Your RIGHT next role is a role where you have the opportunity to be successful, and which also meets your personal criteria. This is most likely to occur when both the candidate and the organisation have been open and transparent about what they have to offer and what they are looking for from the other party. For you, this starts with your CV.
Not all jobs you submit a CV for are going to be right for you. Of course, if a role seemed of interest or you just need a job, you will be focused on getting to the next stage. However, you have to remember that once you have a role, you have to do the role! If that role isn’t right for you, you’re likely to be back job hunting sooner than you expected.
From a job ad you can’t possibly determine all that is needed to be successful in that role. Nor do you have oversight of anyone else who applies. So when you submit your CV for a role, you need to trust in the process and the experience of the recruiter or manager reviewing the applications. You trust that the people most likely to be successful will be the ones selected at each stage in the process.
How can you help them make the right decision? By presenting your CV in a way that is authentic, relevant, easy to follow, individual, and sells the value you genuinely have to bring to the role. Think of the CV as a short introduction to who you really are and what you can really bring. Then leave it (almost) alone to do its thing.
There may be a temptation to take an unsuccessful notification as a sign that the CV needs to be reworked. That is unlikely the case. As long as it is authentic, clear and relevant, trust in the process and spend the extra time searching for jobs you love the sound of.
Below is a series of do’s and don’ts for presenting your CV to improve your chances of progressing for the RIGHT roles:
Tailoring your application
DO: Tweak some elements of your application with reference to the selection criteria and the core requirements for the role. You will have a standard CV, but if you’re applying for a role outside of your usual wheelhouse, you may look to adjust the presentation of your experience and achievements. This is to emphasise what is most relevant and can be a useful way of putting your best (qualified) foot forward.
DON’T: Invest significant time reworking your CV for every application, or after every unsuccessful notice. If your experience is clear, leave it.
DON’T: Overinflate your experience or add qualifications that you did not complete. Moving forward in a process based on experience you don’t actually have is not a sign that this is the right role for you. At best, it increases the risk of overpromising and underdelivering at a point in the future. At worst, it could lead to disciplinary action if you acquired a role through deception.
Being an individual
DO: Submit a covering letter where you have the option to do so. (At Trak Search we do not ask for this document, but it is routinely expected for most applications.) Introducing yourself in a written application can be difficult. A cover letter allows you to present your motivations for applying for the role, which is particularly important if the role is not the obvious next step in your career.
DON’T: Crowd your CV with personal information that is irrelevant to the role or your experience. This includes information on hobbies or personal interests. We recommend up to three pages, no more than four, for a professional CV. You want to use that space wisely to convey experience that is relevant for the role. Most personal information will only be a distraction.
Make your experience clear
DO: Present your CV in an easy-to-read format. There are lots of templates you can find online if you’re unsure. The key elements to include are:
- basic contact information;
- your career history in reverse chronological order (including a high level overview of each organisation you worked for and key dates in each role);
- relevant educational qualifications and recent professional development; and
- relevant memberships and associations.
DON’T: Make anyone work hard to understand the fabulous experience you are trying to convey. Be thorough when checking for correct spelling and grammar. Use bullet points, sub-headings and paragraphs to make the document easy to follow. Avoid common trap of trying to squeeze in too much text by using tiny fonts and widening the page margins – this just makes the document hard to read.
DO: Promote everything you would bring to the role so that you are presenting your most qualified self. Include the key responsibilities that demonstrate relevant work experience, but focus more strongly on your career achievements, and what you accomplished in each role.
DO: Include any other skills, training, memberships, or awards that are relevant to the role and will strengthen your application.
DON’T: Fill your CV up with buzz words and clichés thinking that it sounds more impressive. You want to make sure that the person reading your CV finds it easy to understand what you actually accomplished.
DON’T: Feel you need to include every single task you have undertaken for the last 20 years. Less is more. Focus only on what is most relevant so that the points which should be emphasised don’t get lost in the crowd.
Back it up
DO: Where appropriate, include a key metric or brief supporting details for the key achievements you have listed. Did you reduce team turnover? Include by how much. Did you improve a core process that led to cost or time savings? State the core figures at a high level.
You may not have the space to include all details, and some achievements are not so easily quantifiable. But you should be prepared to discuss all the information in your application, should you have the opportunity to do so. In an interview, all points should be supported with detailed examples.
DO: make sure you think ahead about who your most appropriate referees are. These will be people you have worked with professionally who can speak to the experience you have presented.
DON’T: Write War and Peace to try and validate every piece of information in there. Remember the guide of up to three pages for your resume (with reasonable margins and font size).
DON’T: Include referee details in your application unless it is asked for. Often this just creates additional work than may be required at the application stage, which could delay your submission.
DON’T: Include achievements where you did not have a leadership role, unless you are specific about your involvement. You may be tempted to claim a more significant role in an important project or initiative, but it is often hard to sustain that in an interview when a greater level of detail is required. Will your referees provide a different picture of your input?
Making contact and following up applications
DO: Ask any questions that are important for you in determining whether you would like to apply for a role. You shouldn’t waste time applying for a role that does not meet your minimum criteria if a quick phone call or email could determine that for you.
DO: Ask questions about the process and timeframes if you are unclear, or there has been a change from the expectations that were communicated to you.
DON’T: Feel you have to call the recruitment contact to show you are interested, or to ‘stand out’ in the process. You will not create your best first impression when you invent a trivial reason to call, or ask questions you are not genuinely interested in.
DON’T: Follow up on applications ahead of the milestones that have been communicated to you unless there has been a change in your circumstances. Structured processes are designed to allow for a thorough review of candidates before any decisions are made on progression to the next stage. If a timeframe has been given for feedback, it is unlikely that a call ahead of schedule will yield any useful update. However, it is always important to keep the recruitment contact up to date if your situation has changed and the process timeframes may no longer suit.
When you are ready to explore new opportunities, it is important to review your CV to make sure it is a true reflection of what you have to bring to a role and what you are looking for right now. Invest the time to make sure you’re able to introduce the authentic ‘you’ in the best way possible, then leave it to do the talking.
An unsuccessful process doesn’t reflect on you as an applicant, or on the presentation of your CV. It just means that role wasn’t RIGHT for you. And isn’t the RIGHT role what you’re hoping to find?
Want to watch more educational content that we believe is worth checking out. Find them all here.