Tips and tricks for better covering letters, CVs & interviews
From what we’ve seen in the recruitment process and sitting on interview panels, we reckon about 85% of people are lucky to get a job.
And by lucky, we mean the “chance, accident, coincidence” type of luck, not the “luck is when preparedness meets opportunity”, and “the harder I work the luckier I get” type of luck.
They are lucky by accident rather than by designing their application in a way that get’s them the job. Their experience just happens to match enough of what the employer is looking for. This generally isn’t done by planning or conscious thought, it just fortunately happens that way, because the job they’re going for is similar to their current one.
That’s ok if your current role happens to be (very) similar to your new one, but this isn’t always the case. And it regularly isn’t, especially if you’re looking for a promotion, or moving to a different agency or organisation, or where you have to demonstrate transferable skills that may not immediately be obvious. In those situations, many people fail to even get an interview. And relying on ‘luck” isn’t really a strategy!
Most people talk about examples of what they do in their current role, often writing and providing very good answers with great results to prove how good they are at something (see our previous article about the importance of results). However, the example they have given is not so relevant to what they’ll be doing in the new role, and consequently they’re unlikely to get an interview, or let alone get the job. Here’s an example:
Let’s take the Communicate Effectively at an Adept level in the NSW Public Sector Capability Framework. The first point is “tailor communication to the audience”, which for example you do a lot of in your current job, and is also listed as a capability in the new role you’re applying for.
From experience in your current role, you talk about how you tailor your communication to the people you deal with on the phone and face to face, how you take great care not to use any agency specific acronyms and language, and how you “keep the language real and down to earth”. You round up with a great result (read our previous article on the importance of results here), about how you regularly get feedback from people saying “thank you”, and sending complimentary emails to your boss because they appreciate your down to earth style. And they compliment your ‘easy to understand’ way of saying things. For that reason your boss regularly gives you the more difficult cases to deal with.
However, what they mean in the new role by ‘tailor communication to the audience’, is how succinct your briefing notes need to be, how well you will use agency-specific language and terminology in your internal reports, and how you’ll be extremely polished and even a little guarded in talking to senior external stakeholders and briefing the new director.
So, if you don’t find out exactly what they mean in the new role by ‘Communicating Effectively at an Adept level’, and ‘tailor communication to the audience’, then you’re at risk of missing the boat. You may have that experience, and what you do may be very similar, but if you don’t talk about it in the context of the new role, then you’re not going to be ‘lucky’.
So, the key thing to remember is to make sure you put the capabilities you’re being asked to demonstrate, in the context of the new job, and what that means in that world, not in yours.
Simon Smith – CEO and founder of Southern Cross Coaching and Development