A reject rate of 40 per cent!

A reject rate of 40 per cent!  London’s Evening Standard newspaper reports that major London businesses throw four out of 10 job applications in the bin because they are so full of spelling and grammatical errors. 


Come on people, this is an easy one to fix – and if you’re a first-time job applicant, how do you make YOUR application stand out from the crowd? 


LAYOUT: simple and uncluttered – make it EASY for people to see what you did and when.  You don’t have to write a lot – maximum two pages for a first job, maybe just one for e a school leaver BUT don’t cram it all in just to make it fit one page. 


SPELLING & GRAMMAR: Really important, so avoid basic mistakes.  Don’t rely on spell-checkers because they allow words that may not be technically wrong but aren’t right in your context.  You need a real person to check your CV.  A friend, a neighbour, particularly anyone who is a business owner or recruiter is ideal. 


If you’re going for a job in a certain industry or for a particular company, tailor your CV to that company or enclose a cover letter addressing how you meet their requirements. Yes, that may be more time-consuming than sending out your ‘standard’ CV but it can give you a competitive edge.


When you apply to a company, it helps to be “talking their language”.  Read their web site, look at their marketing materials, see how they describe their company and their corporate values and you can follow the style of language they use.  Some businesses are very formal while others are more relaxed. They want to know you can fit in with their style.   


Having a job history to write about is fine, but don’t just list job titles – focus on what you’ve learned from those jobs that will be valuable to the next company.  Any employer knows what the basic job titles include so don’t just state “Responsibilities”.  Talk about what you’ve learned in that job. The tips below, aimed primarily at school leavers’ CVs will also be helpful for you in being able to demonstrate key competencies and traits that employers value.  


School or university leavers going for their first job tend to think that they don’t have much to say because they haven’t had a job yet – so they just put the dates they went to school or uni, the subjects taken and results achieved.  Trouble is, everyone else puts that too.  To make your CV stand out from the hundreds all saying the same thing, think about the following:

  • TEAMS you’ve been in: sports teams, drama teams, a park football team – businesses need people who are good at working in teams so they want to hear about this!  If you can’t think of that kind of team, did your class ever run an Assembly on a special topic?  Did you do a class project that meant working on a team?  Business is often about project work – that’s teamwork too.  Write about it! 
  • Any experience of LEADERSHIP is a good marker for a career in management. Were you a team captain?  Form captain?  Head Girl/Boy?  Head of the Drama Club, chess club, Make-Up club, Lady Gaga Fan Club; whatever it is, if you led it – talk about it! 
  • If you weren’t a leader, what about other forms of RESPONSIBILITY?  Some Sixth Formers get involved in showing parents around the school on Open Days, being the lunch monitor, helping with playground duty – it all helps give employers confidence you are ready for roles with responsibility. 
  • Ever do any sponsored or CHARITY events in school or with friends or family outside school?   Shows a commitment to SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY, SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY – I hesitate to say but….Big Society!     
  • Anything that shows INITIATVE and ENTERPRISE – if you’ve worked in a shop, for example, working on a till will show you have experience of managing money and have been trusted in a customer service environment.  It’s what employers want to see.   
  • ACHIEVEMENTS: not just work but, for example, have you won any competitions? 
  • Anything else specific to the type of work you are applying for?  If you’re going for creative jobs, what have you made?  Costumes for school plays?  Bits of scenery?  Artwork, paintings?  Recorded any music?  A video on YouTube or something (provided it’s fit to be seen!).  Have you written articles or poems for the school newsletter or web site?  Enclose examples or pictures – all good references. 
  • And speaking of REFERENCES, for any work you have done, even just a Saturday job, get a reference from the manager or owner.  Build your references and build your credibility.

Lastly, we can’t emphasise it enough: to improve your spelling, at any age, just read more.  Not social media because that’s not where to look for great spelling, but books and newspapers and, if you’re looking at joining the world of work, read the business sections, read business magazines, read trade magazines, learn how business people talk and write and that will help you write better. 


Written by Sharon Pink

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