Job-hunting – especially if you’re changing careers – is a skill in itself. It’s one that requires nuance, attention to detail and perspective. But don’t panic: These are all things that can be learned. And if you’ve acquired an in-demand skill (coding, for instance!) that will stand to you. Here are some job application mistakes that people sometimes make and how to avoid them…
Job Application Mistakes – Not focusing on keywords
Once upon a time, every job application and CV was read only by humans. Now, there’s every chance that your application has been processed digitally with keyword-scanning software to thin out the unqualified applicants. It’s most common in high-profile companies or heavily sought-after positions.
Whether or not that’s fair practice is debatable, but the good news is it’s easily addressed: The keywords you need are in the job description advertised.
Not telling your story
Getting to the point and telling why you’re suited to the job is an important part of your cover letter. This can be done a number of ways: One example is to mention your most relevant qualification immediately (“As an accomplished Python developer, I think my skillset makes me an ideal candidate…”). Another approach would be to express your enthusiasm for the position (“I’m passionate about software development, so am excited to see this job advertised”). Or you could briefly explain how your journey led to this career path (“My love for technology led to a coding bootcamp where I graduated with a distinction…”).
Get to the heart of the matter and tell your story. This brings us to…
Not being succinct
When it comes to job application mistakes, it is common in application letters is to take up too much time and space. Explain specifically why your qualities and qualifications make you the right candidate, but don’t overstay your welcome.
A good rule of thumb is not to run over ⅔ of a page, so no more than about 400 words should cover it. Remember, your resumé or CV will include lots of relevant and specific details too, so there’s no need to repeat yourself.
When it comes to CVs and resumés, the former should be no more than two pages. The latter shouldn’t run any more than one.
Not using measurables
Personal qualities and passions can help tell your story, but they might not close the deal. Employers like concrete numbers: The number of coding languages you can work with, a number suggesting how you performed in a course (top 5, for instance, or top 10%), web traffic numbers (or percentage rises over a set time), and so on.
Even if these key performance indicators (or KPIs) are in a different field from the job you’re applying for, they can work in your favour: Sales figures, speed of finishing projects (or number of projects finished ahead of schedule for instance), customer call turnaround time, and so on.
If your experience is in a less formal environment, consider factors like attendance, accolades (employee of the month for instance) or promotions.
An unprofessional online appearance
We’re not saying to stop using social media altogether. But… there’s an old adage when it comes to online behaviour. Don’t post or say anything that you wouldn’t want your boss or your mother to see. So that means yes to holiday pictures, wedding snaps, opinions on TV shows and funny animal videos; and no to controversial views, explicit material or hedonism.
Also remember, what’s appropriate in one social media is not in another. So your LinkedIn and Slack profile pic and content should be at least somewhat professional, while your Facebook life can be more relatively quirky or fun.
There are pitfalls in applying for jobs and the devil is in the detail. But with the right qualification, attitude and application, your dream job in software development might be much closer than you think…
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