Researching and applying for jobs can be a gruelling and time-consuming process, and it’s often quite demoralising too. We thought it might be helpful to hear directly from our experienced consultants on what makes a candidate stand out to them. Nicola, Nicky and Bethany are the team here who decide which applications are suitable to be recommended to our partner companies. So, how do they do it? We asked them to share their most helpful advice.
What do you look for in an application?
Nicola: The first thing I do is read your CV. I prefer them not to be longer than two pages and bullet points are really helpful. I look at your location (to make sure you’re local to the role), the relevancy of your experience and the accuracy of your CV – spelling mistakes or grammatical errors are a huge no-no. If you’re applying through a job board like Reed, or are open to being contacted through them, make sure your profile is up-to-date so you’re only approached for relevant roles.
Bethany: A CV doesn’t need to stand out in terms of design – we see all sorts of colours and layouts, but the best CVs are the ones that are simple, bullet-pointed, up-to-date and relevant. Does it show you can do the job? Also, make sure your contact details are correct so we can get in touch!
Nicky: I want to see that your most recent role is a logical precursor to the one you’re applying for. Is the job you want a natural step up or a justifiable sideways move? If we’ve asked specific qualifying questions (like ‘Do you have access to a car?’ or ‘Do you have a specific qualification?’), these are usually prerequisites from the hiring company and are rarely negotiable. If the role requires someone to have specific qualifications or attributes, it doesn’t matter how brilliant your CV is if you can’t meet the qualifying criteria.
Bethany: I like it when a candidate is able to explain why they want that specific role. Quite often I might call an applicant to discuss the opportunity only for them not to remember which role they’ve applied for! I really want to see that you know the job description and you’ve seriously considered your application. Lots of people will blanket send their CV to recruitment agencies, but it’s easy to spot when that happens!
Nicola: We need to be sure, if you’re not currently local, that you’re actively in the process of moving to the area. So, if it’s obvious on your CV that you live too far away for the job you’ve applied for, you need to explain exactly when you will be permanently in the area before we can consider your application.
Nicky: A cover letter isn’t necessary as your CV should speak for itself. I would strongly recommend you only apply for roles that you have recent and relevant experience for – if you don’t have any experience (and the job is asking for it), it’s likely you’ll be automatically rejected. Likewise, if you’re applying for a role which is a significant step up in terms of remit or a huge increase in salary, it’s unlikely you’ll be successful without further justification.
What happens next if you like their CV?
Nicola: We always get back to every application so there is no need to contact us after you’ve sent your CV. We’ll be in touch within a couple of days, usually much sooner – don’t worry, we want to get things moving as quickly as you do!
Bethany: If you have applied through Amber, be prepared for us to call – we’ll want to chat about your application as soon as possible. We like to meet all our candidates in person, or on a video call, so we can really get to know you and understand how we can best put you forward for the role. The best thing you can do is be enthusiastic about the role and be able to talk us through your experience.
Nicky: When we put you forward to a company, they trust that we have thoroughly assessed your application and are confident that you’re a great fit for them. So usually the next stage after that is an interview.
What happens at interview?
Nicola: We will give you as much information about the role and company as we can, and help you work out the best way to get to the interview and where to park etc. The single most important thing to do is attend! If you don’t show up, not only will the company be unlikely to consider you at any point in the future, but it also makes it difficult for us to put you forward to anyone else. Of course, people sometimes need to change their interview, but if you let us know with plenty of notice we can sort that out quite easily.
Nicky: We always recommend you research the company thoroughly – look at their website, social media and LinkedIn and Glassdoor profiles. You can also Google them to see what related news and articles come up.
Bethany: Make sure you can fulfil the requirements of the role. Don’t go to a job interview for a full time position if you can only work part time – sometimes people think they can negotiate the terms at interview, but it’s highly unlikely. Similarly, I would suggest you don’t mention salary at a first interview. You will know the range on offer before your interview and we can negotiate on your behalf if it all goes well.
What can I expect after my interview?
Nicky: Please call us straight away after your interview. We’ll all be excited to hear how it went, and it also means we can contact the company immediately to get some feedback for you. Please don’t get in touch with the company directly though – they use Amber as an extension to their HR team and trust us to manage the recruitment process on their behalf.
Nicola: If you have doubts or you change your mind about a role, please just let us know. Often an interview will help you to realise it isn’t the right job or company for you and that’s a very natural thing to happen. It’s very awkward for us to go back to a company after an interview if we can’t get hold of you to get your feedback! So whatever your thoughts, please always let us know.
Bethany: We will represent both you and the company in the post-interview negotiations. We’ll give you their honest feedback and pass yours to them. Hopefully, you’ll both want to work together, but if that doesn’t happen for any reason, we’ll keep supporting you until you find the right role. If you’re offered the role, we’ll work with you to agree the salary, perks, benefits and when you will start!
Any other final tips?
Bethany: You are very welcome to call us before you apply if you have specific questions that aren’t covered on the job advert. I love it when candidates get in touch and are knowledgeable about their industry and the role they’re applying for.
Nicola: Be honest with us about your job search – if you’re applying for roles through other agencies or directly to companies, it’s helpful for us to know so we can manage everyone’s expectations. It’s never a negative thing – we expect you to be casting the net wide!
Nicky: Please take care to attach the correct documents to your application! If you’re sending us your CV, make sure it’s definitely your CV – we’ve had people send us all sorts of things from old pay slips to recipes for spaghetti Bolognese!
Don’t be disheartened – you’ll find that perfect role
Working with an agency makes your job hunt much easier – and less lonely! Wherever you’re at in your job search, you can give us a call on 01932 355000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help.