To avoid being told you don’t have enough experience, ensure you highlight the skills employers are looking for on your CV, as Clare Whitmell explains.
Employers hire on a mix of attitude, skills and experience. There are ways you can highlight a great attitude on your CV and a robust experience section is crucial. But you also need to prove you have the skills that employers want.
A lack of the right skills is letting graduates down, according to two recent articles. In Job seekers don’t fit the bill Alexandra Levit writes that entry-level graduates are missing a strong work ethic and the ability to get along with others. In Key IT skills that graduates are missing, employers point out a lack of relevant IT skills, but they also say graduates lack understanding in basic business functions (accounting, logistics, marketing, and so on); a real-world perspective (understanding cost or time constraints) and the ability to work in teams.
It’s crucial that you highlight your skills effectively to persuade an employer you’re a strong candidate. Simply stating you have a particular skill isn’t enough.
Pay attention to keywords
Use the job description to identify the most important skills for the role, then make sure you use these keywords appropriately. For technical or vocational roles, you can list your skills in a table, while for other roles, you can use them as sub-headings in either a key skills section, or in your work history section.
For broad skills like team work, it’s effective to break the skill down into various aspects, such as goal-setting, communication strategies, planning or monitoring. Spotlight what you did in each of these mini-skill areas, and describe the impact your actions had on the team project.
Leave no stone unturned
As you read through the job description and identify the key skills, comb your entire background for examples that illustrate how you’ve used that skill. These could come from group project work or case-studies from your degree course, or from a previous job, extra-curricular or voluntary activity.
Don’t discount anything just because it doesn’t reflect your current career goals. As you don’t need to declare every detail of a previous job (for example), extract key relevant information, then downplay or omit the rest. Organise the details of the job (responsibilities and achievements) into sub-headings, which you can title with the relevant skills keywords to shift the focus away from an irrelevant job title.
Plug your skills and knowledge gap
Once you’ve identified your target role, company or sector, work out what missing skills or knowledge might be holding you back. Find out what employers currently want through scouring job ads. Then tackle any areas you fall short in: it might be as simple as asking people in your target industry to explain crucial processes or to let you work shadow; or you might need to search out specific training – whether that’s free online tutorials or more specialist training provided through professional or industry groups.
Consider including a small section on your CV that lists ongoing training, mentoring or skill-building activities.
Write a covering letter
A covering letter allows you to add further detail to your application, and to emphasise personal qualities, such as a pro-active approach to gaining skills or a strong work ethic. Focus on how your experience has equipped you with work-related or interpersonal skills, or given you a valuable business or commercial perspective.
Show awareness at interview
Portray yourself as an applicant keen to fill gaps and learn the business. Ask questions that reveal this mindset, such as “What skills would someone in this position need to perform really well?” or “What advice could you give me to improve my suitability for this type of role?”
Thanks to The Guardian for allowing icould.com to republish this article. You can view the original version here.