So I had my interview yesterday and it went well and I actually enjoyed some of it :).... my new job is a great stepping stone..... it opens many more doors in the future.....Anyway, thank you so much for all your help and confidence building.   - Mel, recently redundant

How to ensure that your application reaches the 'yes' heap

28th March 2014

Wearing my recruiting hat, my blood pressure has recently been raised to dangerous levels by some thoughtless candidates. Wearing my job search coaching hat, I really want to make sure that Nail That Job readers benefit from their mistakes, so this blog focuses on the simple things that every job seeker needs to check in order to make sure that your job application results in an invitation to interview. Most worrringly, the recruitment projects I've been working on recently were for quite senior positions that should be attracting some quite grown up people with rich experience and professional qualifications. 

The key barrier that these quite clever people had built for themselves was lack of attention to detail. The most common mistakes that recruiters moan about when they get together is the astonishing failure to correct errors and follow instructions by far too many candidates. If you cannot demonstrate that you care enough about my vacancy to check your work, I'm not impressed by your ability to take care in any other sort of work. 

Please make sure that when you complete any job application, whether using a CV, an application form or combination of both, you have checked your spelling, grammar and punctuation carefully. As everyone has access to spellchecking tools, use them but do not assume that your checking can be left entirely to computers. Last week I read a spelling error that could not have been picked up by a computer; e.g the word 'weather' typed when the candidate should have typed 'whether'. The confusion of 'affect' and 'effect' is very common- I've even seen BBC journalists make this mistake- ( 'affect' is the verb; "The medicine affected me badly" and 'effect' is the noun; " The medicine has strong side-effects" ) If you are not confident with your standard of written English, then involve as many friends as possible who you think are more skilled. Read and re-read your finished application several times over. Always leave plenty of time before the deadlines to check your work, leave it at least overnight and check again the next morning.

As well as typing errors, please look out for the fundamental requirement to answer the question. I know this sounds rather obvious to you but some of those apparently grown up candidates failed to do so. This can include the straightforward failure to follow instructions: most application forms request that you list your past work experience in chronological order, starting with the most recent at the top of the list. Even if not explicitly requested to do so, please follow that simple layout in your CVs as well. The rationale behind this is to make it easy for the recruiter to follow your career history and anything that you can do to make the recruiter's life easier is more likely to put you in the 'yes' heap. 

 Another more subtle way of avoiding the question that we often read on applications is candidates trying to insert irrelevant information. For example, if the application asks you to list two examples of when you have displayed effective teamwork, then the recruiter wants to read about two examples of when you displayed effective teamwork. It does not matter where and how you displayed those skills, we just want to understand your stories of what effective teamwork means to you. What the recruiter wants you to do is answer the question, not panic and waffle on about the size of teams you have led in the past or list job tasks that might sometimes require you to communicate with others or write a philosophical essay on the definition of teamwork that does not include any practical examples of anyone displaying teamwork. You can guess that, yes, I have read all these answers to this question.

To avoid these mistakes, simply take your time when completing any application, check that you understand each question asked, consider all the questions as a whole and check them back to the job description and person specification. Recruiters don't waste effort asking you more questions than they need to in order to decide who to invite to interview - there is always a purpose to every question on the form. Proofread at least three more times than you think you need to before you press 'send' and you will demonstrate that you are the candidate who does pay attention to detail and therefore deserves to win an invitation to interview. 

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