Job applications can be undermined by relatively small errors. I was recently asked if I could write an article about these really basic errors. “And when we say basics Ian, we mean basics”.

So where to start? The internet is awash with negative stories about the way employers and recruitment agencies treat candidates. So perhaps it is time to redress the balance just a little bit.

I’ve never met a recruiter yet who doesn’t have an amusing catalogue of “war stories” about candidates. All the strange, bizarre and sometimes downright odd things people do when job hunting. Sometimes that’s in an ill-judged attempt to stand out from the crowd. Or it can be just basic mistakes that cost them any chance of the job opportunity they so obviously crave.

My personal experience of recruiting has been an eye-opener. It all proves that there are some really basic things candidates need to watch out for. Here’s my “top ten” basic errors that occur in job applications.

  1. Forgetting to enclose a CV or sending the wrong attachments. Past applications to Chiumento have been mistakenly accompanied by everything from an invoice for soft furnishings to an invite to a party rather than a CV.  We’ve also received covering letters addressed to somebody who is not part of our team, applying for a job that is definitely not ours. Last time we checked, we didn’t own a mine in Nigeria or a software business in California. Yet we’ve had covering letters applying to these and many other jobs. Believe it or not, this type of basic error sends messages about your personal organisation and attention to detail…
  2. CVs in file formats that recruiter’s laptops don’t recognise – let alone open. If an employer can’t open it, they can’t read it. Stick to Word or PDF. Researching just a little suggests most of the offending documents have been created in long-outdated graphic design packages. No doubt in an attempt to make a CV look more exciting. Instead it sometimes means an employer can’t see it at all.
  3. Sending CVs containing viruses. Those applications will usually end up in a quarantined file folder and won’t be coming out. You can get anti-virus software for your device so there really is no excuse to share viruses with any potential employer.
  4. CVs with email addresses that don’t work. A surprising number of emails to candidates bounced back as not deliverable. Most agencies and many employers use on-line application systems. So they will be using the email addresses exactly as supplied by the candidate. If you’ve typed it in wrong…
  5. Your mailbox and/or voicemail are full. So even if an employer or agency tries to make contact, they can’t. There’s a limit to how many times any recruiter will try and reach you before giving up and looking elsewhere.
  6. Not checking your email or voicemail regularly. In the last week I have been emailing applicants asking for a phone number and a time to chat to them about an application. In some cases all we’ve had back is silence. Recruitment tends to move at pace – you can’t afford to “miss the bus”.
  7. Failing to set up your spam filter properly. That could mean employer emails get blocked. If you don’t think an employer has replied to your application please check your spam or bulk email folder before posting a gripe on-line. Unfortunately some firewalls think messages sent from on-line recruitment systems are the equivalent of unsolicited marketing material. So check, and if necessary, update your safe senders list.
  8. CVs so full of spelling mistakes it is embarrassing. Especially as that thing called a spell checker puts neat red lines under your mistakes so employers don’t need to look very hard to find them… Again, this type of basic error sends messages about your personal brand…
  9. Not reading the job advertisement properly. Good employers invest time in crafting advertisements so candidates will be very clear about the skills, knowledge and behaviours required. Unfortunately many applicants seem to jump straight from the job title and salary to the reply paragraph. Missing out all the important bits in the middle. If your applications clearly don’t have the skills required, don’t be surprised when you get a rejection. Lots of rejections will sap your morale. Success is about quality job applications for the right jobs. Not the number of jobs you apply for.
  10. Tailor your application to each job you apply for. CVs often get scanned not read word by word – especially when there may be hundreds to go through. Make sure the “must have” requirements from the advertisement leap out to even a casual browser. Make the invisible, visible. Don’t rely on a recruiter “reading between the lines” and giving you the benefit of the doubt.

To the majority of job applicants who do get it right, well done. To those who make job applications with basic errors the message is get organised and fix the mistakes.

Finally please remember that you can be a very good applicant and not get the job. You can interview brilliantly well – but someone else may just be better on the day. Don’t beat yourself up. Ask for feedback and listen to it. Next time you may succeed. Especially if you avoid the really basic mistakes.