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Make a big impact

By Jim Bright

See your application from the employer's perspective, writes Jim Bright.

If you believe my employer friend, Rachel, only 1.2 per cent of job hunters put together even half-decent applications. This week, I want to look at job hunting from the employer's perspective, because it is one of the best ways of helping job hunters improve their applications.

Successful job hunters are good at understanding what an employer wants to see in their application and work hard to match these expectations. Poor job hunters dump their work and educational history into a Word document and hope the employer will find something of interest.

Rachel told me she had recently tried to recruit someone for a new position and was appalled by the quality of applications received. Rachel works for a reputable company that offers good jobs for the right people, so we are not talking about some unattractive role for which you might expect poor-quality applicants.

She writes: "In three days, I've had 83 applications; 35 chose to include no cover letter, 42 are not applying for the actual job.

"Of the six leftover, there's really only one who has clearly read the ad and responded accordingly.

"It's quite shocking to me."

If it is any consolation, it is shocking to me too. As I read Rachel's email, I received another from a teacher asking for help with his application. A brief perusal of his CV revealed the very first bullet point presented was left blank. All bullet and no point.

Everyone makes mistakes but a teacher including a blank bullet as their first point on a job application for a role they claim is important to their career beggars belief.

Sadly, it was not the only glaring error on the application. Perhaps with more perspiration he could underline his aspiration and demonstrate his perspicacity.

This teacher seems to be indicative of the problems Rachel encounters. Many job applicants either do not think hard enough about the potential impact of their applications on the reader, or do not care. I think most job hunters do care, which is reflected in my large mailbag of requests for assistance through this column.

However, regular readers will appreciate that a frequent feature of my advice is an exhortation to think carefully about the impact of their application on recruiters.

I think part of the problem is that job hunters lack the experience or objectivity to understand how an employer will regard their application. They expect to be given the benefit of the doubt and they expect employers to "read between the lines" and otherwise spend time digging out job-relevant information that is buried away in their applications.

Also, job hunters often seem to think that employers will forgive minor errors and a lack of attention to detail. Presumably, folks holding this view see no problem with accidentally missing a couple of noughts off the end of an invoice total.

Job hunters need to write their applications well in advance, then leave them for a couple of days, so when they re-read them, they do so with fresh eyes. They should scrutinise every word and sentence to see if there is any way that it reduces the fit between them and the job.

Then they should consider how they could modify every word to improve the fit. Finally, they should get a motivated and critical friend to critique it.

The message of hope for job hunters is that it does not take an enormous effort to stand out from the crowd. Write a good cover letter, read the job ad carefully and tailor your CV to the job you are applying for, making it obvious you have read the ad.

If you did that for Rachel, it would be enough to put you in the top 1.2 per cent of applicants.

Jim Bright is professor of career education and development at ACU and a partner at Bright and Associates, a career management consultancy. Email marked clearly "FOR PUBLICATION" to

Published: 09 April 2011

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