In today’s employment market, how do potential applicants stand out from the pile of CVs and applications that have been put in front of some of the most sought after employers around the globe? Mary Jane Flanagan MBPsS looks the five key areas to focus on.
We can start by taking lessons from how successful companies develop their brand and build their reputation.
Typically, they could conduct a brand audit, this consists of key elements from advertising to reputation, packaging to performance and service levels to social media exposure. If we were to translate this into your personal brand these are the key areas you could focus on; CV, impact, performance, knowledge, networking and reputation. By identifying what would be most effective in each of these areas you can build an action plan for ensuring you Stand up and Stand out. Let’s break these down to understand what they mean:
All the usual rules apply from making sure the spelling is correct and the timelines work, to not just using fluffy statements you found from Google when searching best phrases and statement for a CV and introductory letter, because you think they sound good. Particularly for students but anyone who is applying for a role, your CV should be a representation of who you are as an individual so include personal attributes and hobbies. All those we asked said they look for gaps in your working history and for loyalty.
Jon Dawson HRD, The Mandarin Oriental Hotel London has explained he looks for achievements and evidence to back up your statement.
If this makes your CV too long, Katharine Gourley from Travel Lodge Hotels has suggested you include links, whilst Joanne Taylor Stagg FIH, GM of The Athenaeum Hotel once hired a digital marketer who sent their CV as a video on a memory stick.
From image to your first sentence, how you make an impact is going to make or break an interview. The best advice we heard was to look your best and be confident not arrogant.
Although you may not typically choose to dress in a suit if that’s appropriate for the job that you are applying for then that’s how you should look. But whatever you wear it should fit well, be well ironed and your shoes polished. A haircut before an interview can also give you confidence, well it does for me.
A few tricks here would be to understand how they dress in the workplace, do your research and then dress accordingly so that when you walk in the room they already see you as somebody that would fit in.
Be interesting and interested
Do a little bit of homework. Read what’s in the papers, do your research on whatever companies you’re going to visit or send your CV to, and tailor your CV, introductory letter or conversation to suit that business. Prospective employers want to know that you’ve done your homework.This shows your interest is genuine and you are not there ‘just to get a job’. Don’t be afraid to show your personality but be careful that you don’t tell them how to do their job as that can come across as arrogant.
A really important question that you may get asked at the moment or over the next few years is “What did you do during COVID-19?”. Anybody that stepped up and chose to volunteer or help the community or do that little bit more may be seen in a better light.
Sending CVs and applying for jobs is only one route into getting new employment. Another route maybe to build your network so that you are at the top of people’s minds when they have a vacancy to fill. There are several ways that you can do this:
- Follow those people in the industry that you wish to work for, commenting positively on their posts.
- Building your own reputation on social media, one that shows a prospective employer that you have an interest in whatever you’re applying for. i.e. Food and recipes for a chef.
- Connect with industry role models and ask for their advice on what skills you would need to work for them or their company.
- Attend as many events as you can and be prepared to mingle with speakers and organisers, ask for their card and if you can connect in LinkedIn. Then do it within 24 hours and send them a note to say how good it was to meet them.
- College/University projects and assignments are also a way of networking. You could choose a topic that you know would be relevant to the role that you want to apply for, and then contact the various businesses and the people that are directors or managers of those departments to ask for quotes or to complete a survey.
- You could ask to phone interview prospective employers about the topic. This can also showcase you long before a job ever becomes available.
“Your social media is your advertising channel use it well.”
According to the CIPD, 98% of prospective employers will google you and look at your social media. This will be how they showcase your personality, interests and achievements and does reflect on your reputation. Even your social media handle can give an indication to a prospective employer about your attitude. For example if your handle is @minesalargevodka, you may not necessarily get the call backs you want from your CV.
Audit your social media and Google search your name and your image regularly, look at what comes up. If it’s a photograph of you on a table top getting blind drunk, scantily clad you may want to remove that photo from your social media.
Brands can manipulate social media by posting things that would put them in a good light. So my rule of thumb is that I never post anything negative only positive images, and those that may reflect those interests that I think my clients or prospective employees might like to see.
Knowledge is power – every day is a school day.
Whether you are a student applying for your first role out of university or college or an employee that has sadly been made redundant. What you know or are willing to learn could give you an advantage over other applicants.
While you have this downtime why not take the opportunity to build your knowledge, online learning, volunteering, getting a mentor-that person that can help guide you. I am always surprised at the amount of free learning that is available online so investigate your local event bright and see what events are happening around you that you might be able to take advantage of.
Reading is also a good way to broaden your knowledge not just books this could be articles, research papers or if you don’t like reading TEDTalks are a good way to broaden your horizons. Download the TED app and take a look. My favourite place to go to the articles and research is Flipboard this is an app you can download to your phone or iPad, state where you want to subscribe to, it would then build a magazine for you based on your preferences. You can open it when you want and flick through, it also it updates automatically.
My flip board would typically have articles from Harvard business review, Oprah Mag, The Financial Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur magazine as well as Conde Nast Traveller and Food magazines.
You are only as good as the last thing you did.
As a student, it’s hard to build a body of work that you can use to showcase your performance however all is not lost, part time jobs, volunteering, and references from people who can advocate for you can always help. Although good grades are always an advantage they may not be enough to showcase your skills and talents so get as much experience as you can to back them up.
For those looking for a new job, you will have a body of work that you can use to showcase what you’ve done but rather than send out a generic CV, why not tailor it each time for the job that you’re going for. Pick out key elements from your previous roles that would be relevant to the job you are applying for. Also use your network to introduce you to prospective employers so they can vouch for you.
As somebody who has been an employer up to director level, like many, I want the person that walks in for an interview to be the right person, so build your brand and represent yourself in the best light.
For more tips and tools follow Mary Jane on @mjinspire and go to her website www.mjinspire.com.
Mary Jane took over the @IoH_Online Instagram account on Thursday 7 May. It was a day filled with great careers advice, and a live workshop ‘Stand Up and Stand Out’. Go to our IGTV channel to see lots of interviews shown on the day.