Having just come up for air after handling a retained assignment for a finance director role which had over a hundred applicants I was flabbergasted at how badly presented and incomplete many of the applications were.

Despite the fact that there are many resources on the internet on how to best apply for a job applicants were making some ridiculously elementary mistakes, especially when considering the seniority of the role.

This post is intended to put you on the right path when making a job application and give you a better chance of securing that all important interview.

Here are the most common mistakes that were made and my advice as to what you should do to not make them too.

#1 Applying for jobs you are not qualified for

If you are a bank clerk don’t apply for a finance director job, it just wastes your time and that of the recruiter. Your application will not get through the first screening process and is unlikely to make it on to a recruiter’s database either, as first stage rejections are usually binned.

I’m not sure what you think the purpose is of applying for jobs that you are clearly totally unsuitable for?

You would be better off using the “candidate registration” form nearly every recruiter has on their web sites, most of which link the input fields of the form directly to their recruitment database software. That way your details will find their way on to their database and will at least be looked at and responded to by the relevant consultant.

#2 No cover letter

Personally I don’t read them (sorry!), but I do think you should still write a cover letter because there are plenty of hiring managers that do read them.

But, keep it to one page and highlight in it why you think you are suitable by linking to specific things in the advert . That at least proves you’ve read the advert too.

#3 Not tailoring a cv to the role

The “one cv fits all” method doesn’t work when applying for specific jobs. It is fine for when registering with employment agencies in general.

However, you should tailor your cv to the role you are applying for by summarizing the things you have done that are relevant, based on what you have read in the ad, in a dedicated section at the beginning of your cv. This, again, also proves that you have read the ad.

#4 Poorly formatted cv

We, and many firms of recruitment consultants and internal recruiters too, use cv parsing software which highlights keywords and data on the document, and then automatically populates the relevant fields on the database. This software works at it’s optimum in recognising characters on the document when the source document is simply formatted.

Many recruiters will also use your actual cv document to present to the hiring manager, often with their own branded version attached. We don’t want to have to restyle the document, so make it simply presented in the first place. We are not interested in your artistic prowess.

For a perfect cv make sure you use a standard font like Arial with no text underlines, borders, italics or handwriting style fonts and only highlight content using bold.

Provide your cv as a Word document, not a pdf, with page print properly set up so that we don’t get twenty pages printing for a two page cv (it does happen).

#5 Too much information

Ten page cv’s are not a good idea.The recruiter or hiring manager will read your cv at some point, and too much information marks you out as likely to be verbose, and unsympathetic to the amount of time the recruiter can spend per applicant.

Why should we read your ten page tome, when others present their cv’s in a briefer, informative and well presented format? Trust me, we are more likely to want to engage with them than you. So, keep your cv to two to four pages in length, and your covering letter to one page.

If we want more information we will ask you for it later.

#6 A poor or no photo on the cv

Hardly any applicant adds a photo to the front page of their cv. I think that is a mistake. It makes it more personal and you more memorable.

However, make sure it is a professional headshot with a smileyish face (not toothy grin please). There are some truly awful photos on LinkedIn – people, what are you on?

Do not use a holiday photo with you wearing that silly hat (save that for your personal Twitter or Facebook account) or too serious a photo that makes you look like a psychopath from a Crimestoppers police mugshot!

#7 No links to social media profiles on the cv

Adding the url link to your social media profiles, especially LinkedIn, is as important as your mobile number and email address.

If you make it to the long list it makes it easier for us to research you and potentially include you on our short list to interview

#8 No Linkedin profile

If you are looking for a job, and you haven’t got a LinkedIn profile, what on earth are you thinking?

It is the number one tool for external and internal recruiters to find and/or assess candidates. You need to be on it to be found. Get registered now.

All the information from your cv, should be added to your LinkedIn profile. Think of it as your online cv.

Plus many online application processes have an “Apply with Linkedin” button.

#9 Limiting the means of contact

At the bare minimum we need your address, home telephone, mobile number and personal email address.

However we also like Skype and to video call you. So, get registered with them and put your Skype address on your cv. It allows a more personal interaction

If you follow these simple guidelines you are more likely to catch the eye of the recruiter and get that all important first meeting that can get you on the path to securing your dream job.

If you have any questions on any of the points above don’t hesitate to make contact or leave a comment below.

Photo credit: cartoon by Nick. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.