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SEEK’s Managing Director on How to Make Your CV and Cover Letter Stand Out

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The Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals 2.7 million Australians were either let go from their roles, had work hours reduced, or left the labour force in April — never mind the effect the first couple of weeks in May has had to further impact those statistics.

“For many Australians, COVID-19 has turned working life upside down. Sudden job losses, decreased working hours and rapid adjustments to working from home have created changes no one could have predicted,” Kendra Banks, SEEK‘s managing director, Australia and New Zealand, tells TheLatch—.

Of course, as history has shown, there will come a time when companies big and small look to rebuild teams once more, but with limited roles in the job market available right now, the sheer number of applications out there can feel daunting.

“With job applications on the rise in a number of industries, competition for roles is fierce,” Banks says. “In the Call Centre & Customer Service industry, for example, applications on SEEK have increased more than six times compared to the same period in 2019. With geography no longer a barrier, these roles appeal to many people as they can be done from home and usually don’t require a specific qualification.”

So how does one cut through? As Banks explains, a comprehensive application is key to being seen by potential employers. Should someone find themselves in a position in which they now suddenly have extra time on their hands, it could be wise to use this break to bolster their future job applications.

“Now is the time to make sure your application stands out and showcases your skill set. Always make sure you have a tailored resume and cover letter, catered to the job you are applying for ready to go.

“Highlight your experience and include relevant examples in your cover letter so employers can immediately assess your eligibility. When doing this, it’s always worth replicating it on your SEEK Profile. Employers also refer to your profile when assessing your suitability for a role and can also proactively search for your skills — so the more relevant information you include about yourself, the better your chances of standing out.”

Include a succinct cover letter

It’s often listed as ‘optional’ in a job application, but Banks says a cover letter is crucial to helping an applicant land the role.

“When it comes to job applications, cover letters are crucial. They introduce you to the employer and are a chance to bring out your personality too, as well alongside highlighting the experience outlined in your resume makes you a great match for their position.

“Your cover letter might not be the first thing a recruiter or an employer looks at, but if your application doesn’t have one, you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage.” Here, Banks reveals her tips (and an example) to help create a winning cover letter:

Keep it brief

The purpose of a cover letter is to give people a taste of who you are, so keep it punchy and professional. Usually 4-5 paragraphs will be sufficient.

Get to the point

We’ve all been tempted to give potential employers a little more background, a little more context, a little more of us! However, cover letters aren’t the time for this. Be upfront and explain why you’re the person for the job right away.

Don’t regurgitate your resume

A cover letter should expand upon the relevant points, rather than repeat them. After you’ve wowed the recruiter with your opening statement, introduce yourself and include things like, how you found out about the role, why you’re interested in it and demonstrate your understanding of the company’s culture.

Resume checklist

When crafting or updating your CV, be sure to include as many relevant details in a clear and concise way. While professionally designed layouts can be visually appealing, Banks says it’s more important that your application can be read clearly, and includes all relevant materials. There are a number of free templates on SEEK that you can use and repurpose accordingly.

“Employers want clarity above all else — not fancy fonts and layouts — and it’s better to focus on a clearly designed, easy-to-read application. Make sure you’re also following the instructions in the job ad; if it says to include something else, or whether you need a cover letter or not, follow that.”

Below is a checklist of items you must always include on your CV/resume:

Personal details

Full name and contact information, including your phone number and email address. With personal details, do not provide any more information other than the basics. For example, no passport details or credit card numbers. No legitimate employment opportunity should be asking for these.

Career objective or summary

Describe your experience and where you’re aiming to go next in your career.

Education

For each experience, include the qualification you received, where you studied, when you started and finished, any special areas of study, plus awards or other achievements.

Work experience

Under each job, use bullet points to give a brief overview of your responsibilities and achievements, weaving in the skills you used. You can also mention relevant internships and volunteer work in this section.

Skills, strengths or interests

Highlight any relevant professional memberships, too.

References

Contact and company details for a former employer, manager, or an academic advisor if they agree to be your referee, or you might wish to write “references available on request”.

Go easy on yourself

Applying for jobs in a competitive market can be tough on one’s mental health. Dealing with rejection is challenging at the best of times, but in the current climate, added financial pressures and high competition can heighten one’s emotions, as Sabina Read, SEEK’s resident psychologist explains.

“It’s not unusual for people to experience strong emotions, such as shock, denial, anger and hope, particularly during these challenging times. These emotions come and go. You may feel shocked today, angry tomorrow and then, in between, you may feel fear for your future. But there are ways to cope with these feelings and the current challenge.

“Most of us like to have a sense of control and certainty about what will happen in the future. I know many people are asking when COVID-19 will be over and when they will be able to work again. Sometimes asking those questions isn’t helpful because there aren’t definite answers. Those questions can actually create a deeper sense of insecurity and frustration with the situation.”

Below, Read outlines some strategies to help you manage:

Share your thoughts and feelings

You’ll have your personal tribe of close people, but you can also talk to your broader networks of colleagues and peers. It’s very powerful to listen to others and share what it’s like to be in this position.

Spend time being productive

Things are not going to be locked down forever and employment opportunities will arise again. Take time to update your resume and ask people for references. Get your ducks in a row so you’re ready when things open up.

Commit to self-care

Most of us know what will help alleviate stress — such as better sleep, exercise, meditating, writing in a journal, cutting back on alcohol — but often we say we don’t have time. Now is the time to take action and realise you have a choice. You can, and should, look after yourself.

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