TIPS ON RESPONDING TO JOB ADVERTS – How to increase your chances of making the shortlist.

In these tough economic times, recruiting managers are swamped with often hundreds, if not thousands of CVs every time they advertise a vacancy. This is why now,...

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In these tough economic times, recruiting managers are swamped with often hundreds, if not thousands of CVs every time they advertise a vacancy. This is why now, more than ever, your CV and covering letter have to catch their eye and to do so, you must avoid the herd mentality of falling into the same trap that the majority of candidates fall into – that of sending the same old tired CV to hundreds of companies irrespective of their different areas of speciality.

Far too many candidates send out the same CV to an oil company as they do a mobile phone company or the same CV to a bank, as they do an NGO. This is a BIG mistake. These companies are in different sectors and as such, will be looking for different skills & attributes. The character required for a career in investment banking i.e. stockbroking would be totally different from that sought by an NGO working with orphans or on water projects for example. This then begs the question: why then would you send the same  CV to all of them?

Your CV is work in progress; it is not something that is created once and then left to fend for itself. Like a garden, your CV needs regular nurturing i.e. updates and then slowly watch it grow and blossom as you gain more experience.

Here’s the thing. You see a job advert, and sit down to write your covering letter as well as update your CV. Below are tips.


TIP 1Ensure that you update your CV regularly. It is frustrating to read a CV which clearly indicates it was last updated  6 months ago i.e. in your the Covering Letter you say you graduated six months ago and yet according to your CV, you are still a student at xyz university. This shows laziness as well a lack of pride in your work. 

TIP 2Ensure your CV is relevant to the post to which you are applying. If you only have 1-2 years work experience, what are you doing applying for a Managing Director post? Also, if the recruiting manager is asking for IT experience, why should you be short-listed if you have not even mentioned relevant IT experience on your CV or Covering Letter? The recruiting manager has never met you and so he/she can only judge you based on your CV and Covering Letter. 

TIP3 – Your CV is about getting you the interview NOT the job, so don’t dump everything in your CV. Stick to relevant information. 

TIP 4 – If you have less than three years work experience then your CV should not exceed 2 pages. This is why candidates end up waffling. Your CV needs to be concise – short, sharp and to the point. Elon Musk (CEO Tesla, SpaceX and Co-founder PayPal only has a one page CV but you need 3 pages? Really?

TIP5 – Ensure your email address sounds professional. Avoid email addresses such as [email protected]  Your friends may find this funny but recruiting managers will not be amused. If you insist on such email names, then have a separate email account for job applications. This same advice is also applicable to voicemails. Avoid 10 minute jingles before people can reach you and make sure your voicemail message is also professional. No one wants to, or has the time to listen to your phone music, Recruiters are busy people.


Your Covering Letter can make the difference between your CV being reviewed or landing in the bin.  Some companies receive hundreds, if not, thousands of applications so your covering letter needs to stand out from the crowd. This is often what recruiting managers read first and so (like the back of a good book), ensure you capture the reader’s attention. Make him/her eagerly want to turn to your CV. Your Covering Letter should not be something that has been quickly put together. If so, then you are wasting an opportunity; your Covering Letter is your opportunity to sell yourself`. 


Don’t just say you are the best, show examples: facts don’t lie. So, instead of saying you were the best fundraiser at your university instead say: Under my leadership/stewardship, we raised over xxx million shillings, an increase of 60%/ year-on-year – the highest figure ever raised by the university charity ball etc etc. Another example: I was a member of a team that was responsible for securing sponsorship for xxx. Through our team effort, we secured sponsorship worth over Ksh xxx which was an increase of 70% from the previous year.

TIP 2 – STICK TO THE POINT If the qualifications ask for x then show examples of x or similar (if it is database experience for example, don’t waste valuable page space by waffling and rambling on and on about a Microsoft Word One day seminar that you attended 2 years ago. Just address what is being asked and if you need to address your technical skills,  stick to the facts i.e. Microsoft Office (proficient), Access Database (Advanced level), XYZ CMS (Basic level) etc. If it is a technical post then of course, you can go into more detail. 


a) Paragraph 1 – This is where you introduce yourself and quote/refer to the job to which you are applying.

b) Paragraph 2This is where you say why you want to work for the company – your opportunity to show the recruiting manager that you have done your research on the company, its products, strategy etc.

c) Paragraph 3This is where you say why you are the best candidate for the role. Show off your relevant skills i.e look at the qualifications they are looking for and address the important ones i.e. the Essentials. Tell them what you bring to the table.

d) Paragraph 4 – Sign off. Keep the tone formal and polite. If you are applying for a job by email, then I would advise that you use the covering letter as the email text and yr CV – as the one and only attachment. Do not send copies of certificates or transcripts unless the recruiting manager specifically asks for these. 

Tip 4SHOW CONSIDERATION FOR THE RECRUITING MANAGER – Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiting manager. He/she will be receiving many CVs so make sure you state in your covering letter, the Job Ref Number (if given) and job title for the position to which you are applying. Many candidates expect the recruiting manager to guess. Remember, some companies may have many vacancies open so don’t make their life difficult. Also,  a lazily put together application, full of typos and one which does not address how the candidate meets the criteria/qualifications sought, or one which does not state which job they are applying for, looks like just a spec CV and often ends up in the rejection bin. So, ensure your CV and Covering Letter stand out for the right reasons. 

TIP 5 – KEEP THINGS FORMAL AND POLITE  – Please don’t start your email to a recruiting manager with Hi, Hey , and so forth. This is not your buddy. Your email or Covering Letter should start with: Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms x or Dear sir/madam. Keep things formal and polite.

Hope you found the information above useful.  The above are just a few tips on increasing your chances of being included on the short-list. Keep reading ATB  Facebook Page daily for more Job Search Tips & inspirational/motivational advice! Next week, we will look at CV and Cover Letter Templates.

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