CV’s can be a minefield, even when you have the guiding torch of a job advertisement and person spec to help shape the content. Where do you start when crafting a CV for the hidden job market or a speculative approach? This is when you meet someone who asks for your CV, as there may be an “opportunity”, or even better, you have zoned in on the business you want to work in; you just need to get in through the front door.
This is where the CV (and please take LinkedIn profile as interchangeable in this article) and introductory note can be the window into your career soul. Who you are: what you do: what you can offer the business.
I’m assuming that you have already started the ball rolling; you know what you want out of your career, you have researched the ideal industries and then the companies within it. You know what makes them “tick” and will have a bespoke approach to suit them. You have either been asked to send in some further information, or you are taking a leap of faith and making the first move.
1. Find out who you need to send it to: usually the MD, HR Manager, Owner or the person requesting the information from you. Then address it to them!
2. Talk about why you want to work for them! Refer to their site, their clients, their values
3. Mention how you can benefit them: PLEASE remember, there is a fine line between arrogance and brilliance. Highlight transferable experience, match in values and don’t forget genuine admiration of their work or services.
4. Make your contact details clear, but also set expectations in advance that you will be in contact (via phone) to confirm it has arrived.
The Window (aka the CV)
The research you will have undertaken on the business, and reading this from my “art of” series will have helped you start your CV. However, what areas should you include when the CV becomes more of a promotional tool and less of an examination answer? In my experience, the bulk of what businesses, small or large, technical or creative, want, remains the same. Here are my top eight areas that you should always include in your speculative CV:
• Customer Service
• Innovative Approach (from creative problem solving to actual, hard-core technology)
• Leadership (remember, everyone can lead – it is not exclusive to management)
• Team Work (real, going the extra mile, team work)
• Communication ( written, verbal, presentation, delivering difficult messages)
• Numerical ability
• Attention to detail and accuracy
• IT Skills (what you use, and how you use them)
• Personality (how does the content highlight your values, impact and fit into their team?)
Make sure you use evidence to show your success and skills: the STAR technique (situation, task, action, result) is particularly useful.
Firstly, get someone else to read over your cover letter and CV. If they don’t understand how you are presenting yourself, there is a chance your prospective employer won’t. Then send it over; by email or post, which ever suits your personality better, and remember POINT FOUR. Contact them, make sure they know you have followed it up. Dependent on how brave you are feeling, this could range from “has the MD received it” to, “may I speak to them to arrange an informal meeting to discuss the industry further”.
Often organisations have a HR file, where all suitable candidates are kept and then reviewed when the times arises. There have been occasions, in my time as a commercial recruiter, where a role was created following a speculative approach on behalf of a candidate.
Ultimately, 80% roles are filled by word of mouth and networks. The speculative approach can start a dialogue with a business, but only if you can show them how you would fit into their organisation, what benefits you would bring and when they have a resource need.
You may be surprised where this window into your career soul will take you next!