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Tips on Job Adverts, Cover Letters and, CVs
By Miriam Mukasa, MD, AfricaTalentbank.com (ATB)
Whether you are starting your job search or, have been job hunting for a while, below are tips which I would like to share with you all. Do not despair if your job search is taking longer than expected. Remember, looking for a job is a job in itself and so preparation is key.
Job Adverts Tips
Always read the Job Description and more important, the Job Qualifications. The qualifications information will detail the level of experience, education, and skills required for the role. The information contained under Qualifications is crucial! Most people focus more on the job description and simply glance at the Qualifications – this is a big mistake.
Cover Letter Tips
A CV should always be accompanied by a cover letter, unless the employer says otherwise. However, please note an important fact: Your covering letter supports your CV —it does not repeat it!
Furthermore, your covering letter should not exceed one (A4) page and resist the temptation to write an essay – use bullet points to outline your skills/qualifications/achievements and so forth. I cannot emphasise enough, how important covering letters are. [If you are applying online i.e. application form then clearly this rule does not apply although there will be section(s) in which you will have to write about yourself so if you already have a good covering letter, then you can use the content online too].
Other points to note:
• A careless covering letter reflects a careless you. And who wants to hire someone like that?
• Covering letters set the tone of an application, and should inspire the reader to turn over enthusiastically and read the enclosed CV.
• Imagine opening a book on page one and enthusiastically turning over to page two; this is what your covering letter should inspire the HR manager to do. After all, he/she may have already read more than 100 covering letters, most of which have not addressed how or why that particular candidate is suitable for the role. HR managers will be impressed by a professional, typo free, covering letter which (even in bullet point form), addresses how the candidate meets the qualifications for the post and outlining their suitability for this role.
• You should then detail these qualifications in your CV not your covering letter. You can touch on them in your Covering Letter.
• Be brief and concise. Use simple words and phrases and keep sentences short. In other words, use ‘plain English’.
• Avoid using words to describe yourself, and instead, describe your accomplishments.
• Clarify critical issues (gaps in work experience, quick job changes etc) that you may feel is likely to impact the hiring manager’s decision.
In terms of template, your Covering Letter should have the following:
• An Introduction – Introduce yourself and then your degree and classification achieved/expected. Mention relevant, professional qualification for example, if you are applying for an accountancy position and you are CPA qualified or are now at Level 3, then mention this fact.
• Your interest in the job – Talk about how interested you are in the position and the organisation itself. Is the company expanding operations into Kenya or Africa? Have they been in the news lately? Has the company launched a new product? Mention positive things and show the recruiting manager that you have done your research.
• Qualifications for the Role – Touch on how you meet the Qualifications as set out in the job advert i.e. I believe I am suitable for this role for the reasons outlined below: then bullet point how you meet each qualification marked as Essential as these are ‘Must Haves’ i.e. if you haven’t got these skills or qualifications, then you are unlikely to be shortlisted. If it is a Desirable i.e. ‘Useful to Have’ and you also have these, then by all means, touch on these too, if not, then simply focus on the Essential qualifications.
• Strengths – Show off your non academic strengths and/or achievements i.e. leadership skills, positions of responsibility, sports i.e. captain of winning football team etc Companies like a ‘well rounded’ candidates.
• Signing off (valediction) – Remember, for each style of salutation (greeting) there is an accompanying style of complimentary close, known as valediction. For example, when your salutation is Dear Sir/madam, then you sign off as you ‘Yours faithfully’. When your letter is addressed to a named person i.e. Dear Mr Njoroge/Dear Mrs Okinyi, then you sign off as ‘Yours sincerely’. NOTE – Never, start covering letters or emails to recruiting managers using Hi, or Hello! This is disrespectful and over familiar and unfortunately, is becoming far too common these days. So stand out from other applicants by ensuring your letter is formal, polite, respectful and professional.
Your CV is your marketing piece and calling card to an organization. It is your only chance to make a first impression on those in charge of hiring or declining to hire you.
Your CV should have quantitative and precise achievements and results and ideally, should not exceed 2 pages. As a recent graduate or anyone with less than two years work experience, there is no reason for your CV to exceed two pages. HR managers are busy and if your CV is too long then you risk waffling. Other useful tips:
• SPELL CHECK!!! Take pride in your work. There is no excuse in submitting a CV or Cover Letter littered with spelling mistakes. This shows carelessness and a lack of pride in your work. Indeed, some managers would not even go as far as reading your CV, if your covering letter contained silly, careless mistakes, including incorrect spelling of the company name.
• KIS – Keep It Simple – CVs should be kept simple, tidy, professional looking and only PLAIN English should be used. Using long words unnecessarily, in the hope of trying to impress an HR manager can backfire especially if English is not your first language, and you end up using long words in the wrong context. Also, don’t be over technical or use slang or jargon.
• Use active and not passive verbs – In other words, use strong, active verbs that present your skills and abilities in a few words by using quantitative and precise achievements and results. See examples below:
1. Boosted sales revenue from KSh 100,000 to KSh 2 million in two years
2. Increased customer satisfaction levels from 20% to 60%
3. Developed dynamic staff motivation program that produced record-setting performance increases.
• Email Addresses – We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have professional email addresses for use in your job search i.e. first [email protected] Be professional – an email address such as [email protected] may impress your friends, but is unlikely to impress an HR manager.
• Voicemails – The same goes for voicemails as with emails – keep it professional. Keep your outgoing voicemail message simple and avoid using introductory jingles (music). There is nothing more annoying than trying to contact a candidate to invite them to interview only to have to listen to one minute of a rambling voicemail message or worse, music (whatever the genre), before they pick up the phone or you are able to leave a message. You may think you have the best taste in music, but a busy HR manager will not necessarily agree.
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