Once upon a time I was a candidate

Business Support Tips & Tricks
Candidate interview

I too have been a candidate, searching for a job, applying to companies and recruitment agencies, and attending numerous interviews. It is certainly a daunting experience to go through at any level of your career, as you make finding a job your ‘job’ for an indefinite period of time.

After stepping into the shoes of a recruiter, I’m now able to see what mistakes I potentially made throughout the process when I was a candidate with recruitment agencies, as well as what I did right.

Below, I’ve outlined eight tips for candidates, which I’ve learned from being on the other side of the recruitment process.

CV formatting

I always felt my CV needed some change and that by copying a few famous formatting styles, I would get a job very easily. This was a myth!

You land a job when you dazzle your interviewer with your brilliance, expertise, knowledge and values.

Now that I understand the above, I can see why when we (recruiters) screen CVs, we really don’t care about the style, all we care about is whether you have what it takes to be shortlisted for the role or not.

The key to formatting is to use a simple, easy to read style where the reader can quickly find the important points. Once you have this format set, simply edit it for each separate role/application, highlighting how your experience directly relates to the role you are applying for.

Focus on the meat of your CV

When I screen CVs, I go straight for the meat which is your actual work experience. So make sure to provide detailed information in this section.

For each relevant role, provide the following details:

  • Company name and location
    • If the company is not immediately recognisable to most people (i.e. a universally known brand), then provide a brief one-sentence description of the company.
  • The dates you worked there
  • Detailed information of the duties you performed
  • Why you left the role

Why do recruiters always ask ‘reasons for leaving’ my previous jobs?

When I was a candidate, I was never comfortable with this question, however now that I’m on the other side of the fence I get why it is important. We want to sell you to a potential employer, and if that employer asks this question, we want to have the correct response. Having your complete information on file means the recruitment and hiring process can go smoother and quicker.

Include your ‘reason for leaving’ under each employment section; this really helps recruiters understand you better when they shortlist your application among the hundreds received that day. Keep it short and relevant! For example, ‘Left role when relocating overseas’; ‘Left role to achieve better work/life balance’; ‘Left role to pursue a career in the xyz industry’.

Your contact details

Add your correct email, phone number and your location of residence. Often I see people not updating their contact details on their CVs; your application won’t go further if you are not reachable.

I recommend scanning and checking the entire contents of your CV each time you send it out, this will help you identify any information that needs updated, plus it will help you catch any sneaky spelling errors!

Are you married and a Virgo?

When screening for a role, these details are last in the minds of a recruiter and really not required in the CV.

Stick to the basics: name, contact details, education, previous work experience, relevant volunteer experience, etc and references.

How cool is my voicemail message?

Make sure your voicemail has a professionally recorded voice message. Key things to remember here is: mention your name, have a confident and polite tone, request to either leave a text or a voice message. Keep it concise and not too long!

Remember to check your voice messages regularly. You don’t want to miss out on important messages when you’re job hunting.

Cover Letter

I like a personalised cover letter and read the ones which are directly addressed to me, as they catch my attention. A perfectly worded and relevant-to-the-role cover letter has been the reason why I have picked up the phone to call a candidate first over others.

Be honest

Last but not the least, be honest with your recruitment consultants; treat them as your representatives so we can get you into the most suitable role and company for your skills and personality. Feel free to reach out and voice any concerns. I personally love it when my candidates reach out to me to discuss things in relation to their job hunt or previous work experience, or even to say that they are really nervous before an interview!

Please get in touch if you have any comments or further questions about the recruitment process.

All the best in your job search!