5 tips to get your CV past HR

HR teams generally have a bad rep in the world of job-seeking – they’re often perceived as the “mean” people who prevent your CV from reaching management and generally obstruct your job progress for the smallest of reasons.

But apparently there’s a whole lot more to the HR role than that! In this week’s guest post, Danielle McDonald, an experienced HR consultant, shares exactly what role HR play in you getting – or in some cases not getting – the job of your dreams….and more importantly, what you can do about it…

[GUEST POST by Danielle McDonald]

Unique job advert | Picture courtesy of Cathy G (Flickr)From my experience, when it comes to hiring people HR are just as keen as line managers to meet with and hire great talent for the company they work for. Where your CV goes when you apply for a job depends on the size of the company.

  • Micro: 0-9* employees – your CV will probably be reviewed by the owner.
  • Small: 10-49* employees – your CV will either be reviewed by the owner or outsourced to recruitment/HR.
  • Medium: 50-249* employees – your CV will be reviewed by HR or the recruitment/talent team which forms part of the HR Department.

As there are 29,750* medium-sized companies in the UK (*figures obtained from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills – October 2012), for the purpose of this blog post, let’s focus on this group.

When applying for a job the goal is for your CV to get through to the relevant line manager, but before your CV is passed on, it will be given the once-over by HR first – we can call this the shortlisting stage.

To help you get past HR, here are five top tips to bear in mind:

1) Ensure your work experience and skills are relevant to the job you’re applying for

This may sound basic but you’d be surprised by how many people fall short when it comes to this. Trying your luck and thinking “what have I got to lose?” is one thing, however wasting your time and that of the person reviewing your CV is another matter.

If you feel you can do the job but you’re concerned about whether or not you have the right experience, give HR a call! There is nothing wrong with obtaining an insight into the role before applying – in fact, it’s a clever move as you’re more than likely to stay in the person’s mind because when they receive your application, it will jog their memory. Remember to make a note that you spoke with [name] when applying.

2 Research the culture of the company you are applying to

Company culture is incredibly important. Do a bit of research; get to understand what the company is about beforehand. What is their working environment like? How do they engage with their people? Be creative and innovative with your approach – tap into your network and utilise LinkedIn to support you.

Company culture | Image courtesy of infusionSoft (Flickr)

Make sure the company culture of your chosen work place is suited to your personality…

Be different; give thought to how you can stand out from the crowd. It’s more than just sending in your CV. How can you make your covering letter and intro email pop and gain the reader’s attention through understanding their culture?

3) Apply by email correctly

It’s the basic things that count which I’ve seen missed hundreds of times. When applying by email, the subject of the email should be clear and relevant. If the employer has requested a covering letter and CV, keep the content of the email short and sweet. If no covering letter is required your email content needs to POP!

You would be surprised by how many people just attach a CV and press send with no subject and no email content! If an applicant doesn’t make the effort, they do themselves no favours – make your first impression a great one.

4) Try not to apply for every job listed

Sending in the same CV for every position on a company’s website doesn’t mean you have more of a chance of being invited to an interview. It may give the impression you’re not sure what you want to do or commit to. See another job with the same company after applying for one?

Give it a week or two (depending on the closing date) or be honest and make contact via phone/email explaining you previously applied for a job however, you have seen [name of role] which is more suited to your skills and experience.

5) Ask and you may receive…

Finally and slightly off track – I’m a firm believer in ‘if you don’t ask, you will never know’. If there is a company you want to work for and they have no vacancies, don’t let that hold you back – send in your expression of interest and desire to work with them to HR.

Depending on the size of the company, consider volunteering your time as a means to get your foot in the door. When a suitable position comes up you’ll be equipped with knowledge of how the company operates and their vision and goals, which makes you an ideal candidate.

No brainer? Yes! But that’s only my opinion…


About the author: Danielle McDonald is a Coach and the People Person for startups and SMEs. For more information, visit Danielle’s website, or catch her tweeting all things people and business @DMcDonaldHR.


Do you have any of your own success stories of getting a job via the HR route? Let me know in the comments…


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photo credits: Cathy G & Infusionsoft via photopin cc

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for pointing out tip 4) – that has happened to me (I applied to 2-3 positions in different departments, all of them relevant to my skills) and the HR director actually brought it up in the interview. I didn’t have a good answer, I only said that I was looking at positions with that level of experience.

  2. Danielle /

    Hi Vassie,

    You’re welcome. The positive thing is you secured an interview based on your skills which is great! Depending on the outcome of your interview, think back to tip 4 should the need arise.

    For anyone else reading this comment who may have applied for more than one job with the same company and has an interview, be prepared with an answer if questioned. This could include stating the top 3/5 reasons why you feel your skills are transferrable and suitable to the roles.

    All the best. :)

    Danielle

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