A candidate applied to us last week, explaining that he had reluctantly decided that his daily commute of a 200 mile round trip was too far.

He loved the company and the journey had been fine in August when he tried the journey and started. A month when days were long and traffic light because of the summer holidays.

The reality is that after 3 to 4 months, especially in the dark, dark days of winter, what looks like a completely reasonable, manageable 1½ -2 hour journey has become a 2½-3 hour nightmare on a daily basis.

We understand that, before you have ever applied for the job. Because we have seen it so many times. Anything more than an hour is tricky, more than 90 minutes impossible – in the employer’s eyes, even if it is not in yours.

So please do not take offence if we ignore your pleas to do a job that far away, we’ll probably have loads more local applicants, even if they are not as well qualified.

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I talked recently about an application.

About a candidate who, at first glance, seemed to have had lots of different jobs over the past 10 years.

But, because we know the sector, a closer look showed that these different companies were all part of the same group. We worked it out, but many others would not.

They compounded this by not explaining why, having moved to a new group only this summer, at the end of August, they were looking again. And it gave us no clue, except the name of the company.

There was some crucial information missing that could have cleared this up. Again, we worked it out, because we know that the business he is working at is over 100 miles away from home. But there is no mention of his employer’s location on his CV.

And this is not logical, every other job has a location, but I suspect this was hurriedly put together. So for every previous job where it could be argued that location was not relevant, we had it. But for this one we did not.

A simple sentence like “Reason for leaving: I have reluctantly decided that the daily commute of 100 miles each way is too far” would explain logically and simply.

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Whenever we receive a candidate application it prompts some important questions. Here are a few:

  • Where do they live?
  • How stable is their career?
  • What sort of companies have they worked for?
  • Why are they looking?
  • What do they want?

There are plenty more, but those almost certainly cannot be answered without a conversation. But most of the above should be answered in their application. Purely from the information they give.

Let me give you an example, an application I received today. At first glance I saw lots of different jobs over the past 10 years. Which was discouraging. A closer look, however, showed that despite working for different companies they were all part of the same group. Which was encouraging.

However, having moved to a new job with a new company only this summer, at the end of August, he is now looking for a new a new role. Why? He did offer this helpful note (and nothing more) “I can explain my job moves if you want to call me”.

Really? When recruiters make up their mind about you sometimes in less than 10 seconds, you look as if you have had loads of jobs and we need to call?

You might not get the chance. Make sure we know that you worked for one company under different names for a long time. And if, as in this case, the journey to work was too far, tell us.

We understand if you have made a mistake. But we can’t guess.

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A CV has just come through our website and the candidate has followed up with an email.

Now you are perfectly entitled to take all references of age off your CV. When some employers favour older managers, some favour younger and a sizeable minority are quite relaxed about how old you are, so long as you can do the job, I see no reason why you need to include it in any case. Although that discussion was not what prompted this blog.

Because this CV had jobs running from the year 2000, no dates for education or qualifications, so they could probably have been born anytime from 1940 to 1980. And it really doesn’t matter to me when that was.

Except I looked at their email address, listed in their CV as joebloggs1959@gmail.com (names have been changed to protect the innocent). I am no Sherlock Holmes, but I am now pretty certain that Joe was born before 1960 and after 1958.

Now of course he could have been born at 7:59 in the evening, but I suspect that is not why he chose 1959.

It’s amazing how easy it is to overlook the blindingly obvious, isn’t it?

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The Internet has changed everything.

With one click of the mouse you can apply to hundreds of jobs, but so can everyone else.

So while it is easier to apply, it is much more difficult to stand out. And it is more difficult for companies to choose the right applicant, so the way they view and sift applications is also changing.

Because just as machines have helped with applications, AI is also doing a lot of the selection. Programs that look at relevance, experience, character, stability and many other factors.  Sifting began with simple pre-qualifying questions, but now recruiters scan application letters and CVs against specific criteria.

Scary. But if you understand what you need to do then you can at least maximise your chances.

Look at your CV, especially the “profile” section. Savvy applicants make sure this profile matches closely what is requested in the advertisement. And because the machine will try to judge what sort of character you are, make sure the profile is full of the “action words” they want, such as “developed”, “motivated”, “created”, “achieved”, “encouraged”, etc.

If they are going to automate their systems, you might as well learn how to game them because everyone else will.

www.hy not?

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“I thought it would be easier to look for a new job with time on my hands, so I resigned”

“We had a major policy disagreement, so I resigned”

“I am not prepared to discuss the reasons for leaving as I will not betray my old employer’s confidentiality”

“They discovered that I was looking for another job and sacked me”

Many recruitment consultants, HR Managers and regular interviewers will be smiling at the above. We have heard them all a hundred times and will them again just as often. Sometimes they are true, but you had better be ready to prove it.

