Monday, October 7, 2013

Do you pay enough attention to detail? It's the little things that count! Great application advice here!

As an editor, it’s my job to sweat the small stuff – let’s face it, if I didn’t I’d probably be out of a job.  But getting the little things right is also crucial when you’re applying for a place on a graduate scheme, at a TARGETjobs event or as an intern. Paying attention to detail can mean the difference between being called for an interview and your application being put on the rejected pile. You may be a star candidate, but a spilling error, poor grammar or other mistake in your covering letter will immediately make you shine a little less brightly in the eyes of the recruiter (yes, that was deliberate).
At TARGETjobs we spend a lot of time talking to recruiters, who tell us of their frustration when an otherwise great CV, covering letter or application form is let down by a candidate:
  • using the wrong company or event name. You say you’ve always wanted to work for Goldman Sachs, which is great, but you’re applying to Barclays. Or you tell us why you think you’d really benefit from attending the Women in Investment Management event but it’s the Engineer Your Future form you’re filling out. This kind of mistake tends to slip in when you’re applying to several employers and copying and pasting.
  • getting the facts wrong about a firm. You say you’re looking forward to meeting the recruiters at their environmentally friendly offices at Canary Wharf, but they’re based in Birmingham. An otherwise promising applicant for our editorial intern role was rejected because he told us, ‘I am applying to you because I'm really keen to gain further experience in TV and programming production.’  We do many great things at TARGETjobs, but we do not work in television.
  • addressing the wrong person. I’m sure Steven Phillips is delighted that you want to join the firm he represents, but it’s Steve Phipps who’ll be reading your application.
  • forgetting to leave the correct contact details, or misspelling your email address. When you’re rushing to get an application done, sloppy errors can even sneak into the basics.
  • not following the recruiter’s instructions about how to upload your information, even when they’re given clearly.
  • formatting headings and dates inconsistently on the CV. Choose one format and stick to it
You’ve probably heard it a million times before, but once you’ve completed the application, read through everything carefully. Then read it though again. Then, ideally, before you press ‘send’, get feedback from someone you trust.
Paying attention to detail shouldn’t stop at the application stage. It must continue at the interview, assessment centre or event. Take a last look in the mirror and ask yourself:
  • Are my shoes polished, not scruffy?
  • Do my socks match? Are my tights run free?
  • Is my skirt no shorter than just above the knee?
  • Is my body language friendly? Think about how you’ll greet people, and how to look interested when you’re listening to others speak.
You’ll feel much more confident walking into an event if you know you’ve taken care of the details. You can then focus on the important stuff.
Getting the little things right can be the basis for a top career. If you’re in any doubt, consider this anecdote from Vic Gundotra, Google's senior vice president of engineering. One Sunday morning he took a call from Steve Jobs, with whom he was working on mobile apps. Jobs had been looking at the Google logo on the iPhone. He was calling to let Gundotra know that he didn’t think the second ‘O’ in Google had quite the right yellow gradient and had arranged to get it fixed immediately. Gundotra says, ‘When I think about leadership, passion and attention to detail, I think back to the call. It was a lesson I'll never forget. CEOs should care about details. Even shades of yellow. On a Sunday.’

by Jacky Barrett

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