To ensure the greatest chance of success, hold your CV and cover letter up to a brutal interrogation against our 10-step application checklist. It’ll help to ensure you get the call to interview you want. Before you click send, we urge you to check that your application will cut the mustard.
1. Research and facts
Make sure that your application sells yourself to this company. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes, and head to the company website and LinkedIn.
In your cover letter, you should have at least one reference to the organisation’s goals and how you’re going to help them achieve them.
2. Keywords and adverts
The recruiting manager took time to craft an advert which highlighted the attributes they are looking for. Therefore, they have given you an excellent clue about what to include in your application.
Check that your application mentions everything that they do. Furthermore, provide some evidence for how you’ve demonstrated this.
This isn’t just important in terms of the person who will read your application. It’s also important because it is not uncommon for applications to be put through software designed to pull out the keywords.
3. Have you done everything?
Go back to the advert and check that you’ve done everything asked of you. Have you started your application with the random word ‘pineapple’, as requested, to denote you read the whole ad? Have you included any additional documents or copies of qualifications that they want?
4. Have you attached everything?
Don’t write ‘I attach a copy of my CV’ and then promptly forget to attach it. The same applies for any links you’ve included, perhaps to your LinkedIn or a published journal – check they are all present, working and correct.
5. It’s all in a name
There really is no excuse, in 2020, of addressing a job application without a name. If the hiring manager’s name isn’t on the advert, then take a look at the website. If you’re still stuck, pick up the phone and ask.
While we are on the subject of names – what’s your email address? If it’s inappropriate for a professional setting, then set up a new job hunting one.
6. Keep it sweet
Part of your checklist process should be to cut any waffle, and keep things direct and to the point. Make sure your CV is confined to 2 sides of A4 and that your cover letter is well under 400 words.
Make sure to send it as a Word document, and check opening it, so that formatting issues don’t push it over several jumbled pages. Make sure you also switch off tracked changes. Additionally, shortlisting software often can’t read PDFs, so add this to your checklist.
Have you actually told your referee you’re in the process of applying for a job? They will be far more receptive to being contacted and prepared to sing your praises if they’ve had some forewarning — even if they haven’t heard from you in 3 years.
It’s possible that you’ve turned to generic ideas about how to write a CV or cover letter. That’s fine to get you started, but it won’t grab the attention of the person reading it. You need to be unique. Try swapping out different terms and phrases, by being creative, so that your application stands out from the crowd.
9. Beyond the application
Nowadays, a CV and cover letter is just the tip of the iceberg. You can be sure that, if your application lays the bait, then you’ll be checked out on LinkedIn and elsewhere online.
Therefore, make sure you don’t just check your application, but check your online presence too.
No, that’s not short for spaghetti. As any primary school child will tell you, that’s the latest acronym for spelling, punctuation and grammar. Frankly, you need to treat your application to a dose of your strict English teacher, at least twice over, before you send it off.
Don’t forget to make sure you check the email you plan to send too. All too often we see a good example of a CV and cover letter, just for them to fall at the last hurdle by signing off the email while accidentally swapping the R for a T in ‘kind regards’. It’s really not a good look if you’ve just asserted your fantastic attention to detail.
Lastly, don’t forget to make sure you check your sent folder to ensure it’s actually gone. But with this checklist done, there’s nothing else to say, except — good luck!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV