A typical application process consists of 4 stages. Now it can be more or less depending on factors like the seniority of the position, the type of role, internal requirements, and so on.
However, for these series, I’ll treat the entire application life cycle as a 4 stage process.
So stage 1 is where your application for the role is submitted and at this stage, the review of your cv takes place. Now if your profile fits what the team is looking for, you will be invited to proceed to the next stage.
Now some candidates have found getting past stage 1 to be a herculean task.
What is really responsible for all of these drop-offs? Why do I keep getting all those rejection emails without even having the opportunity to speak to a human being? someone might ask.
Good question, so please stay tuned, and let’s unpack this further.
Hellllllo and welcome to the dear candidate podcast. This is episode 3, wao! Amazing!
I was listening to a song earlier this week and I was really inspired by it because the artist was emphasizing the fact that what you are looking for, will surely come, that it might take a little while but it will definitely come.
So dear candidate (at the risk of sounding cliche, I’m still going to let you know), that, that Job will come and this is really why I’m doing this podcast. This podcast is to educate and to demystify your search experience because finding a job is really not that mysterious, the right information is what you need.
Right, my name is Tosin Anifowose and I am your host. I am an experienced recruiter and I am very passionate about helping jobseekers
This particular series would be focused on identifying the primary reasons for rejections at different stages of the application process. Now, I’m only going to limit it to the primary reasons (at least based on my experience) because the honest truth is that a thousand and one things can happen in between when you push out that application to when the company gets back to you.
Today’s podcast is the first of the series on the rejection reasons per stage. So for today, we would look at stage 1, and then we would deal with the other stages in subsequent episodes.
Stage 1 – This is where you submit your application document. And I personally believe this is a very critical point in your application process and honestly speaking you just might have only 5 minutes or less to convince the person or the Bot (Let’s not forget that) who is charged with the responsibility of scanning through your cv.
Now take note of that word, scanning because that’s what happens most of the time. Now if you find that you are not getting any interviews, then we definitely need to take a close look at your cv.
To get an interview, you absolutely cannot afford to push out an unstructured cv and then sit back and expect anyone to call you for an interview. If they do, they will most likely realize what happened during stage 2.
Your cv has to be structured, meaning we need to see patterns, and these patterns must tell a story that is related to the job you have applied to.
Ok so here are 3 recommendations that will help you :
Use a cv template if possible, use a paid one. I’ll tell you my own story. A couple of years back, when I was also in the job search bubble, I got to a point where I was literally overwhelmed. I was just like I’ve applied to companies, done this, done that xyz, and nothing seems to be working out. I can’t continue doing the same thing with the expectation that something different would happen and fortunately, at that time, I had attended an event at ESMT Berlin and someone reviewed my CV and she was like, you have a scattered resume.
So I knew that I had to do something about that. Also, I felt inspired to change my cv template to make it appear more pleasing to the eyes.
So after searching for tons of free cv templates on google (we all like freebies you know), I finally stumbled on the one I liked, and then I invested a significant amount of time into building that CV (and oh my goodness, that cv looked amazing at least back then, hahaha) and as I clicked on the download button, I received a shocking notification or let me say it nicely, a surprising notification. I was asked to pay for a subscription to enable me to download the cv.
Oh Lord, I was so upset, I was like, are you kidding me right now, pay for what. I’m not going to pay for nothing and I’m going to download this cv because I have put in so much work to let all of that go to waste. Hahahaha, guess what, dear candidate. I paid then and I’ve been paying ever since (so I basically use that to help the candidates I support to reproduce their cv’s). It’s a very good template.
Also, the good thing about the paid templates (at least as far as I know), is that they are mostly ATS optimized.
What does that even mean hahaha? So an ATS optimized CV is one that is well suited for applicant tracking systems. An applicant tracking system is what companies use to manage their candidate pipelines.
These CV’s are ATS optimized, meaning once your cv gets imported into the ATS of the company, the structure would be retained. A CV that is not ATS optimized may get into the ATS and then become totally unreadable because of the template used by the candidate. I’ve seen it happen.
So as much as possible, use an ATS optimized cv even if you have to pay for it. So that’s Tip 1.
Use industry titles to describe your previous roles
Now before we address this further, let’s talk about the issue of lying or exaggerating on your cv.
Please and please, don’t do that, don’t use the concept of adapting your cv to say you did what you did not know, that’s not right. An experienced and thorough interviewer would find you out and usually, interviewers run away from dishonest candidates because that just becomes a question of values so please don’t do that.
However, what you can do, is to make use of the industry titles that represent your role to make your CV more understandable and relatable. For example, your internal designation may be: Tech supervisor, now to someone outside your organization, that sounds very vague and ]. The question then is, what were you responsible for? And if you do a quick search for Jobs on google or other job boards, what Job title would describe what you were responsible for. Now you may find tons of Job titles but the best approach would be to use the most common one. So using the tech supervisor example, I may find that a tech supervisor in my organization is actually an engineering manager in the industry, so what I would then do is to in my cv, present my job title as an Engineering manager instead of a Tech supervisor. What you find, is that when I apply for engineering manager roles, the recruiter or hiring manager would already from my job title see a pattern that is well adapted to the role I have applied to. I really really hope that is clear.
Alright, another issue is that sometimes (particularly for experienced candidates) you might have worked in different unrelated roles (at least that’s what most candidates think) and then the question is how do I create a pattern out of this without lying or exaggerating. I can confidently speak about this because this was also one issue I had. Remember I told you about the person who told me my CV was scattered?
Lovely, so basically in my scattered cv, I just put all of those roles into my cv and I expected the recruiter or the hiring manager to do the Maths. Hahaha, well the maths always returned a rejection. So this is basically what you need to do.
Now you need to carefully think through all of your previous positions and then draw a pattern. Let’s go back to the Tech supervisor example. In company A my designation is Tech Supervisor and I was responsible for leading a team of software engineers. So basically I was responsible for all aspects of tech and non-tech support in a nutshell.
However in company B, my designation was Tech coordinator, I was also responsible for leading a team of software engineers but I also had the additional responsibility of functioning as the product manager for the team. From describing both roles, I hope you already see that both roles were the same thing, the only difference here is that in company B, I also served as the product manager for the team.
In my CV, my designation for company B would be written as Engineering manager/Product manager so basically when the recruiter looks at my CV, they would see the pattern from company A to company B.
So the goal here is to use industry-relevant titles that are well suited or adapted to the positions that you are applying to without having to lie or exaggerate.
Declutter your CV
Whatever does not add value to your CV should not be there.
Some basic things to take out would be your list of references, your hobbies, and some fancy jobs that are totally unrelated to what you have applied for.
This is particularly relevant when your CV is already into 3 pages and is still about to spill over. I once reviewed a 10-page resume for a mid-level/senior level position and really, that was just too much information. You can of course talk about the relevant aspects of some of those in the actual interview but our focus is to at least get you to that point.
Now some people may say, oh I don’t want to show any gaps in my cv so I might as well put in all of those other jobs to show that I was actively engaged. Well, you can but maybe use a general title to describe the role: something like Part-time Job, Student-Job, Side-Job and so on but if for example, you worked as a Chef, then as a Musician and then as a Fashion designer and you fit all of that into your application for a software engineer. Ohh! That’s just too much. Let’s keep it simple.
Another part of decluttering your CV is not to list all your roles and responsibilities as it was advertised. Hello! I did that too, hahaha. The world has evolved a little, let’s not do that anymore. Simply present your accomplishments or the highlights of your career under each role and if possible add some data to it. You can of course make use of estimates in case you don’t have access to the actual figures.
Now for fresh starters, i.e candidates who have no work experience in the field they are applying to. What you can do is to highlight your projects, volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, and your activities within any NGO that you belong to, including religious organizations. Sometimes we underestimate the value of those things but these are the places where a lot of our soft and even some aspects of our tech skills are built.
In a nutshell, take a look at the kind of roles you are applying to, what are the requirements and the expectations for the role, and have you done anything in those areas? Either directly or indirectly? If Yes, then those aspects of your experience should be very visible in your cv.
Alright so today we dealt with stage 1 of the application process and we concluded that the primary reason why people are dropped at this stage is that they apply with unstructured CVs.
So remember to use an ATS optimized cv template (even if you have to pay for it), make use of industry-relevant job titles to make your cv more understandable and relatable to your reviewer (but please don’t lie and exaggerate), and finally declutter your cv (anything that adds no value should be put in the icebox).
Next time we would continue this series and this time we would look at what happens in stage 2 and why candidates dropped at this stage.
Thank you so much for listening.
Today was pretty loaded right (yeah) and it may be possible that something you heard was not quite clear or you perhaps have a different use case. I would be very interested to learn about this and to clarify any existing grey areas so please make contact using the contact form on www.dearcandidate.org or send a dm to @dearcandideate 01 using any social media handle of your choice.
Till next time, take care and stay positive.