Tell employers what they want to hear

EarQ. How do you persuade an employer that you’ve got the skills they want?

A. Find out what skills they want, then use your CV and cover letter to show you've got them.

It’s actually one of the simplest tactics to help you get a job, but for some reason many candidates struggle with it.

We all have our own view of what our biggest achievements and best skills are, and it’s easy to focus on getting them across. But if they don’t match the employer’s opinion of what the job requires, you're unlikely to make the cut.

Instead, follow these 10 steps to tell them what they want to hear:

​​1. Read the job ad and/or person spec carefully and underline all the key words relating to the skills, experiences and personal qualities required.

2. Now go through the key words and circle the ones that you can honestly say that you have. Ignore the ones that you don’t have - though if there are lots of them, you should probably reconsider whether it's worth you applying. As a rough guide, you should be able to say ‘yes’ to at least 80% of the requirements.

3. Next, edit your CV to match the job. Decide which are the three or four most important skills/qualities from the job spec which match your experience, then expand your CV in these areas. If you can, add in some examples of your achievements.

4. Are there any of the employer's key words which are relevant to you, but that you hadn’t previously included in your CV? Find a way to add them in now, again adding examples if you can.

5. Now check over the wording you're using in your CV, and change it to match the key words as closely as possible. For example, if the job spec asks for an ‘articulate individual’ but your CV says you have ‘excellent communication skills’, tweak it to include the word ‘articulate’.

6. Next, have a think about whether anything in your CV might contradict what the employer wants. For example, if you describe yourself as a ‘great team player’, but the job spec wants someone who can ‘work independently in a small office’, it might be worth deleting that bit… or even reconsidering whether it's the right job for you.

7. Another thing to think about is whether bits of your CV are irrelevant to this job. For example, do you have events management experience, as well as the social media duties required by the job spec? If you minimise or delete anything that isn't really relevant, it will help the parts that are stand out.

8. Now write your cover letter, following a similar approach. Include two to four of the employer’s requirements that you feel are your strengths, and mirror the wording used in the job spec.

9. If you get invited to interview, all the same principles apply. Make sure you focus on what the employer is looking for, rather than what you are personally interested in, and use examples to back up what you're saying where you can.

10. Finally, even though attitudes towards remote and flexible working have shifted as a result of the pandemic, ‘part-time’ or ‘flexible hours’ are unlikely to be key words for the employer. So never say that you’re applying for the job because it offers part-time or flexible hours. It’s all about proving you’re the best candidate for the job, and the working hours are not relevant to that.

This step by step approach will mean that every job application takes you  longer - but it's likely to be worth the effort. Good luck!


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