Getting that job

Posted in: Applying for jobs, CV writing, Interviewing, LinkedIn profiles.

Published 13 May 2012 by David Welsh of Richmond solutions, some very good friends of mine, always willing to help learners achieve www.

Easily the single biggest mistake most people make when applying for jobs is failing to really consider what a recruiter wants to see. It’s a lot easier, and far, far more natural, just to depict yourself as you wish to be seen. After all, you know what you’ve done in your career, right? That is what you have to sell. So dress it up a bit and present it, and keep your fingers crossed!

Well, don’t. Do this instead.

The CIA, in fact all serious intelligence agencies around the world, spend a lot of time, money and thought profiling their enemies. They want to know their background, their aims, motivations, foibles and just about every other thing about them. The CIA even stages quite elaborate role playing events where selected officers “become” their enemies and try to predict how they would react in various scenarios.

The American intelligence community started using this approach during the Second World War. They scoured America, Prisoner of War Camps, neutral Switzerland and whatever information leaked out of Germany, to build a comprehensive understanding of Hitler’s background, personality and behaviour. Later they used increasingly sophisticated psychological techniques to build profiles of their Soviet and other Communist opponents in the Cold War. Today they analyse Islamic fundamentalist terrorists the same way.

So how does this help you get a job?

If you can build picture of the people you are writing your applications for, or about to see for an interview, you will benefit in two ways.

Firstly, you can tailor your CV, LinkedIn profile, or interview preparation to what they are likely to want to see. Rather than relying on the “here I am, please like me” approach, you can select parts of your career that are likely to be appealing and show them in the best possible light.

Secondly, you will be a lot more prepared psychologically for the likely course of your application. As an example, if you know your application is likely to be read first by an agency recruiter, and not the hiring officer, you’ll know the whole process is going to rely less on acute, knowledgeable analysis and much more on luck.


Analysing recruiters is never straight forward, especially if you’ve never been one. But you are very well advised to try. Ask yourself the following questions:


1.      Who is going to see my application first?


2.      What can I find out about them?


3.      How well are they likely to understand the role they are trying to fill?


4.      What are the current challenges facing their organisation?


5.      Given their background and career path, how are they likely to react to me, and how can I manage that reaction?


6.      How many applications are they likely to get for this role, and how can I stand out from the crowd in their eyes?


7.      Is there likely to be at least some structure to this process, or is it going to be a lottery?


There are probably 20 more questions you can ask. There are also numerous parts of the process that are not really answers to questions, but more a feel for the situation. Having recruited for hundreds of clients and thousands of roles, I’m pretty good at this. You may not have that background, but use whatever skills you have to come up with as an accurate a profile of a recruiter as you can. It could be the most valuable analysis of any situation you will ever do


A well-written and presented CV can make all the difference to your chances of success and while the internet is overflowing with lists of top tips for turning your CV into a winner, the quality of the advice is often questionable. We suggest you start instead by asking yourself some basic but crucial questions.  

How can I make sure my CV actually gets read?

If you are applying to a particular advertised vacancy that is reasonably easy to answer – just send it to the right email address. But what if it is sitting on a web based database, or in the system of a recruitment agency? Make sure the industries you have worked in and the functions you have covered are prominent.   

Does this CV actually sell me?

“Curriculum Vitae” in the original Latin means “the course of one’s life”.  But a CV is nothing of the sort. It’s a personal sales document and should always aim to answer the question of why you are the best person for the job. 

Can someone from outside my industry understand what I have done?

Don’t overestimate the sophistication of the people reading your CV. Even if you are applying for a very specialised role there is every chance the first screening will by a generalist HR person or a recruitment consultant. Our advice is to use as little industry specific jargon as you can.   

Can I really justify the length of my CV? 

There is a lot of truth in the old saying, “If I’d had more time, I’d have written less”. Simply including page after page of information isn’t what selling yourself is about.  Keep it pertinent, keep it snappy.  However, you can ignore the near universal assertion that a CV should only be two pages long.  It’s a reasonable guide but two pages of listing facts is not the same as two pages of effectively selling your skills and accomplishments.

Am I proud of the person this CV portrays?

You should be. You should read your CV back to yourself and feel that it is a strong description of the best of you. You should want to meet that person.

And last but not least:  

Why am I not using a professional to get a professional result?

Your CV matters and it needs to ensure you stand out from the crowd.  So our advice is to talk to someone who has spent years recruiting people and knows exactly what recruiters are looking for.  Someone with a track record in executive CV creation and the ability to create a genuine selling piece which will open doors for you. 

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