How to make your CV stand out in a sea of online job applications

iStock 694213944 Copy

Technology has taken the job search online. Positions are now mostly advertised on the internet and applications submitted online. This means there is less paper, fewer phone calls and little to no human communication – making applying for a job a lot faster.

It also means there are more applicants for each role – many investing little time in researching the job and tailoring their application. Employers and recruiters have been forced to find innovative ways to narrow down the field in order to find quality candidates.

We take a look at how you can take advantage of technology and tailor your application to get your CV to the top of the pile. 

Some facts about recruitment

  • It's who you knowreferrals are still the most common method of hiring employees.
  • Job applications may be received directly by an employer, by their HR department or by a recruitment agency.
  • The average recruiter spends just six seconds looking over a CV.

Stand out and be found online

With referrals the most effective way to find a job or fill a position, it's not surprising that online business networking sites like LinkedIn are becoming increasingly popular for discovering potential employees.

If you're looking for a job in a professional industry you should clean up your social media footprint.

It's recommended that candidates have an active LinkedIn profile, and many recruiters will also seek out other social media profiles. Candidates need to make sure their profiles are either clean and professional or have restricted visibility.

Fiona Hill, ANZ Recruitment Manager

More companies are now using advanced search functions in networking sites like LinkedIn to locate people who may be suitable for a role. It's estimated that 50 percent of all recruiters use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help filter CVs. If your profile doesn't appear in the first or second page of their search they probably won't ever see you.

Tips to help your CV shine on LinkedIn

Keywords

Make sure your CV and online profile include the keywords that match the skills and experience the employer is searching for. Use keywords when describing past roles, experience and skills.

Sarah Twohig, internal recruiter for Trade Me, notes, "I always do a keyword search if I'm looking for a particular skill – for example, for developers I might search for .NET and C#."

Connections

Your profile only appears to people in your network. The bigger your network, the more people searching your job criteria will see you, and the higher up on search pages you'll rank.

Endorsements

Try to gain as many endorsements as possible – they work similarly to keywords by increasing your search rank. Endorsements can show that you have a large network of people who know you have the skills you say you have. However, avoid reciprocal endorsements as they are visible to someone searching your profile and can look insincere.

Keep it current

Keep your profile and status up to date.

Headline

Make your headline a value statement – what you do for people.

Recommendations

Get solid recommendations from your connections and organise the best recommendations at the top.

Skills

Limit the number of skills listed in your profile to those that align closely with your industry – a list of 10-12 skills is best.

Privacy

It's a good idea to limit your personal information when posting a CV online. Scammers, identity thieves and hackers are all searching for this kind of data. Some online job boards collect CV data to sell to recruitment agencies.

Compile a knockout CV

Your CV paints a picture of who you are and what value you'll add to an organisation by demonstrating what you do well, how you've made an impact and what problems you've solved. Most importantly, it must be tailored to the job description.  

Fiona Hill from ANZ says, "CVs must be clearly written and reflective of the role you are applying for. Responsibilities and skills relevant to the role need to be clearly stated. This is always going to keep you at the top of the pile."

During the six-second scan of a CV performed by most recruiters, four seconds are spent looking exclusively at four key areas, so these should be included near the beginning of your CV:

  • past job titles
  • previous employers
  • start and end dates of previous jobs (this demonstrates continuity and longevity)
  • qualifications.

Traits such as honesty, friendliness, work ethic and enthusiasm are just as important as experience and qualifications. Fiona Hill from ANZ notes, "Employers seek commitment and passion from an individual – traits that cannot be taught."

Demonstrating these personal attributes in your CV will help the employer form a picture of how you'll fit into the culture of the company.

Get your foot in the door with a brilliant cover letter

A strong cover letter is critical if you are applying directly to a company for a role.Businesses that don't use a recruitment agency will be looking very carefully to see if you're a good fit for their organisation. Your cover letter is a great opportunity for you to sell yourself and demonstrate that you are a good match.

Cover letter tips

  • Don't repeat your CV – instead use your cover letter to show personality, curiosity and an interest in the company, role and industry.
  • Keep it short and to the point.
  • Use clear, concise, exciting language with strong verbs like organise, demonstrate and perform.
  • Link your skills and work experience to the job description.
  • Remember the company needs a problem solved and you are the solution to their problem. Clearly demonstrate how you will benefit them.
  • State what your motivation is behind your application.

Sarah Twohig from Trade Me says, "It's important to have a good cover letter, especially if you are currently overseas, moving from another city or if you need a work visa. It takes the guessing away and it's very helpful to know more about a candidate's current situation."

Think before you press send

Select the roles you apply for carefully and avoid applying for numerous jobs across multiple fields. 

Fiona Hill from ANZ explains, "We often see candidates apply for each and every role, even if they are completely different job descriptions. This makes us question their motivations for the roles they are applying for, dilutes genuine interest and indicates they haven't really thought it through."

Tips to consider when submitting your CV

  • Follow up your application with a phone call. Too many people are losing the art of conversation because they don't like speaking directly to others. A phone call can set you apart from other candidates who haven't made direct contact. Plan your call so you can capture their attention in 20 seconds or less.
  • Always email your CV – don't post or courier it.
  • Email or upload your CV as a PDF or Word document.

Find out more

Sources

Eremedia, 'Why You Can’t Get a Job… Recruiting Explained by the Numbers', May 2013, (www.eremedia.com).

Forbes.com, '5 Marketing Secrets That Will Help Your CV Get Noticed', February 2015,(www.forbes.com).

Hays, 'Writing a Compelling Cover Letter', accessed June 2016, (www.hays.net.nz).

Hill, F, recruitment manager, ANZ, interview, June 2016.

Kinetic, 'The Killer CV', accessed June 2016, (www.kinetic.co.nz).

Trade Me, 'Clean Up Your Digital Footprint', February 2016, (jobhuntingguide.trademe.co.nz).

Twohig, S, internal recruiter, Trade Me, interview, June 2016.

YouTube, 'Become a LinkedIn Search Ninja: Advanced Boolean Search', Talent Connect London, November 2014, (www.youtube.com).

YouTube, 'LinkedIn Tricks to Make Your Profile Awesome', Lyra Communications, September 2013, (www.youtube.com).