On the 21st June 2013 the Section for New Professionals (SfNP) held their annual Summer Seminar at the New Register House Dome, ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh. During the afternoon a panel of employers discussed interview techniques and application forms. The panel was formed of Donald Lickley (Sue Hill Recruitment), Pam McNicol (Stirling Archives), Richard Taylor (York Archives and Local History Service) and Arnott Wilson (University of Edinburgh). The SfNP Communications Officer Louise Williams facilitated the discussion.
This is the final part of our series of blog posts summarising the advice and discussions from the day.
I’m changing career, what should I put on my job applications?
If your applications to trainee positions are being rejected as you are considered to be over-qualified, make it clear in your application that although you have previous experience you are keen to learn new skills through the traineeship. An employer is looking for someone who is open to learn so you need to show that you have the flexibility to learn new skills and want to develop. Draw on the relevant parts of your previous experience but don’t put too much down. Your commitment to train in a new profession needs to come across.
Sue Hill would advise older applicants to take all of the dates out of their CV and focus on making it relevant to the job you are applying for. Concentrate on the relevant experience that you have and include a summary of your previous career.
How much should I write in the supporting statement section of an application?
Be concise and keep it relevant – it is not an essay. Use no more than two sides of A4 for a supporting statement or cover letter, a CV should be two sides, or three if you really need to.
Copy and paste the points from the person spec and list your skills and experience against them. This is the part of the application that is getting you the interview, you need to show you match the requirements of the employer in a structured and targeted way that they can read through quickly.
What should I do if the job description is really generic?
If you think that the job description is really generic, contact the organisation and find out a bit more about the role. If they include their contact details with the information about the role they will be happy to receive a call. Calling an employer is a way to get your name flagged up before an interview but don’t be too generic – have some specific questions for them.
Use annual reports and newsletters to do some research about the organisation. Use the language and layout used in the job description – this is a good way to get your application to the top of the pile as it saves the recruiter time. The objective of the application form is to get you into the interview. Tailor your application or CV to the specific job you are applying for and use the language and vocabulary that is used in the job description.
Is it acceptable to ask why I have been rejected?
It definitely is, if the organisation makes this difficult you can submit a subject access request under the Data Protection Act.
Remember that sometimes the decisions can be incredibly knife-edge and there isn’t a lot in it. You might disagree with the interviewer’s feedback, but you should take it positively.