... I've tended to babble nervously and it seems to work! Just remember the basics- dress nicely, be friendly, be honest, don't bad mouth previous employers, and be enthusiastic.

I heart Google
Above all? Google is your very best friend when job hunting. If you're unsure of how to best layout your cover letter and CV, Google some templates. Google the company you're applying for, and if you're fortunate enough to score an interview, Google some more!

Let me know if you have any embarrassing or interesting job application stories, and feel free to share any other advice you have!


Holly Knitlightly said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Bahahhaaha oh man it's 12:40 in the morning & I just LOLed at shitwork... bahahahahaha.

xoxbubbles.com said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great tips, and totally agree with not bad mouthing current/former employers.

Also! LOVE the new header :)

fautedemieux.com said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Renee said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

All so true! If you ARE late (as I was for the job I have now) apologize profusely and sincerely! According to the person who interviewed me I wasn't the only one late but the other person didn't even apologize! Plus, she told the receptionist she gets road rage and this naturally got relayed back to the interviewer...

Katrina said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

interesting post! great tips too...all my jobs were successful at the interviews but yeah i do get flustered and say some wrong thing. every time they ask me what is the bad thing about me...i always answer: "well, i am a perfectionist. i like keeping things tidy and organised. this somehow annoyed people!" this is well crafty because it is NOT necessarily a bad thing...if you get me? haha.

your new blog design look fabulous, darling xx


Caitlin said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great tips, Alice! So funny about the "shit work," that's totally something I would've done. Very cool that you got a great interviewer :)

Trev Jones said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Well done Alice, but may I add a couple of things.
Do your homework on the interviewer's company so you know something about them. Their website should suffice for this.
Have some questions to ask at the end of the interview, even if this means you have to take notes during the interview. One position I applied for, the interviewer told me I was the only applicant who had question to ask....Dad

Alice said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Huh, confused about where your comment's gone Rochelle! Sorry if it was my clumsy iPhone fingers :-/

Thanks Dad good tips :D

fautedemieux.com said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

haha all good! I can't remember what I wrote!

Alice said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Bonus tips from Facebook friends:

Make sure your email address looks professional- create a new one specifically for your job hunt if necessary.

If your CV is longer than two pages, you're including too much/irrelevant information.