Friday, 31 October 2014

Graduate Applications - perspectives of a reviewer

It’s been a while since I've “blogged”, I’m not very good at it you see so I decided to step back from it until I had something to say that was interesting not just blabbering on (like now!!). So here I am.

As part of my current role, I manage the graduate recruitment process for an area of our business which invariably means having to review 100’s of applications. After doing this every year for many years, I know what we’re looking for as a business and can pretty quickly make a decision on what is a good candidate and what is not, that is not to say I am blasé about reviewing CVs, oh no, I am quite the opposite, there is always that fear in the back of my mind that we might lose out on that one shining star if I don’t review every single person and review them properly, so I do, even if it takes me 4 hours to get through 300 applications. Or maybe that’s quite quick; I've nothing to measure it against except me.

Anyway, I digress.

I thought that following this review, I would post some tips, partly borne out of frustration but mostly in the hope that this will one day reach the eyes of graduates who need some guidance in how to get a job.

1 – CARE
Quite simply, when you apply you need to show you actually care about the application you’re putting forward. Don’t leave it incomplete, re-read it, make sure it’s relevant to the role you’re submitting it against. It’s so easy to tell when a candidate just can’t be bothered to make any effort and you will get rejected quicker than you can say “I’m off to the pub”.

Leading on from caring, if you do care, you need to make sure you make the effort and make your application relevant to the role you’re applying to, yes it takes time, yes its laborious, pouring through each application and tailoring your CV to that specific role, but isn’t that the point? Nothing comes for free these days and if you want the job, you need to show you WANT the job and have put time and energy in making your application most relevant to the requirements.

This is so irritating to a recruiter. Whilst recruiters and hiring managers like to see you have a life outside your studies, meaning you’re a well-balanced individual, can get on with others and are an interesting person, it’s not relevant to waffle on about your love of scuba diving or the fact that you’ve run 20 10Ks in a year, commendable yes but wittering on for 6 precious lines tends to indicate your passion lies elsewhere and not perhaps in the area you’re applying to. Make sure the focus of your application is on the skills that match the role, your new team can find out how awesome you are once you get the job.

We don’t need to know how committed you were to your job in Morrisons while you were at uni, we know what working in a pub entails, you don’t need to bullet point your areas of responsibility while serving at Pizza Express. Include the fact that you have had part time jobs, that’s fine, but you really don’t need to include ANY detail about the role, unless it is entirely relevant, an example could be if you’re applying to a role in Human Resources and state that you worked part-time in Next while studying and was promoted to work in the back office in HR.

It is of course important to include pre-degree qualifications, it is less important to list every subject and every grade/award, it is even less important to do this via a bulleted list, they take up valuable space and it’s not needed. Simply stating “10 GCSE grade A-C” will do. A levels are perhaps more relevant (dependant on the grad role) but again, you don’t need to list them vertically, you can summarise as per the GCSE example but if you really want to include them then do this vertically “A levels – X (B), Y (B-) and Z (A)”.

As a raw graduate, you have no business having a CV longer than 2 pages, personally I think 1 page is more akin to a true resume (a summary document) but 2 is just perfect. It gives you enough space to include the right amount of information and explanations without going into too much detail. You don’t need to fill 2 pages (so don’t be tempted to waffle just to get to the end of the 2nd page), but this is a good rule of thumb throughout your career to stick to. If your Cv goes over 2 pages you need to review and see what you can reduce or cut out, you don’t need to include references so take them off, you don’t need to bullet you’re A levels, you can lose that paragraph space.

Submitting an application with grammatical or spelling errors is just the absolute pits. It makes recruiters shake their heads and managers furrow their brows. Just check, check, check it, Word can only do so much, get your housemate to check it, get your mum to check it, get anyone ELSE to check it for you as that 2nd pair of eyes because when you submit your application to a “Graduate Retail Mangment” position, I can tell you now, there is a 98% chance it’s heading straight into the bin.

So there you go, there are loads of other tips I could post but I don’t want to waffle on! Happy CV reviewing! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

A rumination on the state of the employment market

Venting an opinion on twitter can be difficult, especially when you have one that is way over 142 characters!
This post is a bit off piste but I've been focused up to now, on posting about CV and interview tips, tips on social media that are relevant to me as a start-up business but relevant to candidates in their job searches as well.
The last couple of days I wanted to focus on the state of the UK job market, after all, all this talk about increased vacancies and unemployment dropping is great but what does it mean to the candidate on the ground? 
The answer - it depends.

As previous posts have stated I'm still currently a direct recruiter, working in an industry that took a huge blow thanks to the financial crisis, for 4 years we saw ups, downs, a takeover, redundancies and eventual ongoing recovery but we weren't the only ones and got off lightly in comparison to our competitors. So whilst the stories particularly in the last 6 mths of growth, recovery and obviously the official diagnosis that we were out of the recession are marvellous news for all, it does not mean that everything is rosy once more.

The north south divide is still apparent, not only in jobs but also in areas such as housing and high street growth, although it would seem that latest job growth is higher in the north than London;

But what about the candidate? What do they think and feel?
For graduates this is great news, following massive culls in grad hires across most if not all market sectors, youth unemployment was a very big problem in the UK and still is, although it is dropping, now we are seeing graduate hiring figures not seen for 3 or more years which is fantastic, career fairs are packed with employers and candidates and the need to sell your company is back on the agenda, we are no longer in a client's market, we have to get the good people interested but candidates are still up against it, with thousands of applications to "graduate schemes" (this is no exaggeration, ours has been running for 2 weeks and we're already creeping up to 1000 applicants).

Experienced hire though is another ball game altogether and herein lies my point. For the grown ups of the world, we lived, struggled and for some of us worried, through the recession, i know plenty of people who lost their jobs, couldn't find one and applied to 100's of roles in the desperate bid to get their mortgage paid. Good, bad and indifferent employees were made redundant and for those left behind, it has left a certain sense of fear, that may sound melodramatic but when you have a family to support and bills to pay, you don't want to be in that situation, ever, so its better the devil you know, particularly for people who have stayed at their jobs.

So whilst there is definite growth, are all industries seeing a certain sense of unwillingness to move? We are, candidates are still uncomfortable giving up their benefits and leaving a place often they have worked in for 5plus years. Getting the best of the best to join your company has always been a challenge, in most industries but now when you're trying to convince someone its the right choice you have a harder, longer battle. Lots of people won't move, deciding they're not comfortable with it. This is reiterated in the article I posted yesterday regarding work life balance, candidates who have an established w/l b don't want to lose it, that coupled with this fear of the unknown could mean that more people are staying put, regardless of the acknowledgement by many industries that w/lb is one of the most important aspects of a working environment with increases in good benefits and flexi working arrangements.

Candidates of a certain level of experience just aren't convinced anymore, I'm generalising of course but I think there is a long way to go to see confidence return overall, this particular post could go in all sorts of directions, political skepticism, media furore, benefit schemes, comfort zones, graduate prospects but for me it's quite simple; whilst the dark days of the recession have been forgotten by some, for many, many people, there is a still a sense of caution and as recruiters that adds to our challenge, but then it wouldn't be recruitment without the challenge would it!