One of the hardest things in the world is presenting yourself, wouldn’t you agree?
Whether it’s to a roomful of people or on the one pager known as your CV or resume, most people hate talking about themselves. And yet, our written words are all we have when we start a job application process.
Here are seven points to consider when applying for that summer internship or your first job after graduation.
We live in a digital world where algorithms play an ever-increasing role in our lives. From choosing our music to serving us adverts on Google. Unless you’re applying to a small firm, your CV or resume will be run through a software programme that will either move it forward or reject it outright! Tough, huh?
You owe it to your application to do a bit of research first, so that you can have a chance of “playing” the algorithm game. Study the job description, identify any (key)words that are repeated or in bold then, make a list to include in your CV (more on that later).
If your CV gets past the machine, then a (wo)man is next. Make it easy for the recruiter to get a clear idea of who you are and what you’re looking for by placing a one-sentence pitch in a prominent place on the page. Think of it as your elevator pitch that entices the recruiter to read more about you, your experience and your background.
And by one sentence, I mean just that! Here is an example of a pitch:
“With valuable experience in managing a team within a global structure, I wish to join an efficient and reliable team in which I would grow further and meet objectives with success.”
Only include your degree or technical diplomas. There’s no need to put your high school achievements unless you are still studying for your first degree. In that case, mention your high school exams (baccalaureate, A Levels, SATs etc.), and state the year you are expecting to graduate.
MSc Marine Biology – expected 2018
Apart from obvious information like the name of company, the location, the dates, and your position, you also need to include a couple of sentences about your successes and leadership skills. Be specific and describe your achievements with action words, preferably ones that match the list of keywords you made from the job description, such as: achieved, improved, managed, created, resolved, increased/decreased etc.
For example, don’t just say you contributed to new customer growth. Instead, say that you “increased customer base by 29% in six months”.
Recruiters are looking to hire real people, with real skills acquired inside and outside of work. List your language levels (honestly, please), your software/coding experience, and any other training or licences that are relevant to your application (driving licence, first aid skills, etc.).
You want your “real self” to shine through in your Activities section. If you didn’t have a chance to show your leadership or team skills in the Work Experience section, then promote them with your voluntary work, sports contributions or your travel or study abroad experiences. Give the person interviewing you a reason to want to enquire about your outside-of-work self.
Clean, uncluttered and one-page. And one page doesn’t mean that you’ve reduced the font to size 8 so that you can cram it all in. Studies have revealed that recruiters spend anything from 6.25 seconds to two minutes scanning your resume. So, present them with a page that’s easy to read and visually pleasing.
Having edited CVs for many years, I realise there are some basic rules that apply to English resume writing that not everyone may know.
- Write up all but your current jobs in the past tense
- Do not use subject pronouns, ex: “Managed a team of four’” and not “I managed a team of four”
- Capitalise consistently throughout – especially job titles/positions
- Find your list of keywords lifted from the job description and incorporate them in your CV
- Do NOT be tempted to use any of the following words: passionate, detail-oriented, team player, results-driven, go-to-person, dynamic, etc. etc. Recruiters want to know that you are a “team player” from the achievements or leadership skills you’ve described, not from an over enthusiastic use of buzzwords
- Keep your style of English consistent – opt for American or British English and stick to it throughout (or another English style if applicable).
When you’ve finished your first draft, spellcheck it then re-read it carefully and edit out anything superfluous. If you can, sleep on it and look at it again with fresh eyes. Ask someone else to read it, especially if English is not your first language.
Our words play a key role in supporting us through the recruitment process, especially when you consider that a machine can reject us for not including the right ones. From reading the job description to drafting your CV and cover letter, pay careful attention to the words you choose to describe your skills and experience.
Good luck on the job hunt and the application process!
This week’s guest blogger:
Bridget Rooth is the founder and CEO of online English editing company English Trackers. After 12 years in China, Bridget has taken up a digital nomadic life and is currently working and travelling in South America. She thinks studying Spanish is a lot easier than Mandarin!
Interested in reading more about working in China? See our articles on doing business in China, a language and cultural guide to help you succeed on the Chinese market. For more information about internships in China, see our blog post on how to get the most out of your time as an intern abroad.