What Do Employers Really Want From You? Here's What!
October and November are two of our busiest months for CVs and cover letters. Maybe because it’s also one of the best times to apply for a job. Is that a little surprising to hear? Because you usually think of people being ‘over it’ by this time of year? People are winding down, slacking off, and spending time tying up loose ends, aren’t they? Yes, but guess what else they’re doing? Quitting! Yep, they're handing in their notices right before the break and/or the busiest period of the year for some businesses. #lurchmuch
Not surprisingly, this puts employers into a bit of a tailspin. They need staff sorted for the Xmas rush, they need holiday cover, and they need to have people trained and ready to hit the ground running in the New Year. So, yes, you guessed it – they’re hiring! Not a wishy-washy ‘take it or leave it’ type of hiring – they mean business and NEED people; fast!
Okay, cool, they want me! Now what? Well, it would help if you heard straight from the employer what they were looking for, right?
You’re in luck, lovely job seeker! We have interviewed two employers from different industries who have told us everything you’ve been dying to know! Ethan Palmer* runs a large engineering factory employing 40+ staff, and Kathy Jackson* is the HR and Office Manager for a private health clinic. (*Please be aware that names have been changed for privacy purposes).
So, what DO employers want to see in your application and during the interview? Here’s what!
WHAT INSTANTLY GETS YOUR ATTENTION ON A JOB SEEKERS APPLICATION – GOOD, BAD, OR OTHERWISE?
Kathy: First up, I tend to notice the length of the CV – if it is more than three pages I am instantly turned off. I then want to see where they are currently working (and start to wonder why they want to leave!) Oh also, there is nothing worse than reading a cover letter that is addressed to another person and company. Poor form!
Ethan: What gets my attention is their ability to convey their experience succinctly; at a glance. I need to see where they have worked on the first page of their CV. I don’t want to be digging for that basic, essential information.
ARE DESIGN AND LAYOUT IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Kathy: Yes! If it is obvious the person has put a lot of effort into their application, it makes me think they aim to impress and will put effort into their job too.
Ethan: Well, yes. Things need to be clear, and information needs to be easy to find. We get so many applicants; it makes it easy to cull people who have sloppy presentation and poor spelling. I don’t have time to read pages and pages. Things need to be short and to the point.
WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT YOU LOVE TO SEE ON AN APPLICATION?
Kathy: I must confess, I love to read about people’s hobbies and interests. A bit odd, perhaps, but it gives me insight into their personality. If they are the sort of person who is heavily involved in sports or if they do a lot of exciting things outside of work, I usually want to meet them. It is also great when someone has listed their accomplishments in their CV. Don’t be shy! If you won a bravery award or a singing competition, I want to know about it!
Ethan: I’m a bit old fashioned I guess, so I like to see on their CV that they have stuck at a job for a decent length of time and maybe been promoted. It says a lot about them as a person. Committed, loyal, motivated, and willing to learn and grow. It also tells me that they were alright to work with because people have kept them around.
WHAT TURNS YOU OFF A COVER LETTER?
Kathy: Ugh! People writing about what they will get from the position! It’s not about what you get and why you want the job for your career progression. ‘I’d like to work with you because it would be a good next career step for me…’ Sorry, no! I’ve never understood that mentality. We want to know what you can do for us – please stick to selling your skills and experience in relation to the role.
Ethan: When applicants don't send a cover letter when the ad has specifically asked for it. It drives me nuts. Aside from that it would have to be the length. A page or less is fine. If people can’t explain their suitability for the role in a few paragraphs, I start to wonder if they are overcompensating for something with too much ‘fluff’.
WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM AN APPLICANT WHEN MEETING THEM FOR THE FIRST TIME IN AN INTERVIEW?
Kathy: I want them to show up on time and be prepared; for them to understand the basic duties of job they are applying for. It helps if they have a good basic knowledge of us as a company too and what our mission is. (All able to be found in a quick Google search!)
Ethan: I want to see their passion and a positive attitude. I’ve had meetings with potential employees that have been terrible. Mainly due to the person either being extremely arrogant – boasting about their experience and trying to talk turkey (money) right there in the interview, or meeting with someone that looks as if they’ve had a gun held to their head to get them into the room – slouching, muttering, smelling like booze or smoke, and just generally looking a fright. You'd think arriving looking tidy and having had a shower would be a given, but it doesn't seem to be (in my line of work at least!)
WHAT CAN A CANDIATE DO TO BLOW YOU AWAY IN THE INTERVIEW?
Kathy: Being warm and confident in their interactions with everyone in the interview room is a great start. (Not being a know-it-all, interrupting or being sarcastic, and cracking jokes). Someone who is aware of their strengths and abilities and who can give great examples of their accomplishments, as well as knowing which areas they would like to work on for their professional development. It makes someone more credible to me when they can acknowledge strengths AND areas for improvement.
Ethan: It is a bit hard to pin down really. It’s an energy thing. You can tell when someone is hungry for the job and willing to work hard and do what it takes to get things done. If they arrive looking like they made an effort, listen well, can answer our questions clearly, and confidently back what they bring to the table, I am willing to give them a chance with a trial day, so we can both see how it goes.
WHAT SORTS OF THINGS DO YOU ASK REFEREES?
Kathy: I don’t ask a set of questions. I prefer to have a quick chat with a person’s direct line manager/ex-manager, and I can usually get a pretty good idea of the sort of person I’m dealing with from that. Often managers won’t want to say anything negative about someone but when you ask them questions like: How does (name) handle criticism? And they hesitate and struggle to answer the question, you pretty much have your answer.
Ethan: I ask them about the person generally – Do they show up on time? Do they take leave with no notice? What are they like with the other team members? Are they a go-getter? Do they go above and beyond their duties to help out without being asked or dragging their feet? Would you have them back to work for you again? Etc.
Well, well, well! That is some juicy inside information for your gossip stash! Did you learn anything from our employers honest answers? If anything, we think it almost simplifies what hiring businesses are looking for. They want a confident, friendly person who has a CV and cover letter that proves they can do the job. They want someone who makes an effort, and who won’t throw in the towel right before their busy period!
Take advantage of this information AND the fact that people are leaving their jobs in droves at this time of the year to go on holiday (in... I don't know... Aruba) and get applying! Set yourself up to make 2019 your best year yet!
Remember, we can take all the hassle off your hands by constructing your CV and cover letter for you. At least you now know that employers appreciate the time and effort you put into outsourcing such an important task.