Most candidates have nothing to hide, they answer our questions candidly and frankly. With such people we generally have very productive and thoroughly enjoyable meetings, and genuinely feel that we are able to help.

The problem comes with a small percentage who feel that they can bluff their way through any meeting by giving bland and, in their mind, original answers to questions which they would rather you hadn’t asked.

Over the years I have met and interviewed thousands of candidates. During that time I have heard every excuse for dodging a question and the bluffers simply do not impress, they irritate and waste your time. Not only do they waste our time they waste our clients if we put them in front of them.

As a result, we rarely do.

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I am all for short and sweet, especially where CVs are concerned. The more impact you can make the better as far as I’m concerned. But you can take it too far.

Take the CV we received yesterday. I have just done a word count – 122 words! And if you take out the tags the gentleman added at the bottom, like “auctioneer, sales, commission etc”, it comes down to 108 words. And some of that is his address and interests.

While you do not want to bore your prospective readership, if the only thing you can say about your career (and his was over 30 years long) is about 60 words, then you either not got much to say and shout about, or you can’t be bothered. In either case you are not going to impress an employer.

I suspect this CV was cut-and-paste from a LinkedIn profile. And even on LinkedIn I would say that 100 words was way too short. Remember, your CV should be neatly laid out, well ordered and easy to read. But it should contain some content.

For example, I have no idea how many people this gentleman has managed, the sorts of volumes his dealerships were responsible for, even the franchises involved. These are basic bits of information that are essential for any employer to make a decision about you. It would also be nice to know if he had been consistently profitable over the years, if he had hit targets, if he had grown any of his businesses.

Less information is generally good, no information is useless.

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It really is a shame. I had a rant a couple of weeks ago about candidates not wasting their own time as well as mine by applying for jobs that they clearly had no qualifications for.

Now a slightly different rant for candidates who feel obliged to apply for the same job, or every single job that we have on our website, on a regular basis. There are a number of you, and you probably know who you are. But the first couple of times it happens we are quite patient – we duly reply and explain which roles you are right for and which are not appropriate.

The next time we point out that it’s the role that you applied for last week. If you were right last week then things are probably already happening, but if you weren’t right last week, it is unlikely you are right 7 days later.

The week after that we begin to run out of patience, and certainly after five or six weeks of this all of a sudden your emails are marked to go into our spam. Nothing personal here you understand, it is just simply we do not have the time to be courteous and reply to your application every time you decide to click a mouse.

Thousands of our candidates use our website properly and responsibly, a tiny minority clearly feel that if they click a mouse often enough, even on jobs they have applied for before, that they are actively looking for a job, actively making applications. I am not sure you are.

You might as well go onto Indeed and select the first 400 jobs that come up and press apply. It won’t do much good, but you might feel better at the end of it. But somewhere down the line an agency either has to decide to be rude and not reply to you, or polite and go to a load of hassle. And it won’t endear you to us.

There, rant over.

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There are hundreds of recruitment consultancies out there, many behave ethically, a number don’t. But then the same could be said of dealers, service departments and any other type of business.

But if you do ask an agency to help, or if you are approached about an opportunity then morally you should give the agency at least some chance of following through and introducing yourself. On a number of occasions recently we have spoken to a candidate and they have listened, probably identified who the company is and then made a direct application through their website.

The problem with this approach is that it makes us more and more reluctant to share proper information with candidates, as they can easily cut us out of the deal. And it also does the candidate no good at all, especially if you are dealing with a reputable organisation.

Because they will take the view that if you’re prepared to do that to the person introducing you (the agency only ever finds out when they do introduce your details in the client says “Oh we received those details directly 20 minutes ago through our website. Why did that happen?” In those situations this will not then be a curated introduction, but a situation where somebody has displayed a tendency to be at least duplicitous if not untrustworthy. They are traits that organisations are reluctant to employ.

So think about that when you’re trying to be clever. In bugs the hell out of us, it affects your chances. Oh and we won’t deal with you again, so it removes you from our register.

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You know it’s time to look for a new job. Perhaps you’re not getting on with your boss, or you’ve just been away on holiday for two weeks and promised your partner you will do something about your career when you get back to the UK.

So out comes your CV, already five pages long and you add your current position to the end of it. That’ll do won’t it?

Well no actually. This is the most important document you will prepare, that could determine the course of your career. So take as much care over it as you would do making sure your tax return is right, or that you haven’t been overcharged by the electricity company. Or that you don’t pay 10p more than you have to for that new washing machine, as you spend five hours comparing prices on the web.

Because it is much more important than that. It needs to be rewritten and redesigned every time, to make sure you deliver maximum impact. That you sell your story you don’t just tell it. That you create a compelling rather than just a competent document

Need some more advice? Check out our CV guide.

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