When we advertise for new positions we might get 70, 80, 100+ applicants. It can take a day or more to read them and shortlist for interview. At the end of that day we usually feel simultaneously in awe of all the fabulous people out there, and incredibly frustrated at those who really don’t do themselves justice at the application stage.
Here are our top tips for getting through the first CV and covering letter sift:
Read the instructions
We say: please send a one-page covering letter and a two-page CV to Kate…
You: send a two-page covering letter to “Dear Sir / Madam” or “to whom it may concern”. It concerns Kate. It’s really basic but surprising how many people don’t personalise letters and emails.
Read the instructions, (again)
“Please tell us how you meet the following four criteria in your covering letter”.
That’s not a request. It’s crucial. If you can’t say how you meet the criteria then you probably shouldn’t be applying to us.
Make it easy for us
You need to make both the CV and the covering letter readable.
That means use a legible sized font and paragraph breaks.
If there are four criteria, why not have four paragraphs addressing each of them?
And please put bullet points and bold headings in your CVs.
Those cringey personal statements at the top, are really, really helpful, too.
We know it’s hard to write them, but just do it!
We don’t really care what you’ve done
We care about what you think, and how you approach things. You need to base this in experience, with relevant examples, but we don’t need to know every module you did at university or the variation in responsibilities in your four different posts at your local supermarket. We need to know what skills you picked up and what you learned about yourself and about the world.
We are quite a niche business, and giving us some insight into why you would like to work with us is important. You might have got that insight from your Masters research, or working in a pub in a particularly fight-y town centre, or from restoring Mongolian orphanages, or from almost anything else – but you need to make the link for us.
But really, why us?
We understand the temptation to send off your CV to as many places as possible, on the off chance. But if your CV says “dynamic graduate looking for a marketing career”, or “keen to develop my skills in international policy analysis”, we’re not going to be convinced that you actually want to be working with a UK based environmental social enterprise. We can’t offer a lot of money for an intern role but we always try to make the experience as valuable as possible for the successful applicant. We’ll be looking for people whose ambitions are a good fit with the role.
Get someone to read your CV
And, if possible, your covering letter. We know it’s really a bit embarrassing, like handing over a little bit of yourself to someone, but it really helps. It’s hard to weed out what’s relevant and what’s not when you’re thinking about yourself – and you need to find someone who can help you do that.
Don’t be boring
This is a hard one. And probably quite subjective, but we really like a bit of personality and enthusiasm in a covering letter. Not wisecracks (unless you’re really funny), but something that comes from the heart. This is where talking it through with someone else can help remove some of the more formulaic stuff. If someone else tells us that their “excellent interpersonal skills have been demonstrated through group work at university”, we may actually scream.
Hear that? That was us screaming.
There really is no magic formula
We are looking at the information you present us with, and using that to make a judgement about how well you might do the job, and fit into our tiny team. We might get that judgement wrong (and we’ll try and find that out if you get an interview), but you need to give us as much help as possible.
So – good luck out there. We are planning to recruit interns on a rolling 12 week basis, so we will add any new frustrations to this list as time passes… We hope it’s helpful when you’re applying to us, but we think it will help if you’re applying to other people too.