Being A Cut Above The Rest: Maximising Your Employability

Get your CV to the top of the pile

Employers will receive hundreds of individual CVs for a position, making it hard for yours to stand out and make an impact. When writing up yours, you need to think about how it will look in a crowd of other similar documents, rather than as a standalone read.

Employers tell us that one great way to achieve this is to incorporate a lot of space in your CV design. Big blocks of text can start to get tiresome for recruiters who are reading hundreds of documents, so keep the text to the key points and leave a lot of open space to make it easier to read and to draw attention to what matters.

An attractive looking CV will go a long way, but we aren’t all graphic designers. There are plenty of free CV templates for Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop available online, so get looking. The best looking CVs utilize graphics, like icons and charts, to communicate key information without using text, leaving the CV looking clean and professional.

Highlight your valuable skills

Employers constantly tell us that when they assess candidates for a job, they’re scanning CVs for employable characteristics and skills which they have previously identified as being essential for the position. Making sure your CV and cover letter highlights the employable attributes and skills you have can improve your chances of landing the job.

Skills can be either hard or soft, meaning they can be specific, technical skills or more general, personal or interpersonal skills which are transferable to almost any job. Chances are, you’ll know what the relevant hard skills are for your industry - whether that’s expertise in certain software packages, coding languages, or trade-related physical skills. However, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly read the job ad to identify skills they’re looking for and tailor your application as a result.

Soft skills can be harder to pin down, but modern employers place as much value in them as traditional hard skills. A good place to start is using an employability skills checklist to give yourself an overview of what your strengths and weaknesses are.

So, how do you communicate your skills to a potential employer? This is a good example of when it’s better to show, not tell. You’ll want to communicate this information visually, using a graphic, or a short bullet point with specific information on it - where did you learn this skill, when/how have you used this skill? Etc.

Hit the cover letter out of the park

Your cover letter is another great opportunity to show your employable skills and how they’ve developed. First up, your cover letter shouldn’t be too long - don’t let it stray over one page in length. A simple formula can help you write a cover letter that grabs the reader’s attention and highlights your employability:

First, you want to hook the reader. If possible, you should address the reader by name. If you know who will be reading it from the job ad, or from research on the company’s website, you can do this. Otherwise, address the position - “Dear Hiring Manager”, or something similar.

The first body paragraph should catch their attention. You need to express your specific interest in their company and give an example of a time when you’ve succeeded in a similar role. The second paragraph is where you show everything you’ve got to offer. You should narrow in on the skills listed in the job ad and highlight the most relevant experience you have, going through problems you may have had, the action you took to fix it and the result.

The last paragraph should focus on why you think you’ll fit in with the company. Employers want to know that candidates have the skills to do the job, but also want to see your personality and what you’d be like to be around for 40 hours a week. Researching the company in question goes a long way here, as this will allow you to tell them what specifically interests you about the company and their work - something every employer wants to hear.

Constantly learn and develop

In the modern job market, your employability is something which develops, rather than being set in stone. It’s helpful to cultivate a mindset of constant development. Whether it’s a job, a course, or a hobby, think about what skills you are developing in the situation. Then, think about how you can communicate that to an employer.

Education is increasingly modular and ongoing. Traditional education providers, like universities and polytechnics, are offering more short-form and part-time courses which can quickly increase your employability. Meanwhile, online learning is an increasingly viable alternative, and it’s often a free way to gain skills.

Modern jobs often allow you frequent opportunities to work in different capacities and gain different skills. Being proactive and organized at work can afford you extra opportunities to lend a hand on different projects and keep trying new things. Remember, the more things you can do, the more employable you are!

Talk to someone if you’re not sure

There is such a wealth of information available, online and elsewhere, that it can seem overwhelming. If you think it would help you, it’s always a good idea to consolidate this information with one-on-one contact with someone who’s in the know.

This guide takes you through the process of informational interviewing, which is basically arranging to meet up and pick the brain of someone in your field who might have good advice for you. Meanwhile, there are also plenty of professional services related to creating CVs, writing cover letters and planning your career path.

As long as you seek and follow good advice, you’ll have every opportunity to maximize your employability. Tailor your CV to each job and make sure you really nail that cover letter!

by Jack Buckley, Wellington