Freelance marketer & Creative
Somebody wise on the internet once said, »You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.« And he's right. Especially if the person you are trying to impress is getting bombarded with first impressions on a daily basis.
I'm talking about recruiters at your dream company. Regardless of the industry you're in, there is always a few cool companies, agencies and corporations that get tons of job applications every single day.
So how do you make a memorable first impression? Submitting a great CV is usually the way to go since this is the document that decides whether you get to meet a real person or if you and your CV will be permanently stored in trash folder.
So how do you create a great first impression using your CV?
This is the question we all asked ourselves at some point in our careers. The first time for me was at 19, when I just started college and wanted to get a job at one of the best advertising agency networks out there – Saatchi&Saatchi. Being 19 I had very little experience, no portfolio and not even a college degree. I had no idea where to start, what to include and how to make me stand out.
After dozens of concepts and ideas I came up with a solution that not only got me the job, it even resulted in me having a TedxTalk on creative job applications. I will disclose exactly what I did later on but first let me introduce the mindset that brought me to the idea. It’s universal and can be used for every job application out there.
A few years later I even used the same mindset for getting a senior role interview at NIKE inc. and a job at the U.S. Embassy. It worked every single time. It’s a combination of three mindsets you have to go through when you are preparing your job application. It’s the have to dos, should dos and COULD DOS of getting your dream job interview.
HAVE TO DOS
The foundation of any job application and CV are the so called »have to dos.« Those are the things you absolutely have to follow in order to be even considered as a potential candidate. Although some are pretty obvious, still a lot of the job seekers don’t really take them seriously enough.
Correct grammar in your CV
Keep it short (one or two pages more than enough)
Take reasonable requirements into account (if it says US citizens only, don't apply from Mongolia)
Submit all the required documents
Submit before the deadline
The majority of job seekers do follow this guidelines since it does not require a lot of effort and time to do so. Consequently, it does not give you a whole lot opportunities to stand out from the crowd.
After you're done with the have to dos, you move on to should dos. Maybe the career counselor at your college told you about this, or your parents did as well. The should dos are not really necessary but very good to follow:
Learn about the company, get to know their values, pros, cons
Use tools such as Glassdoor to get insight of the interview process, recruiters, etc.…
If you have the chance, find out a few things about the person who's interviewing you (no stalking please)
Think about the possible questions you could get on the interview
Use the same keywords as they use in the job description to describe yourself
Adjust your CV just a little bit to every position/company you’re applying for.
As you see, this guidelines are all about getting to know the company as good as possible. Consequently you would have an easier time writing a cover letter (if you have to) and adjusting your CV to the values of the company. For example, if the company you’re applying for is all about strict rules, tighten up work environment and standardized workflow, don’t submit a colorful and too creative CV. It just won’t fit.
So you wrote a CV, using all the info you could find about the company and still something is missing. Especially when you’re applying to companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, P&G, … What more could you do?
This is where my Saatchi&Saatchi example comes handy again. I knew I didn’t have a chance with my CV since I didn’t have any valid experience nor the education. I started thinking about what problem is the company trying to solve with this new employee. They were looking for a new copywriter which means they want somebody who can first write good, second, come up with ideas and most importantly know how to tell a story. That was the core value they were looking for in a new candidate. And in my pale CV, I did not show any of that. Zero. Nada.
When writing CVs we always tell. We don’t show. Saying you are smart is not the same as solving a problem. Saying you’re creative is not the same as blowing the recruiter's mind with your application. See where I’m going?
That is why I decided to tell my story in my own little way. And just like every story, my application had an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
I took a camera and a friend with me to the offices of Saatchi&Saatchi. We took three photos. One in front of the office building, second one inside the lobby and third right before the office. Over the course of the next three days, I sent 3 emails at the exact same time every morning, to their email, with nothing but my picture and a short line of copy. First day the picture served as an introduction, second day was the body and on the last day, the Grande finale. In my last email I included my CV written in a form of a story through which I introduced myself, told why I’m applying and why I am perfect for the job.
After three days of no show and me anxiously waiting for a reply, I got an email from the creative director with the words: “I have not seen such a creative approach before. How about a coffee?”
Why did it work?
I was the only candidate who decided to show instead of tell. I did not try to convince them I know how to tell a story, I simply did it and let them be part of it. I know this is a very specific example but the idea behind it is applicable to every single job application out there. Instead of focusing on telling we should be more proactive in the showing department.
Find the core value the company is looking for in a new employee,
Find a way how to display your ability in that particular field, (code, design, write, conceptualize, render, do whatever they want you to do after you get the job)
Show and deliver.
As you can imagine, the could do mindset is used only by a fraction of people. Those people are not afraid to stand out and to dream big. But isn’t that what all great employers are looking for in their candidates anyway? Remember, you never get a second chance to make a great first impression.
So think about it, what more could you do with your next application?