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The ideal way to apply for a position that we absolutely want

Author: Claudio Magnabosco | Senior Executive Search Consultant, MAGNA Executives | IPTER, Zurich Switzerland

Often, I am asked how many pages a good CV should consist of. My answer is always: It doesn’t matter for as long as the relevant information is on the first page!

To understand the right way to apply, we must understand the recruiting process: An employer is looking for the best fit to a position. The selection criteria are listed in the job description under the title: “For this job you must be/must have….” The best way to getting a job interview is to answer straight with quantitative bullet point – sentences how good you match these criteria. Many candidates make the mistake to send a general CV with all assets, experiences, and titles they are bringing. The employer should then pick out the relevant information that he/she deems as relevant. By doing this, the HR manager screening the CVs gets the impression that the candidate is a generalist with overall skills but does not possess specific knowhow to that specific job and may not be the ideal fit. Often by reading general skills and info’s, the person screening the CVs won’t be able to determine if someone is a potential candidate with a good fit: The risk is that the CV ends on the “B/C – candidates pile”. The candidate will not get an invitation to an interview.

To do a good application, it is important to recognize all relevant aspects of the job and to put oneself in the position of the employers HR – manager. Ask yourself: “who would I look for if I had to recruit someone for that position”.

Start with your relevant personal data. Put the relevant Information: Address, phone, email (sometimes it is useful to use an email address with a local ending. E.g., if you are applying for a job in Germany, use an address ending with “.de”).

In some countries it is not common to put a picture on the CV. In my country – Switzerland – CVs come with the candidate’s picture. In that case I would recommend using a picture according to the company culture: For a banker or consultant-job, use a formal dress-code for the picture. For an IT-position or an engineer, use a more smart-casual dress-code for the picture.

Under your personal data, make a subtitle – short profile. Here you will answer to all required qualifications with quantitative dimensions. So please don’t use adjectives like “good, advanced, professional….” Meaning that you use “5 years experiences in XYZ” and “3 years’ experience in ABC”. Here it is very important to use the same wording as the employer is using in the job description.

Use bullet-points to answer the requirements and to list your short profile. Typically, you’ll need 5 to 8 bullet points to list your short profile. When you do this listing, you make a synthesis of the experience during your previous career: If people-management experience is a requirement and if you had 2 previous jobs – “Job A” with 2 years people-management and “Job B” with 3 years of people-management – you will list “5 years’ experience in people-management”. On this short profile you should list: Education, relevant background, relevant experiences (in years) from previous job’s, relevant certificates and courses, languages, citizenship/working permit and/or other required criteria. All this should fit in the first page.

The following CV – pages with your previous job’s, studies, certificates, etc. can certainly have redundant information: The first page should be a short and relevant information – specific to that job.

Also write a specific motivation letter explaining who you are, why you want this job, what is your motivation and what is your USP (unique selling proposition) for this job. Please note that the motivation letter is not for listing again the information of your CV. The CV is to explain that you are the “right candidate” and the letter is to explain why you are applying. It is important to understand that the HR – manager will typically start by first screening the CVs and if the CV is a fit, she/he will read then the motivation letter.

Put an order in your application dossier. Start with a cover-page, then a motivation letter, then your CV (with your important 1st page), recommendation letters (if you have), diplomas and certificates. The aim is to open the doors for the first interview!

Follow this simple advice and you will note that you will get an invitation to your dream-job. Good luck!

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