What can I say that will get me an interview?
Here’s a real live job advert for a ‘Part Time Administrator in the Accounts Team’ that we are currently running for a client as part of an online recruitment campaign:
Our client is one of the UK & Ireland’s leading commercial building surveying specialists. They are currently seeking a Part Time Administrator to work approximately 20 hours per week within the Accounts Team. You will be expected to work Monday to Friday but the hours are flexible between 9am & 5pm. The ideal Admin will have previous experience working within a professional office environment. You will need to be proficient with MS applications (specifically Word & Excel).
Short and sweet. It’s in South-West London so, as you can imagine, we have had a huge response, 610 having applied so far. Now, how are you going to stand out from the other 609 people, most as eager as you to land at least an interview?
The covering letter is your best bet. Yes, your CV will demonstrate that you have the skills to do the job, your previous experience working within a professional office environment. And it will be a great advantage, as a potential administrator, if your CV is nicely laid out. My guess is that around 500 people can show from their CV that they could do the job. Of course, some look better than others, some have transferable skills, some have been given the benefit of doubt, but whichever way you look at it there’s a lot of competition.
Therefore, what one thing do you think I would be looking for, above all else, in a covering letter that would convince me that you, among 500 applications, should be the one our client calls into their office for an interview?
Proof of having worked in the building or surveying industry? No.
Experience in accounts? No, it’s an administrator they’re looking for not an accountant. Accounts experience may be an advantage, but it won’t get you an interview on its own.
Demonstrations of your expertise with Word and Excel? No. Sure, it’s a requirement of the job, but, as I said, around 499 of you have similarly well-honed MS skills.
Do you tell me about your great sales skills, people skills, telephone manner, project management, bubbly personality, typing speed, your enthusiasm, your great desire to work with a company such as this, your dedication to hard work, your punctuality, your charity work in your spare time, how you’re ambitions lie in a career in this field, that it matches your salary expectations? No. Any of these may well count in your favour once you’ve got an interview, but it won’t get you the interview.
Shall I tell you?
I believe I am a perfect match for this job because I am looking for part time work, and twenty hours per week, Monday to Friday, would suit my work/life situation. Plus, I live locally.
Bingo! Hours and location.
Now I check the CV to see if you can do the job. And though I am looking for the world’s best administrator, I may be prepared to compromise, if the world’s best is already in a full-time job!
Yes, my client is looking for great skills, an eye for detail, some relevant experience, a quick learner, but what my client doesn’t want is someone looking for a full-time career or someone who doesn’t live nearby. (An average of four hours’ pay per day necessitates that you live locally to the job).
It’s that easy! And how many people, out of 610, even those who have written me very lengthy covering letters expressing every conceivable reason as to why they are perfect for the role, have mentioned that the hours and location are ideal for them? I can tell you I don’t need the fingers on my left hand.
The lesson for jobseekers?
Read the advert very carefully and determine what the key ingredient is for every individual role. It may be a 1st class degree in zoology, it may be demonstrable success in hitting sales targets, but it may also be that the employer wants someone who’s available at such-and-such a time on certain days and someone that lives just around the corner.