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Nobody replying to your applications? It’s time to get personal!

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OK, you are fed up with your boss, bored of the meaningless tasks you have been given or perhaps are simply not feeling the spark that once made you love your job. Time for a change! 

What’s the first thing you do?

You fire the laptop up, dust the cobwebs off the old CV and set to work, updating the life out of it and trying to highlight your best achievements to ensure you look amazing. You might even scour the internet to find the #1 formula to write a killer CV from one of a billion (I may exaggerate, but only a little) websites that pretty much copy & paste each other.

That's the kick ass CV written to perfection. What’s the next step?

Staying with the laptop in your lap, you start firing through job-board after job-board, each of which claims to have more vacancies and a "better customer interface" than the last. Here’s a wee secret – they generally don’t.

Several hours later you have spent your whole evening updating your CV and sent it to hundreds of different companies. Now what do you do? You sit and you wait patiently for a reply in your inbox… But wait, it’s been a week now and all you have managed to generate is a couple of rejection emails and some spam mail.  Most people have ignored you.

Where have you gone wrong; you have written the best CV known to man or woman and all the roles you applied for are relevant and suitable?

The problem is that a CV is a black and white piece of (nowadays virtual) paper; there are no grey areas (unless your printer is running out of ink). In fact, frequently there is no “colour” at all on a CV (as a recruiter I know, I see lots of them!). There is no room to show your individuality, to stamp your personality over it, to be “you.” Far too many CV are just lists of facts about who you are, your qualifications, experience and work history, the geographic locations of your various jobs, the milestones on your career and the achievements you have brought to your previous employers. There is a small part where you can list your interests, which normally consist of either participating in or watching some sort of sports and "spending time with the family."

Ah yes, but surely that’s what a covering letter is for, isn’t it? Leaving on one side that very few covering letters are actually printed out on bits of paper, does a covering letter that has your address and their address stamped on the top, with a standard layout, cut and pasted “additional skills and interests (sometimes with the company name from your previous application – whoops!) and a “Kind Regards – (insert signature)”, does this scream personality to you? Or, to put it another way…

Is this the true you? Is this going to make you stand out from the stack of CV's/covering letters sitting on the hiring manager’s inbox (always bearing in mind that the average time they’ll spend on any CV – including yours - is around six seconds)?

In this day and age, there is raft of other, more personal ways to connect with potential companies that will make you stand out from the crowd. That’s what you want, right? A way to stand head and shoulders above the rest.   Right, here are a few ideas, starting with the most revolutionary one (and one which has fallen into disuse as people retreat behind emails and social media).

Use your hands and pick up the phone - it won’t bite!

With millions of bits of information at our fingertips, finding someone who is influential in the hiring process shouldn’t be a black ops task. Most of the time going on to a company’s website and clicking the “meet the team” tab will give you the names and positions of the influential people you want and sometimes it will even give you their direct number and email. By calling them and registering your interest you can show them that: a) you are focused, determined and confident enough to go out of your way to source their number and call them, b) you are genuinely interested in the role and not just applying for the sake of applying or because it came up on a “similar jobs” tab on a job-board, and finally, c) you can be truly personal and paint a picture of yourself and your achievements in as many colours as you want.  Speaking allows you to put across all the inflections and nuances that a CV just can’t show: you can be yourself and not just a CV.

Use LinkedIn for what it is intended!

LinkedIn was created to connect professionals with professionals, so why don’t you connect with a professional and kick start a conversation. With its great search feature, you could find the company you are looking for and all its employees who are on LinkedIn in a few clicks. Some 90% of senior managers are on LinkedIn and with a couple of more clicks you can send them a message. Ah, but surely you can only message them when you have connected?  Not so - did you know that you can actually write a message when you click on the “connect with” button on someone’s personal profile page? No? Well, why not give it a try?

What lucky souls should I include in my network?

Well, the simple answer is ones that are going to give you the chance to talk to people who can either get you a job directly or steer you towards an opportunity.  Friends are a good start. I don’t mean that you should just call you’re mates up and ask if they know of any opportunities (although sometimes that works too!). Remember, almost no-one stays in one position their whole working life and your good friend from one company could become an influential manager in another. Or they could have moved to a new firm and become good mates with their manager.  So why not ask to go for a coffee or lunch with your friend and their manager? Nothing is more personal – and effective - than face-to-face contact.

Follow companies you are interested in on LinkedIn, connect with their employees and get to know their culture through their social media presence. This will not only give you an indication of who they really are but will also give you a range of interesting topics to use in conversation with an influential manager.

Find out what events and functions are happening near you that are specific to your sector or area of work. These offer great opportunities to meet people face to face and, normally, hiring managers will go to these events specifically to meet other professionals and potential recruits.  Remember, hiring managers are adept at networking and always on the look out for new talent: that is their job after all!

Use a reputable recruiter who is visibly accountable to their clients and candidates and is also highly service orientated (as opposed to simply treating you as a money-making opportunity). Any recruiter worth their salt will take the time out to meet you face to face and get to know what your genuine requirements and motivations are – in other words they will treat you like a person, not as a CV.

The best ones know what is happening within their sector and understand the way their client companies work and what they are looking for in their hires. Good recruiters are a great source of information, including which firms are winning work (good bet) and which are not (probably a bad bet). They are also well up to speed on a company’s culture and can advise you on the best way to match your skills and personality to that of the hiring firm. Moreover, the really good recruiter will always tell you when you don’t fit into a company, which is important for both parties concerned. They may also have vacancies that are not common knowledge yet, thus allowing you to get your application in the door before other candidates and significantly improving your chances of being hired.

There are many ways to interact and connect with the key people who might want to recruit you. Virtually all of them are significantly better than just firing a CV through to a post on a job board and crossing your fingers.

Happy job hunting!

Chris Peace



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