Words of wisdom from my wife, Julia Nisbet-Fahy:
I write this as someone who started work in the late 80’s and who has had the misfortune of watching friends and family of a similar age recently embark on the arduous journey of job hunting. Well qualified and with depth and breadth of experience in blue chips to SMEs why was it proving difficult? They had experience and good qualifications for the roles sought. It was simply that the recruitment process landscape upon which they walked, has changed since they last looked 10 or more years ago,
Whether it us due to redundancy or a need to change direction after some years in the same place, if you have not been in the wilds of agency land for some years read on for what I hope will help (albeit it a light hearted way). :
1. There are two kinds of agencies – those with people and those with special software. The latter is designed as a cost effective dating agency that electronically scans and matching your C.V. to the job in hand. Its algorithm attempts to replace the more expensive skills of people who interpret the detail of the less skilled CV. writer; assuming of course you are not seeking a role as a C.V. writer – see point 3. If you don’t have the right word count levels you won’t be considered.
2. If the agency has people, your C.V. may be being assessed by someone 20yrs your junior. Whilst in itself this us not an issue, you need to understand that digital media has changed a whole generation into scanning, key word finders. The e-world means they have to work this way. The volume of C.V.s received is often ten times that they would have reviewed before 10 years ago. They have no choice but to accede to this way of working.
3. SEO your C.V. like you would a web page. To accommodate points 1 and 2 you need to rethink how you present the detail. The latest advice I read is use more bullets, keep it simple, use “positive achieving words” not “passive statements”. For me this loses a sense of personality. True that one should always craft a C.V. to the role you want and include clear references to ensure the reader knows you have delivered results… but its all a little to prescriptive to my taste. Bullets are great but not everywhere.
4. Structure and order – I was taught to put name, address, education, driving license etc. at the beginning. All the stuff that makes you a solid and worthy individual. No more. Like a university application you need a summary statement then a concise statement of work history – only including words that relate to what you want to do otherwise the scanning algorithm may have you aligned to a sales role because that was mentioned twice from 15 years ago. (It reminds me of when the careers adviser came to an event at my school. They determined a solid future for me as a kennel maid, because I had a dog and liked animals). The solid stuff is now put the end, most likely because its the job fit that is a priority and the rest can be checked further down the line.
3. Once upon a time ….it was the right hand side of the page that mattered most in content…no more according to the Institute of Digital Marketing. It’s the left hand side. If you are sending in a pdf then keep the good stuff to the left hand side.
4. Getting Feedback? – think again. If companies use scanning algorithms the only feedback you can get is ” you didn’t fit the profile”, that’s if you can find anyone to talk to you. If they use people then they can be very helpful, even allowing you to re-craft your C.V. as they may have missed something they then understood from talking through what you sent.
5. The black hole of waiting – unlike past eras, the volume of C.V.s that can be submitted and received is vast, so many companies and by that I mean recruitment or hiring companies, don’t even write to say sorry but you were unsuccessful. You are left hanging and wondering. This is the sadness and to some extent unprofessional and uncaring side of job hunting. (I don’t count automatic e-responses as being caring)
6. Agency answer machines – don’t ring and leave a message thinking someone will always call you back. 50% of the time they do and that is most likely to be if you give them a reason to call you.
7. The click bait adverts – whilst unprofessional at best, by the time many adverts have traversed the criss crossing network of e-enviroments (note how many jobs still there that were posted 30 days ago ) the closing date has passed and in many cases the job awarded. But they still get to add your C.V. to their database. Only today I saw a role advertised as NEW on LinkedIn with a start date of Sept 16th 2016.
I am old fashioned. I still believe people buy from people and that the best way to get a job is to talk to someone. Candidates are faced with a myriad of opportunity to submit C.V.s without needing to resort to a printer and stamped envelopes. It means many don’t always take the care to select target jobs through fear of not knowing if their C.V. has been read, scanned or ignored. It is volume that matters on the principle that if you throw enough jelly at a wall it sticks. That is a problem in itself just because it adds a lot of noise to the recruiting process.
On the receiving end of the “jelly” are the agencies/ companies who try to efficiently to pick through to melee to identify the bits they want.
There are some really good agencies out there but there are a rapidly increasing number of not so good who’s automation is not understood by the applicant.
Having pinned out the scenarios above here’s my top 3 tips :
1. Be yourself. You are trying to convey the best bits of you in relation to the role, so walk in the shoes of the reader. Revisit the job description (not the job title) and like responding to a tender, ensure you cover all their key requirements. Oh, and if you hate bullets don’t use them.
2. Call the agency/company advertising the role – if nothing else to find out if the role still open. Have a relevant question to ask … like “to whom should I address my covering letter ?”, “when do applications close ?”. Follow up after you submit – give it a week. Just so you know whether you made the short list. It can stop the black hole sucking you in.
3. Phone a friend – or send them your C.V. for feedback on the role you are applying for. Listen to what they say and make adjustments as appropriate.
This can be a positive time if you have crafted a good C.V. or have identified a couple of great agencies who are pitching you directly. For the many who have to hunt down roles on-line it can be difficult. Don’t lose heart. Whilst it can be dog eat dog it is mostly a digital marketing exercise to ensure your voice and value is heard.
I wish you great luck if you are hunting for something right now and hope that something in this piece can help you.