12 August 2016

Expert job application advice

You have just graduated and want just one thing: to convince your future employer that you are special. But how to go about it? Five HR experts explain what they are looking for when reading a CV or job interviewing.

Your CV: a visiting card

“To be honest, cover letters are read less and less”, admits Ayo, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist with ING. “Your CV must be a proper visiting card. Be concise (two pages suffice) and make sure that your CV reflects the skills required for the job offered. This means that your CV and cover letter must be adapted whenever you apply for a job. Tip: for the header of your CV use a title or catch phrase with a certain number of key words. Example: ‘Recently graduated engineer looking for a job in a creative environment.’ This shows the recruiter the actual purpose of the job application straightaway.”

Know what to expect?

Saskia is a staff recruiter, in particular for Pizza Hut and Wasbar. “It often involves working nights or weekends. Yet, we frequently come across candidates who want to practise their sport three times a week and take part in competitions on Saturdays. Such people waste both their time and ours with a job application. With a view to matching our requirements with those of our candidates, we organise orientation days during which they can trial the job. In this way they can see whether the work suits them, whether they think they will get on with their future colleagues and the timetables suit their leisure time.”

Focus on your most convincing experiences

“It is a good sign if you are invited to a job interview. In any case it means that the recruiter has detected potential in you.” Ignace is an HR officer for the Erasmushogeschool Brussel. “During a job interview, it is essential to convince the recruiter that you really do have the skills you outlined in your CV. Do not go into long-winded explanations. Go to the point and focus on your most appropriate experiences. That does not necessarily mean professional experiences. Recently we recruited a ‘quality manager’ who had previously worked for a firm of lawyers. She was perfectly documented on the job and managed to convince us that she had the skills to take on the job. That is how is works.”

The first impression is often the right

In his job, Vincent, general manager at Jobpunt Vlaanderen, has seen many hundreds of job applications from all fields of life. “Bear in mind that a job interview is designed to test you. If you apply for a job as a desk clerk, it is important to be polite and friendly in all circumstances (even if customers are disagreeable and make life difficult for you). Recruiters are trained to go beyond appearances, nevertheless they are human. Does that mean you need to wear a uniform if you are applying for a fireman’s job? Not necessarily. Simply try to assess the situation appropriately and to come over as professional.”

Corporate culture as guiding principle

“One of the keys of your application is in your knowledge of the company’s culture”, explains Peter, manager with the VDAB (Flemish employment agency) in charge of helping non-Dutch speaking graduates to find a job. “Websites are brimming with useful information about the company where you are applying for a job. If, for instance, you see key words such as “the biggest” or “the best”, and the site is full of model photos of ‘real’ people, it will certainly be an ambitious company, targeted at profit and growth. Conversely, many companies are more ‘relaxed’. It is up to you to know which company meets your expectations. It is pointless to apply for a job with a company which does not meet your expectations.”

What now?